David Schiffler right at home with Tom and Joan Fussy
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Spending a few months as a foreign exchange student was a valuable enough experience for David Schiffler of Bremen, Germany that he was willing to give up his first-place class ranking in Bremen to do it. His classes at Royalton High School won’t count toward his sophomore year, but he won’t have to repeat it either.
“I will just have to concentrate on passing when I get back, and not on getting good grades,” he said.
Schiffler’s elder brother, Robin, was an exchange student in Rhode Island. When his parents offered Schiffler the chance to come to the United States too, he patiently waited eight months.
“Then I was told on a Thursday that a host family had been found and on Friday I found out that I was leaving on Sunday,” said Schiffler.
He arrived in the United States the last Sunday in August and was very pleased to get settled with Tom and Joan Fussy in Bowlus.
Rural living is quite different from the bustling metropolitan city of Bremen with a population of 2.4 million. It’s the 10th-largest city in Germany.
Schiffler and his family live in a 100-year-old townhouse. They use bikes for transportation as often as a bus or tram. They have one car, which must be parked on the street.
He finished ninth grade last year. “We stay in the same classroom and the teacher comes to us except for lab sciences and sports,” he said. “The whole school has lunch break at the same time and we can leave the school to go to restaurants when we’re in 10th grade.”
All German students learn English, but at Schiffler’s bilingual school some classes are actually taught in English: history, biology and sports. He still takes mathematics, physics, chemistry, art, politics and philosophy in German.
The school building is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site. Before even pounding a nail in a wall, a person has to obtain permission.
“(School here) is like vacation for me, compared to the stuff I have to do in Germany” Schiffler said. “I spend two and a half hours every day doing homework at home.”
Although Schiffler thinks the school system here is not too hard, he likes the school spirit and loyalty.
“People really identify themselves with the school, with everyone cheering for the teams,” he said. “High school is like a second home, where a lot of people stay after school.”
His school cafeteria in Bremen has a salad bar, main bar and “a huge noodle bar with three kinds of sausages.” He has most enjoyed tacos here.
“I’m lucky to have such a good cook here,” he said, referring to Tom. “I love the pizza and spaghetti.”
“He loves his bacon and eggs and homemade bread for toast,” Tom said.
Schiffler is looking forward to seeing a bit of snow before his January return to Germany.
“We’re lucky to have snow at Christmas,” he said.
Exchange students take a group trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. The best part of Schiffler’s time in Washington was at the Lincoln Memorial.
“Walking up the steps, I saw a plaque saying Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech there, and I had just been listening to that speech on the bus,” he said. “I actually cried. It was the first time I realized Martin Luther King was quoting Lincoln, who freed the slaves. It all made sense.”
Schiffler also visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was a very moving experience.
“I got goosebumps watching the films because I understood what was being said,” he said.
Even 60 years later, Schiffler says there is still no patriotism in Germany. People are still ashamed of what happened and they don’t want it to happen again.
“People can go to jail for just saying that the Holocaust didn’t take place, or for wearing a swastika or saying ‘Heil Hitler,’” he said.
But at the Korean War Memorial, Schiffler ran into a veteran of World War II who had fought in the Pacific. The man asked about David’s grandpa, who fought on the Russian front. After their conversation, the man said goodbye, “God bless you, my friend.”
Time can heal.