This October, Cultural Vistas gave 15 teachers from Eastern Germany the opportunity to visit the United States on a week-long study tour to experience American culture firsthand and gain insights on promoting transatlantic dialogue in East German schools. The third year of implementing the program brought together teachers from a diverse range of teaching backgrounds, including history, social studies, geography, music, and politics.
Hosted by Atlantik-Brücke, a nonprofit association in service of German-American Friendship based in Berlin, Germany, the weeklong trip saw participating teachers visiting and learning about American institutions for insights that they could bring back to East Germany.
Participants traveled to Miami, FL; Charlotte, NC; Raleigh, NC; and Washington, D.C.—where they had opportunities to gain insights into the American education system as well as meet influential politicians, corporate leaders, media professionals, and experts representing think tanks.
The trip included many highlights. On the first leg of the tour, the European teachers enjoyed Miami’s warm weather while meeting with students, teachers, local administrators, and Miami-Dade police—who gave an eye-opening presentation on school active shooter drills.
In North Carolina, the German teachers met with students and teachers from several local schools as well as the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany for North Carolina. The group visited not only schools in Charlotte, but also in Orange County and Cary. These meetings were coordinated by participants of the Transatlantic Teachers’ Study Trip Summer 2019 to Germany, also sponsored and implemented by Atlantik-Brücke.
During these visits, German teachers went on student-led school tours and interacted with middle and high school students—even attending some classes. The teachers also gained a better understanding of the higher education system through visits to the Piedmont Community College and the Carolinas Electrical Training Institute, a vocational school in Charlotte.
In Washington, D.C., the group visited the Brookings Institution, they visited the Office of Senator Dick Durbin on Capitol Hill, and they met with Michael Werz of the Center for American Progress—whose presentation on the U.S. political system was another one of the highlights of the trip.
The study tour enabled the German Teachers to better understand the United States and gain fresh insights into the American educational system.
Compared to schools in East Germany, the German teachers were impressed by the technology available at American schools as well as the noticeable national pride on display in all aspects of life—which seemed related to the notable confidence in the students’ abilities to be influential and change things. In contrast to the dynamics in German schools, the teachers were also surprised by the close personal relationships that students and teachers shared as well as how involved the students were in their extracurricular activities.
Even before the trip ended, some of the German teachers said they would try to implement some of the things they learned at American schools back in Germany—particularly when it came to shaping positive mindsets among their students, promoting exchange between U.S. and German students, as well as sharing ideas about educational technology with school administration and staff.
Thanks to the important dialogue that Atlantik-Brücke has helped establish, we can also expect further lessons, further cross-cultural understanding, and further collaboration to flow across the Atlantic between German and American teachers for years to come. We are very thankful to have worked with Atlantik-Brücke on this program over the years.
Since 2016, Atlantik-Brücke’s study trips are conducted in both directions across the Atlantic. In addition to study trips for American social studies teachers to Germany, Atlantik-Brücke now also invites German teachers from East Germany on study trips to the United States. During these study trips, 15 participants travel to experience the U.S. firsthand and promote transatlantic dialogue at East German schools in the long term. During the weeklong trip, the participants experience different aspects of the United States while gaining insights into the American education system and meeting influencers from politics, business, the media, and think tanks. This enables the teachers to use first-hand information about the United States in their lessons.