Nils Buurman, an exchange student from from Emden, Germany, recently spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Jamestown.
Buurman provided a photo presentation about Germany and told members many facts including: Germany is the most populous European country at 82 million; 15 million people in Germany are of non-German descent, half of which are foreign residents - not German citizens; Germany is the world's second highest producer of cars; Germany's Autobahn has no speed limit; and Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.
Some of the most interesting facts Nils shared with the Rotary described the German people and how they live. Germans are extremely open to gays, lesbians and people of different cultures/religions/ways of life. Germans are neat and tidy and are masters of planning. Only close friends and relatives are invited into a German household. German public areas are meticulously clean. When visiting another home, one is expected to be on time, bring wine or flowers, clean their plate, don't eat before the hostess or wait until she/he invites the visitor to proceed and one is expected to call and thank the hostess within 24 hours following the visit. The community is very formal.
Pictred are Nils Buurman, exchange student from Germany, and Sharon Hamilton, president of the Rotary Club of Jamestown.
Very little ice is served in drinks and even Buurman requests his water/beverage in the United States without ice. In Germany, the use of credit cards is much more limited and shopping is very limited on Sundays.
Buurman's journey to stay with his first host family took 30 hours. He arrived on a Sunday and immediately the next day the family visited Chautauqua Institution and the Athenaeum. Buurman said he was thrilled to be treated to a Maroon 5 concert his first week in the United States and then, on Monday, he immediately started practicing football with the Maple Grove High School football team. Buurman loves most sports and was pleased to be a part of the team. The team went on to play in Sectional finals and Buurman said he was pleased to be included and couldn't say enough about the great team experience he had.
Buurman participated in a Christian camp weekend in the Rochester area which was very different for him as the Germans are not very participatory in their faiths. While it was "culture shock" for him, he also found it most interesting. He attended his first Rotary Exchange Weekend and met all of the other students and they quickly became fast friends, even participating in a parade. Nils visited Allegheny State Park and stayed in a cabin for the first time. Then he attended his first hockey game which he found quite interesting. In October, Nils attended the Rotary District Conference; sightseeing in Niagara Falls. November brought his high school football team's participation in the state championships at Ralph Wilson Stadium; his first experience hunting for deer; and traveling to Syracuse for a college football game.
Thanksgiving arrived and wrestling started. He visited Buffalo and participated in ice skating and tours. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve in Germany but the holidays are similar. He even baked cookies with his family and two days before moving to his next family, the family dog gave birth to five puppies. With the New Year came basketball; the ski club which was more social than skiing; the celebration of the ice castle; and off to the Rotary Algonquin experience in the freezing cold!
With Nils' third host family, he visited Cleveland for a large youth hockey tournament, visited a sugar bush maple syrup farm and celebrated Easter, which is similar in both countries. His host family took him to Washington to tour which he considered "wonderful" and then when he returned to Jamestown it was time for the Rotary Youth Exchange Weekend, which Buurman said was great fun. He particularly mentioned his exposure to the Amish culture. The exchange students recently spent three days in New York City seeing the sights and touring all around. Nils' program ended with his attendance at the Maple Grove High School Prom at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua Institution.