Anna-Lena Heilgenthal, left, and Nina Rausch.
Anna-Lena Heilgenthal, left, and Nina Rausch.
Time flies when you’re having fun and that is exactly how four weeks have gone for Nina Rausch and Anna-Lena Heilgenthal, 16-year-old students visiting from Germany.
Both girls attend a school run by the Holy Cross Sisters in Gemunden, Germany, and are taking part in their school’s “Compassion Program.” For the past 14 years, students have visited the United States and stayed with Sisters Peggy Jackelen and Mary Anne Rose while volunteering their services at Bell Tower Residence Assisted Living.
“It’s impressive that people who work at Bell Tower Residence are so motivated everyday and don’t get bored or annoyed when working with the residents,” Ann-Lena said.  
They pointed to the differences between the two countries in caring for the elderly. “In Germany, residents just sit at the table in the living room the whole day because there isn’t enough staff to care for them. Here you really talk to the people and spend time with them and there are activities,” Anna-Lena said. Speaking of activities, they helped plan a German Fest for residents to showcase some of their heritage.
“Maybe when we are older, like 80, we will come and spend our last years at Bell Tower Residence,” Nina added.
The girls have had the opportunity to experience Merrill High School and added that it’s more laid back than in Germany. They also felt there was more crime in the United States than in Germany and more usage of guns. “We noticed on the news there is a lot more crime than in Germany,” Nina said.
Probably the biggest eye opener was the lack of use of mass transit (buses and trains). The girls said people don’t walk as much; they drive all over with bigger cars and trucks. “Even if you could walk five minutes to your destination, you take your car or truck,” Anna-Lena said. Nina added, “I go to school by train and a short way by bus.” 
The girls found they love brownies and cookies and other foods, but jokingly said it’s hard to keep their shape, so they go to the gym. They felt Germany features a healthier lifestyle.  
They found everyone in the United States very friendly and living with two Holy Cross Sisters fun, adding, "There is a nice harmony and we felt right at home.  We hope we can come back and visit when we are older."