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The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

“Auf Wiedersehen” Gretna, “hallo” Germany

Junior gets opportunity of lifetime
Brianna Wozniak
While in Berlin, Brianna Wozniak (11) took a graffiti workshop, and illustrated an outline of the country behind the German flag. Other teens wrote several German phrases along with personalized tags. “Apparently, our instructor at the workshop was from Nebraska,” Wozniak said. “He moved over to Berlin after graduating college.”

Minute hand ticking, an hour since school ended and words on the exam page start blurring. It is the last day of exams, and Brianna Wozniak sits in an empty room jotting down the written portion of an extensive qualification for a life-changing scholarship. 

“I was very nervous, and when I finally got a gold star freshman year, I was like, ‘Wow, I can do this,’” Wozniak said. 

At the end of the year, all foreign language students receive a “star” for their hard work. Gold stars are for those who maintained a grade of one for the year, silver for two and so forth. It helped teachers organize the class on their separate skill levels and gave Wozniak confidence in her hard work and effort. That same confidence leads her to accomplish a monumental goal. 

Along with stars, German teachers require their classes to take the American Association for Teachers of German’s (AATG) National German Exam (NGE) as a tool to learn what is necessary to teach. 

“The exam allows me to gauge how my students are performing and how I am teaching,” GHS German instructor Mrs. Kelly Deane said. “If I am teaching what my colleagues are and how well I am accomplishing my goals.  I also allow the students to see their learning on a national level.” 

After receiving high scores, Wozniak, interviewed by Wendy Brennan, Millard North German teacher and President-Elect for Nebraska’s AATG chapter, passed on to take the final portion of tests. In a lonely room after school, she took four to five hours of writing, listening, reading, and video portions. 

Finally, the day arrived, and Wozniak was eligible: along with 48 other students from across the country, to visit Germany over the summer. 

“I am so proud of Bri and Caroline Mix for qualifying in the first place,” Mrs. Deane said. “The addition of a trip is just the cherry on top.  To be able to place in the 90% percentile is truly an achievement, and I hope to see great things from them both in the future.”

Leaving Nebraska, Wozniak and her dad, Steve, flew to New York. Where she said farewell to him when boarding the flight to Frankfurt. 

While at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, Bri introduced herself to the other 48 teens and her chaperone from the Indiana chapter, Stephanie Zachar, and they all boarded off on Lufthansa, all the way to Frankfurt, Germany. 

“Before the trip, we had two Google meets to meet the other teens, but we truly met and talked in NYC,” Wozniak said. “I’ve never been more extroverted in my life for the first five hours, but it must’ve been a shock the second day when they realized how quiet I was.”

Arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, Brianna Wozniak (11) takes a photo outside of her window of the Frankfurt Airport and another plane while she waited to get off the plane. Wozniak said that first few moments she spent in Germany she and her group scrambled throughout the airport to get their luggage and find their friends. After achieving both of those missions, they boarded public trains to get all around the country. “It was my first time overseas, and was seven to eight hours long,” Wozniak said. “Sadly, the plane was so loud that I couldn’t go to sleep.” (Brianna Wozniak)

After the eight-hour-long flight, the group swiftly split into their separate host families and took trains to their respective destinations. Wozniak’s hosts lived on an extensive island surrounded by lakes called Brandenburg an der Havel near Berlin. 

“On average days, I would get up at six in the morning and then go to their school,” Wozniak said. “They go to four classes and have fifteen to twenty minutes between classes to talk with other students and do homework. Then, I’d go home, have dinner, and go to bed.”

For the first two weeks, these teens stayed with their hosts’, went to school alongside their German counterparts, and grew closer with everyone, German or not. 

Trips to boba shops, long walks exploring the unfamiliar scenery, and quiet moments home alone reading consumed her days throughout those couple of weeks. 

“I found it to be a charming town,” Zachar said. “I think all the students really enjoyed their time in Brandenburg an der Havel. It was a very walkable town and afforded the students a lot of freedom. I enjoyed wandering through the city. I also loved the day we canoed on the canals and river around the old city.”

This school was where Brianna Wozniak (11) spent most of her days learning about math, art, and even improv in Germany. Johanna Webrink, the German teacher at Von Saldern Gymnasium, took both Wozniak and Zachar on numerous sightseeing trips around the area. (Brianna Wozniak)

In the last week, all participants parted with their host families for Berlin to sightsee and have new experiences. Their weeks contained hikes along mountains far vaster than any in the Midwest, old rococo-style architecture, and several other exciting experiences, such as canoeing.

“Bri, Frau Webrink and I spent a wonderful day exploring Berlin,” Zachar said. “We got to take our time and check out some of the sites we didn’t see with the whole group. We also had the opportunity to go see the Dresdner Knabenchor sing a concert in one of the old churches.”

Johanna Webrink, a teacher from Von Saldern Gymnasium, housed both Wozniak and Zachar during their trip.

All German classes will be able to take the NGE and take a chance to qualify for the same scholarship Wozniak received. 

The best part of chaperoning any group of students in Germany is always watching them realize that they can actually use German and seeing their language improve,” Zachar said. “I would encourage any students studying a language to find an opportunity to visit a country where that language is spoken.”

Whether chaperoning or visiting as a student, this opportunity can help support traveling and growth in language skills. It may take some time, but according to Wozniak, the test is designed to push the student’s knowledge and is a great opportunity for any language learner.

While in Berlin, the group visited the Charlotten Bridge, which runs over a river called, the Havel. (Brianna Wozniak)

I think it is a wonderful opportunity for any student,” Mrs. Deane said. “The timing is good for students, and sophomores and above can handle the stress of a short exchange.  I hope it is an opportunity for her (Wozniak) to expand her horizons and see how big the world is and the differing cultures.”

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About the Contributor
Onnika Moore
Onnika Moore, Editor
Onnika Moore is a junior at Gretna East High School. She was on the Gretna Media staff at Gretna High School for the past two year, and this year at Gretna East, she has earned an editor position. Her goals for journalism this year are to win State awards and build the program from the ground up. Journalism is the only school activity she is involved in, but with her free time, she enjoys drawing, reading and writing. She also loves to spend time with her two cats, Sprinkles and Cylis. 
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  • G

    Gina MooreAug 22, 2023 at 2:11 pm

    What an awesome experience! Way to go Bri!

  • S

    savannahAug 22, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    Love this girl!