A group of BRHS students is heading to Germany this month.
The 12 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, with German teacher Ingrid Merrill, will leave the high school on Feb. 15 on a bus to Boston. They’ll fly to Hamburg, Germany where they’ll spend a week before going to Bad Harzburg, a town in central Germany, in the Goslar district of Lower Saxony.
The town, where they’ll spend two weeks with their host families, lies on the northern edge of the Harz mountains. It’s around the size of Augusta.
The trip has been planned thanks to GAPP, the German American Partnership Program started by former BRHS teacher Frau Baade. The program is sponsored by the Goethe Institute, now in its 25th year of a partnership with Boothbay Harbor, according to Merrill.
Upon arrival in Hamburg on Saturday night, the group will attend “Dinner in the Dark,” an event held in complete darkness. The students and their chaperones will be served a four-course meal by a blind and visually impaired staff. The purpose of the experience is to show diners how the perception of eating is changed when deprived of sight.
The benefit dinner is $70 per diner. Merrill said last year money was raised specifically for the event, but it hasn’t been this year. She is asking anyone who would like to donate toward it to send a check to the high school to her attention: 236 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor, ME 04548.
After dinner that night, the seven girls will be sleeping in bunk beds in a dorm room, so Merrill told them to be sure to take earplugs.
For most of the remainder of their stay in Hamburg, the group will do some sightseeing, visit museums and have some fun shopping.
On their last day in Hamburg, they’ll attend a schooling session in a classroom at Neuengamme concentration camp, southeast of Hamburg. A German teacher will speak to the group about the forced labor camp, and the students will do a project about it while there.
From there they’ll go to the opposite extreme by attending a musical in Hamburg, followed by an hour and a half train ride to lower Saxony, where the students will be picked up by their host families.
There will be a potluck welcome party on their arrival. Then the students will go home with their host families. Merrill’s teacher exchange partner is making plans and setting up an itinerary that should keep the group occupied when they’re not off sightseeing with their host families.
One of the highlights of this part of the trip will be a visit to the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen with the rebuilt Herrenhausen Palace. They’ll also be taking a trip to the next town over, Goslar, a Unesco World Heritage site. “There are some amazing mines there that were dug in 1798, so we’ll go on a tour of them,” Merrill said.
The students will attend the local high school for a day or two in Bad Harzburg with their German counterparts, and Merrill, who speaks fluent German, will help out in some English and German classes. “They put me right to work when I’m there. My German partner teacher sings in a choir there, too, so I’ll go sing in the choir with her.”
The students and Merrill raised money for the trip through bake sales, bratwurst sales, concession stands at sports events, bottle recycling and a German dinner. Also, the Boothbay Harbor Rotary donated money. Around $500 has been raised for each student, and the trip will cost each around $1,700.
Merrill has taught German at BRHS for four years. She went to Germany as an exchange student at Bonny Eagle High School. She lived in Hamburg for five years while married to a German man. This will be her second GAPP trip with students.
It will be junior Eve Dolloff’s second GAPP trip, too.
Local resident Tom Dewey’s son went on a GAPP trip to Germany while in high school. Dewey and his wife Stephanie will go on part of this trip as chaperones.