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The following writings come from students attending the current USA Cultural and Language Tour 2019

Saturday, March 16th

By Stefanie Hammer

When I woke up at 7:30 in the morning, I had no idea of the events that would befall later. I lay in bed for another two hours and had my beloved oatmeal for breakfast. As I am more of a morning person than my host family, I woke them up so we wouldn‘t miss the movie we were going to watch at the Jackson 10 movie theater, namely Smallfoot, which started at 10 am.

As soon as I entered the building, I was surprised by the large amount of people who had come to watch the movie at such an early time of the day. The cinema hall was almost full, which has never been the case in the ones I went to in Austria. I soon found out why: the tickets were only 1$!

After this funny and truly amazing movie my host sister had a great idea: She asked my host mom to take us to Westwood mall so I could shop at American eagle and other shops we don‘t have in Austria. While I was extremely happy about this shopping trip, I have to say that my wallet definitely wasn‘t.

At 2 pm., my friends Hannah, her host sister Libby and Amelie picked me up so we could go shopping in Ann Arbor together. First, we went to a thrift shop called Salvation army, and after that we were hungry, so we decided to go eat at „Noodle company“ next to the University of Michigan. Little did we know what awaited us there: We were driving down State Street when we noticed numerous police cars, more than I had ever seen in one place at a time in my entire life. What had happened? Libby quickly parked the car and we went to the crime scene. A lot of people did the same thing and we all wanted to know what the cause of this riot was. We soon found out: There were reports of a shooter in The University of Manchester!!

„Oh my god, what should we do now? What if the shooter comes outside the building?“ All four of us were scared, but somehow fascinated at the same time. While part of me wanted to shelter as quickly as possible, I wanted to capture this moment on camera and see what was happening with my own eyes. Soon, our hunger was greater than the curiosity and we went to eat something. As we were sitting in the restaurant, Libby received several tweets and messages of students inside the university: „We are hiding in Mason Hall. There are reports of an Active Shooter in the building.“ „Omg, a bunch of people are locked up in the bathroom with me and we just heard someone screaming!!“ Now, we were scared and contacted our parents and Libby facetimed her sister, who started crying when she heard that we were only a couple hundred metres away from the building.

Soon, we got another message: „Apparently some girls popped balloons and people thought it was gunshots, so they reported it.“ „UM EAlert Ann Arbor Update: All Clear. Police have determined there is no threat to the community. Buildings are open. All clear.“ You can‘t imagine how relieved we were! We could continue our shopping trip and went to Urban Outfitters, where we had to wait for a while until the shop opened again as it had been closed down as long as they didn‘t get the „All clear“ from the police. But when it did, we went in and bought really cool things. Afterwards, we went to a couple more shops and finally decided we had raided our bank accounts enough for today and went home to Jackson again. What a day!

Exploring Downtown Jackson

Friday 15/03/2019

By Martin S.

It was seven am when the doors to Jackson High School opened up and just like every other school day the trophy and poster filled hallways immediately got swarmed with students between the age of 15 and 18. All of us (“Austrians”) met in room 301 to wait for our buddies to pick us up for the first period. Steven and I had English. After the first period we all met up with a former pastor who was our tour guide for the day. Even though his German skills were pretty decent, he still ended up speaking English with us.

Our first stop was a protestant church, in which first off our guide showed us how it had changed over time. Then we entered a big room, where the massive pipes of an organ stood out. We got told that the organ had a total amount of around 3000 pipes and that the smallest have about the size of a pencil. The guide also explained, that there used to be a wall in the church that separated the monks from everyone else.

Then we continued walking to downtown Jackson in some really cold and windy weather until we had finally reached the mayor's office. In the elevator we realised that there wasn't a 13th floor even though there was a 14th. This turned out to be because of superstition. It was supposed be bad luck having a 13th floor. The mayor explained to us what he does and then answered a couple of questions. Thereafter he gave us a small tour of the building.

After the tour we went to a little shop next to the city hall where you could buy pretty much everything. From merchandise of Jackson to random socks with for example pandas on them. In this store the owner also offered us some kind of sweet which we ate a lot of.

