Former exchange students return to second home
WORTHINGTON -- The delegation from Crailsheim, Germany, includes two "first-generation" exchange students from Germany -- Roland Hilt, who lived in Worthington from 1964-1965, and Guenter Metzger, 1967-1968.
They have both returned several times to Worthington in the interim; Hilt last visited in 1980 and Metzger in 1993.
"It's very impressive to come back to my hometown," said Metzger, who plans to return again in September for his 40th Worthington High School class reunion at King Turkey Day. "Very quickly, you feel at home."
"It's exciting to experience the spirit here," Hilt said. "I ask about someone, and immediately, someone takes the initiative to try to find them for you, to find people who I lost contact with. Some have left the area, and since it was 40 years, some have passed away. It is like coming home again, especially because of the spirit here. I always, when someone showed an interest, called this the pioneer-type approach, helping each other."
Metzger is employed as a salesman of packing machines for pharmaceutical products and said the time he spent in Worthington greatly impacted his career path.
"Being here as an exchange student, the English you learn, was the reason I got a job as a salesman," he said.
According to Hilt, who is retired from working in international marketing in the machinery industry, he learned more than language skills in Worthington.
"It was very helpful to have been in Worthington as an exchange student, not just because of the language, but the deeper understanding, what you can't learn as a tourist. It's important to have the close contact with the families and the possibility of staying with different families. How do they form an opinion, arrive at a solution? That was extremely helpful throughout my life."
Both Hilt and Metzger stressed that in order to keep the partnership and exchange program between Crailsheim and Worthington going, the students must realize the benefits that come with the experience and not be apprehensive about learning a foreign language. The language skills come quickly when a person is immersed in the culture.
"When I came over, we came on a boat ... and America was very far away," Metzger recalled. "Now, on a plane, it is just seven hours away. Back then, it was much more exciting to come here. Now, kids are so well traveled."
"The young people are not as excited. It's not as attractive," Hilt agreed. "But by traveling as a tourist, you can never make up for living with families and understanding better how people think. It is never a loss in time. It is always a gain."