Crailsheim comrades: Group of German teens descends on Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- When Andrew "Stew" Stewart recently returned from spending a year as an exchange student in Crailsheim, Germany, he brought back more than memories and a suitcase full of souvenirs.

WORTHINGTON -- When Andrew "Stew" Stewart recently returned from spending a year as an exchange student in Crailsheim, Germany, he brought back more than memories and a suitcase full of souvenirs.

Stew was accompanied by six of his closest German friends. He and Katrin Hanselmann, 16, the official exchange student from Crailsheim who will spend the next year in Worthington, flew one route, from Stuttgart to Amsterdam to Minneapolis, while four other Crailsheimers -- Eugen Bauer, 17, Marcus Forster, 17, Alexandra Queissner, 18, and Alexander Hahn, 16, traveled from Frankfurt to Iceland to Minneapolis. They plan to visit for about four weeks, departing just prior to Worthington's King Turkey Day celebration and returning to Crailsheim just in time for that city's own community festival -- Volksfest.

Meanwhile, yet another friend, Milena Bartelmess, 16, will also spend a year living in Worthington as part of a separate exchange student program, Euro Vacances. Milena flew from Frankfurt to Chicago, where she had two days of orientation for the exchange program before continuing on to Worthington.

Despite their varying routes, the German teens have all descended on Worthington. Most of them are being hosted by Stew's parents, Ric and Mary Stewart. Milena is settling in with her host family for the year -- John and Kristie Nordell, whose son, Todd, was the 2004-2005 exchange student to Crailsheim.

The idea of a group venture to Worthington was conceived early on during Stew's stay in Germany.


"It was probably last fall, maybe September," recalled Stew. "We went out for an evening, and they all started talking about coming here maybe in June or July. I said, 'I don't know when I'm going back for sure, but you'll just have to come back with me.' It was just talk for a while, but eventually it really became something. I basically just invited everyone I knew."

Stew got to know many of his chums through Todd Nordell, who introduced him around and showed him the ropes before returning to Worthington last summer. He became acquainted with other friends through his host families. Alexandra is a host "sister" -- the last family he lived with in Crailsheim.

Stew's German friends have helped to ease his transition back into life in Worthington.

"I knew it was going to be hard to come back," he admitted. "This way, it's easier to transition to my normal way of life, whatever normal is. I'll still be sad when they leave, but it won't be like me falling off a cliff. I'll already have molded back into my own culture."

He's also enjoying showing them around his own hometown, although it also makes him realize the differences between the two communities and cultures.

"Being in Crailsheim for 13 months, it's just a bigger city, and there's more to do, a lot more activities," he contrasted. "They are just completely different cultures. ... I wanted to show them how different everything is. They'd ask me things like, 'What kind of food do you eat?' And I'd say, 'Come over, and we'll try it.'"

The teens have already seen many of Worthington's sights on bicycles the Stewarts scrounged from friends. In Germany, bicycling and walking are much more common, especially among the young people, who rarely drive cars.

The German students shared a few other observations about the United States, and what they've seen so far in Worthington in particular:


"They people are so open," said Katrin. "They all said hello to you."

"The houses are shorter, smaller," noted Alexandra, who continued on with a giggle. "The kids are crazy. Some of the foods are pretty sweet."

"The food is very cheap here," said Marcus. "It is half the price (of in Germany)."

"Gas is more cheaper than it is for us," compared Eugen.

Calculating figures in his head, Stew estimated that gas in Europe costs approximately $5 or $6 a gallon and added, "Their gas is expensive enough that they turn their cars off at a stop sign."

"The people are very nice here," emphasized Alexander.

While the Germans have enthusiastically enjoyed some typical American foods, such as steak, corn on the cob, Sloppy Joes and s'mores, they also took over the Stewart kitchen and cooked up some German fare, including spaetzle -- a type of homemade German noodles and one of Stew's favorites.

"Our flour doesn't work very well for spaetzle, though," Stew explained. "It doesn't get the right consistency."


The teens haven't made many specific plans for the remainder of their time in Worthington, although they are going camping with the Nordell family and want to visit the Mall of America. They are also considering heading to Chicago for a day or so.

"I just want things to be random," said Stew.

Eventually, though, the time will come when they have to say goodbye, and Eugen, Marcus, Alexandra and Alexander will board a plane bound for Germany while Stew, Katrin and Milena stay in Worthington.

"I think we'll be very, very sad when we go," said Alexandra.

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