Get connected – A Best Practice About Cultural Differences, Adventures Together, and New Friendships
A desire to establish a holiday program for young people and at the same time forge a closer network within the international Schwarz Group were just two of the reasons for launching the international exchange program "get connected." In our last post, we reported on the program itself and its goals. (Link post)
In this post, we give you insights into the experiences of two of the employees who participated and their children.
Heike has worked for the Schwarz Group since 1983, and has been in the Leasing South area at Kaufland for the last 6 years. Her 14-year-old daughter Maya took part in the exchange program. Her exchange student came from Spain.
Stefan joined the Schwarz Group in 2010 and is currently working in International Purchasing at Lidl Stiftung. The exchange student of his 14-year-old daughter Marlene is also Spanish.
Why did you take part in the exchange program?
Heike: One of the main reasons for us was the well-organized holiday weeks, which gave Maya the chance to experience a stay abroad with a guest family in a culture that was foreign to her. We also wanted her to use her English and Spanish, encourage her independence, and even make friends if the chemistry was right.
Stefan: As a teenager I was part of the exchange organization AFS in the US, where I gained very valuable experience. I wanted my daughter to have that opportunity too. For me, it was important for her to get to learn a new culture and leave her familiar environment. The experiences that Marlene gains as part of a Spanish family are nothing like the impressions you get of a foreign country when you go on holiday. This includes understanding more about your own values and traditions and discovering those of other cultures.
Did the program fulfill your expectations?
Heike: It thoroughly fulfilled our expectations as parents, and those of Maya.
For us parents, it was of course important that Maya had a safe and memorable time in another country with a friendly host family.
For Maya, it was all about spending three eventful weeks with a friendly exchange partner in Germany, and of course in Spain, and perhaps even making friends through the exchange.
Maya and her exchange partner had a memorable time in Germany and Spain, with many planned day trips and activities as well as spontaneous times that they'll always remember.
Stefan: The program went above and beyond our expectations. Both teenagers quickly made friends and we all agreed that our exchange student was a great addition to the family. This was due to all the activities that we did together as a family, including cooking together and canoeing.
The cultural differences were also stark over the three weeks. Marlene was particularly surprised by the differences in daily life in Spain. For example, she only had breakfast at 11 am, and a siesta was new for her too.
How would you sum up the experience? Would you recommend the program to others?
Heike: As parents, we felt that AFS organized and took care of everything fantastically. That includes matching students beforehand based on similar interests and personalities. Within a couple of hours of the exchange student arriving, it was clear that there was "chemistry" between her and Maya.
We had a great time with our guest from Spain. And Maya had an unforgettable time with her host family in the Basque region. I'm sure they'll stay in contact for many years to come.
Stefan: The program was extremely well-organized and I would definitely highly recommend it. Everyone had great fun. It would have been nice if it had been a couple of days longer.
Marlene and her exchange student have already planned to meet again next year. Our younger daughter is also enthusiastic and looking forward to applying for an exchange.
After the success of this year, planning for the next exchange program is already underway! Would you like to be a part of it? Then join us and benefit from our varied employee offers!