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Friendships Built Through AFS Continue



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Friendships Built Through AFS Continue

By Eliza Hallabeck

American Field Services (AFS) student Arnold Geng from Hannover, Germany, was only a student at Newtown High School for one year, but before the 2008-2009 school year was over he knew nearly every student in the school, according to his friends Nate Crevier and Dan Greenwood.

Arnold was one of the commencement speakers for the 2009 graduation ceremony, despite being a grade younger than the students graduating that June. He was a member of the NHS swim team, and participated in other events at the school throughout the 2008-2009 school year. During his stay in Newtown, Arnold lived with Nate’s family, and the two boys quickly formed a brotherly bond.

When Nate and Dan started sharing the news with friends that the two 2010 NHS graduates would be traveling abroad on June 30 to visit Arnold, more high school friends than could make the trip wanted to go along.

“It seemed like the whole high school wanted to go,” said Nate.

Dan, son of Cathy and Ray Greenwood, visited Arnold from June 30 until July 7, and Nate stayed from June 30 until July 15, when he traveled back to the United States with his mother and father, Nancy and Philip Crevier.

Ms Crevier said the AFS program aims to create ambassadors out of young people and, “in this situation it really did work that way, because Arnold really did see a slice of America and Nate was able to see a slice of German life.”

Ms Crevier explained this week that visiting Arnold’s family was like an exchange family program.

“I think it is unusual for AFS families to actually connect again,” said Ms Crevier. “I think a lot of people talk about wanting to connect again, but it doesn’t always happen.”

During their stay in Germany, Nate and Dan said they met Arnold’s friends, and Arnold acted as translator.

“We went to an amusement park, we just walked around Hannover a lot, we went to Berlin for the [Argentina] soccer game,” said Dan.

“They won that day,” Nate finished for Dan. “Everyone just went crazy afterwards.”

Seeing the response to the soccer game was unlike anything Nate or Dan had seen in the United States, they told The Bee last week. For Nate and Dan, the trip to Berlin to see the soccer game was a big highlight of their stay in Germany, apart from seeing Arnold again.

Arnold lives with his parents, and has an older brother who lives in an apartment in Hannover near the family. Nate said visiting Arnold’s home was interesting for him, especially seeing how the family lives in an apartment.

“It was a different lifestyle than our house,” he said. “It’s in the city too, so you can walk everywhere or take the train. When he was in Newtown, we had to drive everywhere.”

Dan said except for when the friends ventured on the Autobahn, a German highway with an advisory speed of 80 miles per hour and no speed limit, no cars were used for transportation during their visit.

Dan met Arnold at the start of the 2008-2009 school year, and later became better friends with Arnold through Nate.

“Me and one of my other friends were walking through the guidance room, and we were the first ones to show him around the school on his first day,” said Dan. “And I found out a few days later that he was living with Nate.”

Nate and Dan have been friends since meeting in their freshman year at NHS. For Dan, Arnold’s “goofy” personality helped form a quick bond between the two high schoolers.

“He’s just really fun to be around,” said Dan.

Arriving in Germany, Nate said he and Arnold picked up right where they left off when Arnold returned home last year.

“It was like he never left, almost,” said Nate, adding, “but when he did leave it was really sad. It was really quiet at home. I missed him a lot.”

Meeting Arnold’s family was fun for Nate, who said Arnold’s parents were nice. Dan added that interaction was hindered due to Arnold’s parents not speaking English, but Arnold acted as interpreter during their time in Germany.

The only daily ritual Dan, Nate, and Arnold fell into during their stay was watching an episode of Family Guy together before falling asleep at night. Before Dan and Nate left, Arnold gave them prepared gift bags, which included a lanyard and a Germany hat, according to Dan.

For Dan coming home was not fun.

“It was a lot different there than it is over here,” said Dan.

For Nate it was tough to adjust back to New England time, and entering his Newtown home again without Arnold there was difficult.

“It’s just weird not having your brother around,” said Nate. 

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