A few blocks further we entered Gilbert’s chocolate factory. There a employee showed us around and told us how chocolate is produced and answered questions we had. After the guided tour through the factory we had some time to buy the chocolate that they produce.

The last stop before we headed out for lunch was the theater. The theater was enormous and was painted beautifully on the inside. The theater had two floors in which you could sit to watch a play.

After lunch we met again at a catholic church in which the glass was produced in Innsbruck. Then at about 2 we came back to the school where our hostfamilies picked us up.

14th of March

by Simona Grugger

We toured the city of Ann Arbor where we visited the University of Michigan and the corresponding stadium.

It was a cool, rainy day and everybody was hiding under hoods and umbrellas.
First, we had a look at the law court and the library accessible to law students. There our tour guide, a professor at the university, informed us that the university had been built in the style of many older European universities although it is much younger itself. We also learnt that the school fees are more than double the price for international students than for local Michigan inhabitants.

We then moved on to the Ross School of Business, which was named after it’s sponsor and is renowned for having some of the best business programmes in the world.

On our way towards the Biological Sciences Building we came across multiple young people in the streets handing out cereal bars and leaflets advertising a local institution. We came across so many in fact, that most of us ended up with three or four cereal bars, which was a welcome surprise for those of us who hadn’t brought a lunch with them.

During the remainder of our tour we also found out that many famous people we knew had connections to the school: Michael Phelps trained there for many years, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son is currently a student there and Madonna and her daughter attended it. Another fun fact is that The University of Michigan and Michigan State University have had a rivalry for many years and have pranked each other and spray painted each other’s property several times in the past.

Moving on to the stadium, it is the biggest stadium in the United States and sees at least a hundred thousand visitors every game. Students can view these games from chairs reserved especially for them at only 25$ a game whilst some people pay over 60.000$ annually to see the games from private suites above the stadium. We were given a tour through the grounds, having a look at these suites, the technical quarters, journalists’ writing hall, changing rooms and even the field itself, where some of us conducted an impromptu photo shoot in the rain.

After the conclusion of the tour we returned to the bus, which dropped everybody off at their meeting places and left them to spend the afternoon with their host families.
My family for example first took us to a donut shop in order to give us the chance to taste a real American donut of the best kind. We then continued to Pinball Pete’s, an old school American arcade. I got lucky and with only contributing 1$, won the jackpot at one of the ticket machines. The 1200 tickets we had gathered altogether were traded in for some small squishy animals which we shared among us.

Finally at home our host father let us practice shooting his pellet gun at a target (taking the necessary safety measures of course) which proved to be a great time and an introduction to a common American pastime.

In the evening a surprise hit us students when at dinner all our phones went off, announcing a tornado warning in our area. Our various host families dealt with it in quite different ways-whilst mine immediately took shelter, some went out for ice cream to watch the storm. Luckily there was no damage done and there weren’t even any remarkably strong winds around.
What a day!

This is a snapshot of the stadium from the journalists’ hall

This photograph was taken on our way across the law court

Depicted above is the library where students can carry out their work quietly

Thursday 14. March 2019

by Hannah Schidlbauer

We went to Ann Arbour to see the University of Michigan and the “Big House” aka the second largest American football stadium in the world.

My day started of great when I decided not to look at my phone the previous evening and thus missing the text saying we should be in school at 7:25 instead of 9:00. So instead of getting to Jackson High at 7:25, I got there at 8:20. We drove to the Uni with one of those typical “movie” school buses. After arriving we met two professors, who were originally from Kitzbühel, but moved to Michigan to become professors at UofM. They gave us a little tour of the beautiful campus of Michigan University and told us a few interesting facts about the Uni. For example it was built “only” a hundred years ago but it was made to look much older.

Campus

They showed us different parts of the Uni, eg. the stunning library, the building for business and the science building. We were also shown were Madonna used to live in her first and only semester at the University.

Library

Saying goodbye to the professors, we started walking across town to see the amazing stadium. While walking, students advocating for a church group kept giving us cereal bars so we were all well fed before going to the stadium. We were told that when the games are on, students have to keep the mascot of the Uni safe by camping next to it until the games are over. Michigan State also does that, as their statue has been vandalized many times.

