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GERMAN INSIGHT: German exchange students Norina Dreger, right, and Christian Fastenrath talk with Island City Elementary School sixth-graders about their country. The Island City students are, from left, Matt Coote, Cody Childs and Ashley Baker. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
GERMAN INSIGHT: German exchange students Norina Dreger, right, and Christian Fastenrath talk with Island City Elementary School sixth-graders about their country. The Island City students are, from left, Matt Coote, Cody Childs and Ashley Baker. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

ISLAND CITY Is a freeway safer when it does not have a speed limit?

Many in Germany believe it is, according to Christian Fastenrath, a German foreign exchange student at Imbler High School.

The speed question is one of many topics Fastenrath and Norina Dreger, a German exchange student at Cove High School, discussed during a recent presentation in Tara Tuckers sixth-grade classroom at Island City Elementary School.

Fastenrath and Dreger fielded many questions from enthusiastic sixth-graders, some of which concerned driving speeds.

Fastenrath said that the driving speed is an issue in Germany because of the autobahn, Germanys freeway system. Portions of the autobahn have no speed limits.

Drivers average 85 mph over these portions of the autobahn, Fastenrath told Island Citys sixth-graders.

You get used to it, she said.

He said a major reason some portions of the autobahn remain speed-limit free is that accident rates are not high. In fact Germanys accident rates are lower than in France, which has the same amount of traffic and more speed limits, Fastenrath said.

When asked about Germanys size, Fastenrath and Dreger encouraged the students to think of Montana. Dreger noted that Germany is about the size of Montana. There is a vast population difference because Germany has about 82 million people and Montana has about 1 million.

Fastenrath was also asked about Germanys most popular sports.

Soccer is big. Almost every kid, especially the boys, plays soccer, Fastenrath said.

One of the best things about living in Germany is that it is easy to visit other countries because so many are nearby, Fastenrath said.

The countries are smaller. Visiting one is like visiting a state here.

Fastenrath lives in Dresden, which is about 20 miles south of Berlin. He said Dresden is a one-hour drive from the Czech Republic, two hours from Poland and six to seven hours from France, Denmark and Austria.

Like all German students, Fastenrath and Dreger began studying English when they were in the fifth grade. All students must start to learn a second language in the fifth grade; most select English. The reason? In most countries, English is the second language.

It would be impossible to learn all of the languages in Europe, so most people (in Germany) study English, Fastenrath said.

Fastenrath and Dreger felt better about their English-speaking skills after they started dreaming in the language after arriving in the United States. Dreger said this made her realize that she was starting to think in English.

I was translating fewer words, Dreger said.

Dreger and Fastenrath have both enjoyed successful years at Cove and Imbler high schools.

Dreger made the honor roll, played on Coves volleyball team, was a cheerleader and qualified for the state Class 1A track meet. She will compete in the 3,000-meter run this weekend.

Fastenrath is also an honor student and was a successful member of Imbler High Schools Future Business Leaders of America chapter. Fastenrath placed first in international business at the state FBLA conference in April.

Fastenrath and Dreger are both with the Youth For Understanding International Student Exchange. The family of Randy and Patsey Stockam of Island City is hosting Fastenrath. The family of Wade and Cindy Johnson of Cove is hosting Dreger.

Fastenrath and Dreger are two of five Youth For Understanding exchange students attending Northeast Oregon high schools.

Dreger noted that not everyone is cut out to be an exchange


You need to be able to leave a lot behind, like your family and friends, Dreger said.

She encourages young people who can do this to become exchange students. They will learn things like open-mindedness and tolerance, Dreger said.

Fastenrath had similar remarks.

You see another way of thinking and learn to accept it. It will now be easier for me to accept people in my country who think differently. I have become more tolerant, Fastenrath said.


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