Reuchlin-Gymnasium Pforzheim on its exchange visit to Liceo Antonio Gramsci Olbia (Sardinia)

During his holiday on Sardinia in the autumn of 2015, Mr. Löchner, a teacher for English, Latin and Greek at Reuchlin-Gymnasium Pforzheim, met an Italian teacher named Mr. Mereu. Inspired by the generally bad political situation and increasing tensions within Europe, they decided to start a cultural and lingual exchange between Reuchlin-Gymnasium in Germany on the one and the Liceo Antonio Gramsci in Sardinia on the other hand.

It began with a social-media group, in which the Sardinian and the German students met for the first time. Just a few weeks later the German-Italian exchange partners were matched and the partners started more intensive private contact.

Soon after the summer holidays on Friday, the 16th of September, and after several weeks of conversation, we – the German students and teachers – arrived at the Costa Smeralda Airport Olbia and were warmly welcomed by the Sardinian students and teachers. Shortly afterwards we were introduced to our host families and spent the afternoon and evening together to get to know each other. My host family was very kind and warm-hearted. Despite the linguistic barrier that significantly opened up whenever I tried to talk to the parents of my host - with rather poor English skills - without my host student as a mediator, it was still possible to communicate.

The next day we first visited the Liceo Gramsci school in Olbia. In Sardinia, Saturday is a normal school day - unlike in Germany. After we had been introduced to the Olbian teachers, Mr. Mereu and Ms. Pugliese, the English conversation teacher, we were briefly informed about the school in general. After the theoretical part, we were guided through the school building in small groups. In contrast to a German school, Liceo Gramsci is totally enclosed by a metal fence with sharp ends. During the lessons, many details caught our attention: In our school in Germany, if the teacher wants to start the lesson, the students stand up, greet the teacher and sit down. Unlike Sardinia: The teacher enters the room, looks at the class for estimated three minutes, then begins to talk and hopes that at least some of the students will listen to him. To be fair: In Germany, not every student listens to the teacher the whole time. But in Sardinia it is common to use one's smartphone during the lesson (some of the teachers even want their students to record the lessons on their smartphone, so they can listen to the lesson whenever they want - to us a rather weird concept). All in all, the atmosphere was rather disinterested, many - or even most - of the students looked as if they would love to get out of school as soon as possible - forever. Still, there were some motivated and interested students, who carried the whole lesson.

The whole Sunday was spent with the host family. My host family decided to show me the area of Porto Taverna, where an aunt has a camping van on a camping ground close to the beach. The water was cool but very clear and the countryside beautiful. For lunch, we had a barbecue with steak and typical Sardinian sausage (unexpectedly salty at first, but then very delicious). Early in the evening we set out to visit Porto San Paolo and to have an ice cream. I noticed the important or even central role of family in Sardinia – we in Germany tend to pay each other a visit a few times a year and then to forget about them, whereas in Sardinia you get in touch with many aunts, uncles and grandparents multiple times a week. In the evening, after visiting the relatives, the parents of my host provided a big meal consisting of several dishes (the parents of my host ran a restaurant once). Needless to say, it was an outstanding culinary experience.

On Monday, school started again. At first, we were given detailed presentations on the history of Sardinia as well as on its natural environment. After this rather theoretical part, we could enjoy typical Sardinian food and soft drinks before we set out to see this environment ourselves at Bados Beach.

The next day we undertook a tour, together with our host students and the teachers, to Capo Camino. The objective was to get to know the flora and fauna of the beach and to have the chance to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a lovely trip and a great opportunity to spend time with other exchange students as well.

On Wednesday the Germans were able to visit Liceo Gramsci again. The Sardinian students informed us about the Sardinian language as well as the culture and tradition of Sardinia; our teacher Ms. Hellmer gave us a really instructive lecture on the relationship between the Sardinian language and its mother, Latin. Some of the students had dressed up in traditional ceremony clothing and told us about Sardinian customs: it left a genuine and vivid impression of Sardinian culture and customs on us all. After lunch, everyone met in the city of Olbia for a treasure hunt. Not only monuments and buildings had to be found, we also had to take pictures of ourselves holding typical Sardinian food or even to make it into the mayor's office (some groups somehow managed to get there). It was a very funny afternoon, combined with some competitive spirit. Afterwards, we visited the Archeological Museum of Olbia. A special focus of this museum is on archeological items found in and near Sardinia, such as ship wrecks and vases.

The next day we started for another day trip. At first, we stopped to look at Nuraghes, big stone towers made from 2200 – 400 BC. If you think of Germany at the same period, this is really impressive. Unfortunately, most of the Nuraghes are long destroyed, but the remains of thousands of them are still left on Sardinia.

Next we arrived at Capo Caccia, a steep coastline with a long stairway down to sea level. It is really impressive to be able to look 60 meters down a natural stone wall. Near the sea level, a small stalactite cave is located.

In the afternoon we visited the city of Palmavera. We could either go swimming or stay in the city to hang out. Due to deteriorating weather most decided to go to the park in the city center. It was a nice possibility to sit together and to spend time with the other students.