Stadium

A retired stadium worker kindly offered to give us a tour of the “Big House”.

View of VIP lounges

We saw the VIP rooms on the fifth floor, which were behind glass with a chill area and costs 60k a year, the rooms for the journalists and the TV commentators and the locker rooms of the football players.

After taking photos on the field and getting soaked while doing so, the bus picked us up and we drove home. My host-sister Libby, who went with us on the trip, and I drove home but not before stopping at the coffeehouse called Bigby’s.

As it was my host-dad’s birthday we went to the country club to eat dinner. While driving it began to rain, the wind whistled through the trees and the sky started to turn green. Suddenly sirens started going off and we found out that it was a tornado-warning, which was a little freaky. Our families handled the situation very differently, some took shelter in the basement, others went out for ice cream to watch what would happen. Luckily it past over us, so none of us were harmed. A thunderstorm continued until midnight, so many of us slept very badly that night.

Cell block 7

Wednesday, March 13 – Greta Daffner

As every morning we met our classmates at 7.25 am in room 105. After discussing further instructions of the upcoming day, we went upstairs to sign in at the library. At 9.50 am we met at our schools east side end to catch a school bus which brought us to the prison tour which was planned for today’s schedule (sadly we were not allowed to bring any electronics into the prison building). A young lady led us around cell block 7 (which is an inactive prison part of Jackson). She explained how inmates make their way into their assigned cell and how they get security checked each time. We also discussed how the food is made and how the cells are arranged to fulfil the security standards. Most of the inmates that used to be in cell block seven only had a short time stay. All prisoners must attend activities or have a job to make their way back to be accepted in society (Metal, steal or dog adoption). After the guided tour we were allowed to explore the cell block by ourselves and were allowed to even walk into the cells and restrooms. All of us caught the bus back to school at around 12pm, where we shadowed our school buddy for the rest of the school day, which ended at 2.19 pm.

At around 5 pm we all met up at a Jackson’s local rollerblading hall. The hall offered indoor skating, but also laser tag and other mini games. Most of us tried out the typical American 4 roll blades which most of us failed horribly, which made us go back to the original 6 roll skates. Some of our classmates, including us, had a showdown in the laser tag hall. The fun and activities went on till around 8 pm where all of us got picked up by our host families.

First day in an American school

by Alexander Zell

Today was our first day in an American school. Unlike the rest of the group, Stefan, Simona, and I were attending Manchester High School, in the village of — you guessed it — Manchester. My school buddy, Jacob, took me with him to all his classes and showed me what a normal day in an American public high school is like. There are many differences between school life in Austria and in the United States. Firstly, in the US, all the days end at 2:45PM, and lunch breaks are only 30 minutes. Also, every day has the exact same timetable, meaning that you go to the same classes and classrooms at the same time the entire week. One of the biggest advantages of the American school system is that the students get to choose which classes they go to, which is great because the students are therefore excited and interested in most of their classes. I met a lot of friendly people who were eager to learn about Austria and what I was doing in Manchester. Some of the students were even surprised to learn that the language of Austria is German, not Austrian. And one kid didn’t know the difference between Austria and Australia! After school, Stefan, Simona, and I went to our host brother Aiden’s bowling banquet for dinner. A bowling banquet is an event held at a bowling alley to celebrate the local team, which in Aiden’s case was the Manchester High School team. Overall, it was a very enjoyable day in which I learned a lot.

The First Day of School/ School Life in Jackson at Jackson High

12.3.2019 by Patrick Pieper

With school starting at 7:25 everybody is up early. Being in high school several students already have their driver’s license, but the rest must be brought by their older siblings or friends, parents or by the school bus which picks them up at their house. I, like most American students, got given a lunch bag containing a sandwich and a few snacks. Until the end of the school day, 2:19, students are not allowed to leave the campus, preventing them from buying food elsewhere.

