Share Your Story #4: Greg Engle

May 26, 2019

image © Wunderbar Together

In celebration of German-American friendship, we’re featuring stories from people like you!

Do you have a story to share with us about your German-American experience? Whether you are of German heritage or are someone who loves all things German, we want to hear from you! Send us a brief example of a time you enjoyed engaging with Germany in some way and we’ll publish the best contributions on our blog during the campaign!

What does “Wunderbar Together” mean to you? Stories can be anything from funny to heartwarming and highlight intercultural experiences studying, living, and working in the United States or Germany. Be creative!

Visit our homepage to submit your story!

This week’s story was written by Greg Engle about his experience on a sister-city exchange in Dortmund, Germany, and how happenstance and shared memories led to the start of a new family and an inter-generational German-American friendship.

In 1982, I was given the opportunity to spend 4 weeks in Dortmund, Germany as part of the Buffalo Dortmund Student Exchange Program. As a student of German, I was thrilled about the chance to visit the country that I had been learning about all through high school. Never traveling outside of the US before (except for Canada), the excitement was overwhelming!

I wrote to my host family on that familiar blue thin airmail paper and sent a small picture of myself as requested making my first introduction to Familie Herlinghaus. About 2 weeks later a letter arrived from my host family and by Andreas and Markus, my twin German host brothers. The arrival in Dortmund was exciting as all the students from Western New York (25 students) were greeted at the bus station by all the host families for our 4 week German language and culture program. This was the first time that my host family had ever hosted a student before and they made me feel just like part of the family.

Mr. & Mrs. Herlinghaus were very gracious to me showing me all that they could outside of the program including a trip to Neuschwanstein and weekend getaways to the family summer home on the coast of the Netherlands. After returning for my final year of high school, the family invited me back the next summer to live with them and work in the company that they owned. It was a gracious offer that I took them up on for the next 2 years.

Jump forward 36 years later, and I’m currently the President of the Buffalo Dortmund Sister City Committee. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary of the partnership and the student exchange program this past April when a delegation from Dortmund came to Buffalo led by Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Dortmund Ullrich Sierau. This coming May 2019, I will be part of the WNY delegation to Dortmund celebrating the partnership and the first official visit to Dortmund. My connection to Dortmund has always been strong and its had some interesting twists and turns over the years.

On a blind date back in 1993, I learned during dinner together that my date was also part of the same student exchange program a year earlier than me. That blind date eventually turned into us getting married the next year and 2019 we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary! My wife Lynn is the current Program Director of the Buffalo Dortmund Student Exchange Program and she teaches German at two local colleges in Buffalo, NY. Our family ties are still strong with the Herlinghaus Family and all of our 4 daughters have spent time with my host family during trips to Germany. The girls always come away feeling the same connection that I did when I first lived with them.

Without programs like the Buffalo Dortmund Student Exchange Program, I feel our world would be a different place. When students are part of an international program promoting global engagement, they get a genuine sense of what other people the same age are going through in different countries than just what they hear and see on the news. Nothing compares to a true home-stay program where students are living directly with families no matter if its two week or 4 months.

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