PEORIA — German citizen Lukas Schenk was starting his first day at City Hall when he stumbled into a problem — he didn’t know how to work the shower.
“I arrived Sunday evening and had to work Monday morning,” Schenk said. “I wanted to take a shower but I couldn’t get the shower to work because the shower works differently in Europe. I was just standing there for awhile going ‘Okay, you can do this’.”
That was four years ago when Schenk interned in Peoria from his hometown Friedrichshafen. Now he's back as a chaperone for the Friends of Friedrichshafen Youth Exchange.
The 26-year-old is staying with American Tim Roberts, a first-year chaperone who has been involved in the past with hosting visitors.
This year, the youth exchange is hosting 12 youths from Germany for three weeks ending on August 15.
“It is fun to see our German students experience American life,” Roberts said.
Roberts says that the reason he first signed his family up years ago was to “expand their horizons.''
Allie Dunn, 17-year-old, heard about the youth exchange from Roberts' daughter.
“If I am being honest at first I was like ‘Oh, I get to go to Germany...heck, yeah!’, but then I started to text Sinah and thought she was really cool,” Dunn said.
That's Sinah Ihsen, a 17-year-old from Friedrichshafen who is staying with Dunn during the exchange.
“I think it is the most awesome thing ever,” Ihsen said. “So I just joined.”
Ihsen is wanting to improve her English skills and experience America for the first time.
“I just didn’t make friends,” Ihsen said. “I made a whole family and I am pretty happy about it.”
Ihsen is amazed by the tall skyscrapers in Chicago and how stretched the city of Peoria is. In Friedrichschafen everything is close enough to travel by bicycle or public transit according to Ihsen.
Dunn will be making the journey over to Friedrichschafen next year, but it won’t be her first time.
“I actually went to Germany last summer with my family since my aunt used to host German exchange students,” Dunn said. “I just love everything over there. Everyone is so nice and your [facing Ihsen] food is so much better. This is going to sound weird but I like how the buildings look and everything over there.”
Schenk is currently on his third trip to America after chaperoning once before.
“Being the chaperone for the youth exchange I really enjoy that I can show all of these guys, most of them they are in the U.S. for the first time, America,” Schenk said. “I want to help give them the same experience I received four years ago. It is always great to see and feel all of the thankfulness all around.”
The youth exchange group spent their Tuesday morning helping at Sophia’s Kitchen, washing tables and interacting with visitors there.
“It is great to have extra help, extra hands,” said the soup kitchen's director, Claire Crone. “We are feeding about 500 people a day.”