A school day consists of 5 lessons and a lunch break. With only 4 minutes in between, students must go to their lockers and switch classrooms, which is not what we’re used to. Here the teachers are the ones with a fixed classroom. Due to the teachers having a designated classroom, they are much more colorful and decorated. The seating order is also not as strict as ours, but varies from class to class. Lunch is eaten in the big dining hall at two different times, meaning half of the school is in there at once (around 600 people). I shadowed my buddy Caren, a Junior, and attended algebra 2, band, and sketch book. Their school day consists of 5 subjects of their choice, which they however have to visit day for day for an entire trimester. This results in many students being bored, which is very noticeable in their behavior. Respect towards the teachers is barely shown due to the relationship between them being much more casual to what we are used to. Without asking, they can just get up and go to the restroom, using a bathroom pass, which is almost never available. Headphones and food are also often seen in class. After the 5 periods extracurricular takes place, which consists of mostly sports.

Once school was done, I was taken by Max’s host mom to watch her son’s wrestling match an hour drive’s North. It was his school competing against 2 other schools. School rivalry is a big thing and the audience watching got into it very fast with our throats being soar after yelling various names over the course of an hour. Most of us have to go to clubs to practice our desired sport, whilst here most hobbies take place at school.

After once again having had several high calorie meals and a long day we were very tired. To end up the day Martin came over to our house at which Victor, Josef and I were staying, to enjoy a nice dinner and a trip to the hot tub, however leaving quite early, 10, to prepare for the next morning.

Sunday

by Nadja Klebelsberg

On sunday, Julia, Eliane, Clarissa, my host sister Olivia and her friend, Camille, went to a second-hand store in Jackson. Because Camille is a very talented photographer, she took many awesome pictures of us. Due to the fact that we have hardly any second-hand shops in Innsbruck and near it, just looking at the stuff they sold was pretty interesting as well.
Next, we went to an American coffee shop called Biggby. Although we all got a small hot chocolate, we were unable to drink all of it because it was still huge. It was way sweeter than Austrian hot chocolate as well, so we did not really enjoy it.

After that, we went to Target where we met up with Rebecca as well. They had literally everything! Groceries, electronics, clothing,… There was nothing you were unable to get there.

After we walked around at target for some time and managed to buy some things we forgot to bring from home, we went to the movie theater Jackson 10. Since she had already seen Captain Marvel the day before, Clarissa had to leave our group at this point, but Pia and Amelia came with us instead of her.

The American movie theater was surprisingly different from an Austrian one! Not only did you have to choose your seats on your own without deciding where to sit right when you buy your ticket which made it hard for such a large group to sit next to each other, the amounts of popcorn people were getting were overwhelming. Rebecca and I shared a mini-sized bag of popcorn which probably would be considered an extra large one in Austria. It was hard to eat all of it!

The only bad moment of the day was when we left the movie theater, I realized that I lost my cell phone. I was shocked to death considering it was the only way for me to contact my family. Gladly, we were able to find it after some time.

When we got home, Olivia and I watched Mamma Mia. Therefore, we went to sleep quite late, but it was totally worth it!

Saturday

by Rebecca Weinberger

Dear Diary,

today was a very exciting day for me-My first “real” day in America. I got up at approximately 9, to drive with my host parents (John and Jill) and my host siblings( Maya-10; Lily-13; and Andrew-14) to the birthday party of Lily, her aunt Molly and her little cousin Poppy. It was fun, I met lots of their relatives and played different games with my host siblings and their cousins. One was called spoons- We were seven players and six spoons were lying on the table in front of us, we each got four cards and then had to draw various cards from the pack of cards till we got 4 times the same number-> then we could pick a spoon. But as soon as one person picks the spoon, everybody else also has to pick a spoon, and the person who doesn’t get to pick one is out. I learned that the family of my host father owns a constructing business and we drove by a house which his brother is just building. It was really impressive.

On our way back to Jackson we drove by the WMU (Western Michigan University), the university where my host mum went to. It was really huge-almost like a little town. She told us this very weird story of a guy who she wasn’t really into but had a big crush on her and threatened to kill himself if she didn’t went out with him-it was really strange. We got back to Jackson at around 7. Because we had a really huge lunch my host mum just made us a little snack which we ate while we watched TV. After a quick shower I went to bed and managed to fall asleep almost immediately.