Friday was our last day on Sardinia. In the evening the German and Sardinian students met for a goodbye all you can eat-pizza-dinner. It was a great evening and an adequate ending to our stay.

Sardinian visit in Germany

Just four weeks later, on Friday, 21st October, our Sardinian friends arrived at Basel/Muhlhouse airport, where they were welcomed by some of the German students as well as by Mr. Löchner with a big packed lunch. After a short stopover, they went on their trip to Pforzheim, this time by coach. Finally, in the late evening, they arrived at our school, where they were picked up by the German host families. It was almost midnight when everyone arrived at home at last.

There, my family, my guest and I were sitting together eating some cake, and planned for the weekend. As we don't have school on Saturdays here in Germany, we had two free days ahead of us. We decided to spend the next day at Europa-Park in Rust. Obviously tired, we went to bed a little later.

On Saturday we had to get up early, and arrived at Rust as early as 9 o' clock. My guest was truly surprised at the huge rollercoaster and mistook it at first as modern art – it seems like they don't have comparable rollercoasters in Sardinia. While lining up for the first ride, my guest felt somewhat uncomfortable, but after a few rides he apparently enjoyed it greatly.

On Sunday, a group of about 26 German and Sardinian students went to a laser battle arena named Laser Base in Karlsruhe. In two rounds four teams played against each other, and despite the quite stressful team matching, all students seemed to have fun playing.

In the afternoon my brother, my guest and I went swimming in the Europabad in Karlsruhe. On Sardinia, my guest swims often in the Mediterranean sea, but water slides are rather rare. So, all in all, it was a great day.

On Monday, school started again. At 7:45 we met in the school's conference room and the students were welcomed to the school building, some of the German teachers and the school principal as well as to the week's program. After a short break with cookies and soft drinks, some German students made presentations on Pforzheim and main aspects of modern German history - such as the Republic of Weimar, the National-Socialistic Reich and the Second World War. Towards the end of the morning, the Italian students joined two different classes. Five exchange students visited the English lesson of Mr. Löchner and the bilingual Physics lesson of Ms. Plachta - as both lessons were held in English, the Italians could easily participate in the classes. The Italian students were - mostly positively - surprised by the atmosphere during classes. In comparison to the lessons in Sardinia, some of the Italian students said the lessons in Germany were more quiet and targeted.

In the afternoon, all students met in the city center in front of the Schlosskirche for a treasure hunt. Shortly after the beginning of the treasure hunt, we realized that most of the solutions could be found in the internet. Yet it was interesting, as one question - in particular the names of the three heads shown inside the Schlosskirche - was hard to answer, we couldn't find a solution in the internet, and we had to do some research in old flyers that a friendly museum staff member handed us.

On Tuesday, a daytrip to Heidelberg and especially the Friedrich-Ebert memorial was on program. Unfortunately, not all of the German students could join the Sardinians, due to exams and important lessons, but - at least in my case - the teachers were cooperative. When we arrived in Heidelberg we went to the Friedrich Ebert memorial first. Split into two groups, we were guided through Friedrich Ebert's birthplace. The guides informed us about his achievements as German president and showed us around the house. After the visit to the museum, we were free to explore the city of Heidelberg. At the end of this educative day, we went home by bus again.

The next day, the Italian students went to the Daimler car plant at Sindelfingen; unfortunately none of the German students could join, so information about the day is quite rare. As my guest told me, it was impressive to see such a high-technology plant. In the afternoon, they visited the city of Stuttgart.

Thursday was already the last full day of the exchange. In the morning, we met in our school, where the Italian students attended another two regular classes. Again the Italians noticed the rather focused atmosphere - and the strict prohibition of smart phones. Then some German students gave little presentations on various cultural topics of Pforzheim.

In the afternoon, the Italian students met to spend time in the city of Pforzheim, until all had dinner together in the Schlosskeller in the evening. The food was delicious and the atmosphere relaxed. Afterwards, some of the German students visited some bar.


The exchange was a great experience and should definitely be continued. It was interesting to learn about the different culture of Sardinia, with its - for Germans - incredibly important role of the family, strong peer groups and a quite wide-spread anti-school position. Also the Sardinians were surprised - positively by the German weather, the trips and the atmosphere as well as – negatively – by the strict lessons in school (of course these are just trends and this doesn't represent the opinion of every single Sardinian or German). But one detail that all non-smoking Germans and Sardinians agreed on was the omnipresence of the ever-annoying cigarette smoke. Almost all of the Italian students were smokers, causing noticeable smell, sickness and sometimes even severe headaches. Interestingly, the hortative position of our teacher on smoking was well received even among the Sardinian students.

Finally, I have to thank Mr. Löchner and Mr. Mereu for setting up this exchange and I am sure they have put remarkable effort in planning this exchange. Furthermore, I want to thank the other teachers involved, Ms. Hellmer and Ms. Pugliese.


Fabian Aisenbrey