NEW ULM - Being part of a cultural exchange program is a great opportunity, for anyone. Especially if the ties between two cities are as strong as the ones between New Ulm and Ulm/Neu-Ulm, Germany.
In the past years, the Hans Joohs Cultural Exchange Program (HJCEP) has given so many people the chance to make the experience of a lifetime. Participating in this program, from the outbound perspective, also makes you realize how determined the New Ulm locals are to keep the German traditions alive. At times, the city seems even more German than Germany.
The HJCEP is sponsored by the Sister Cities Commission and named after Hans Joohs, an official from Ulm who has been an instrumental promoter for the cities' relationship. The program's main focus is to combine as many experiences as possible. Cultural life and traditions are just the bottom line because so much is learned. It is all about experiencing "the whole package."
Hans Joohs exchangees unite at Sauerkraut Days, which was celebrated recently in Henderson. They are Elena Kretschmer, left, Michelle Malecha, center and Lauren Luffey.
What is that supposed to mean? Well, as the exchangee, you get to stay with a variety of host families. They make you part of their family and take you to the most beautiful places. Apart from that, you meet plenty of other fantastic people, learn so much about your host country's daily life and even get practical experience in the work field you aim for yourself. This in turn can be a great opportunity for your future career - because who else can show off a three month abroad working experience on their rsum? Furthermore, living in a foreign country forces you to use your language and social skills. You can feel them getting better and better every day.
But it is not only the host families and co-workers that make your stay abroad worthwhile. It is the whole host community.
And in the case of New Ulm, it is a great one.
Everyone here seems to be working hand in hand and the hospitality shown by people is simply overwhelming. The Sister Cities Commission takes care of the incoming exchangees' stipend as well as the outgoing ones' flights. They organize welcome and farewell parties. They do everything they can to keep up their exchange traditions and to make your stay as pleasant as possible.
Besides the program's traditions, people in New Ulm also are enthusiastic about their German heritage. They have made the slogan "Germans have more fun" their motto and established their reputation as the most German city in the United States.
Drinking beer, eating sauerkraut, wearing dirndls and lederhosen at every possible occasion make it unique. New Ulm is known for its festivals, which are in no way inferior to their counterpart overseas.
It all comes together perfectly, except for maybe one thing: the language skills. Because learning German is not mandatory in schools, most of the younger locals do not speak the language. A pity. You need the skills to apply for the ?Hans Joohs program, which in turn will offer great opportunities. So start speaking German again and apply for the Hans Joohs program. It is definitely worth it.