German students tour New Ulm

NEW ULM – Two dozen high school students from Bremen, Germany staying in Mankato for several weeks, toured New Ulm Thursday as part of a foreign exchange student program.

The tour, which included the Hermann Monument, Brown County Museum and Glockenspiel, was led by Don Brand and his daughter and student host mom Jenny Brand Portner of North Mankato. The foreign exchange program partners with Mankato East and West high schools.

Bjorn Siemers, who teaches English as a foreign language in Bremen, said he felt fortunate to be here at this time of year as the sun shone brightly and the morning coolness was fading away.

“It’s cold and rainy in Germany,” said Siemers, as he took in the view of New Ulm and surrounding countryside on the observation deck of the Hermann Monument.

Last weekend, the group attended the Minnesota Vikings-Cleveland Browns football game at the Metrodome and visited the Mall of America.

“Now I know what a muffed (fumbled) ball means,” Siemers said. “It was fun. There were so many weirdly-dressed people at the Vikings game.”

Student class schedules are among other differences between the U.S. and Germany.

“In Germany, teachers go from classroom to classroom instead of students going to different classrooms like they do here,” Siemers said. “Students stay in the same classroom and keep the same classmates for five or six years. They identify strongly with their classmates but not with their school as much as students do here.”

In addition, daily class schedules rotate. German students may have four 45-minute periods of English two days a week and alternating Spanish and physical education classes the other three days a week.

Siemers said regular German high school classes don’t stop for three months each summer like in the U.S. He said German students have six weeks off in the summer, two weeks off in the fall, around Christmas, in the spring and several longer weekends during the school year.

A city of 2.4 million people in its metropolitan area, located 37 miles south of the western mouth on the North Sea, Bremer is an industrial and commercial city in northwestern Germany with a major port on the Weser River.

The foreign exchange program is privately-funded by parents of students, Portner said.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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