Circus Juventas, a youth circus group in St. Paul, is hosting students from Germany this month.
About 10 German students — from the school CircArtive in Gschwend, Germany — are staying in Minnesota for two weeks and living with host families. Circus Juventas has staff from around the world, but this is the first time it has participated in an exchange program like this.
Circus Juventas is the largest youth circus school in North America, and it has been teaching students for 25 years. The school hopes to create a more extensive exchange program in the future and expand its global reach, said Betty Butler, artistic director and co-founder of Circus Juventas.
“Exchange programs with circuses is a great idea. … It’s not something that’s easily facilitated, but definitely worth exploring,” she said.
Members of CircArtive said Circus Juventas has many more students and circus equipment than they do in Germany, and they have enjoyed learning from the American students.
“I think it’s just great to share our passion of circus and to make friends because we have the same medium and they are very open, very welcoming,” said Johannes Mach, a 20-year-old German student.
For some of the students, this was their first visit to the U.S.
“I would like to come back. You can do so many more things than we can do [in Germany],” said Hanna Kleemayer, a 15-year-old German student.
Sven Alb, founder of CircArtive, said he would like to have a longer exchange program with Circus Juventas one day.
“We hope that we can find a way for a long-term partnership. I think Circus Juventas can be really proud about their work. There are a lot of youth circuses all over, but this is really special,” Alb said.
The German students said they have also enjoyed spending time in Minnesota and participating in typical American activities such as bowling, roller skating and visiting the Mall of America. They’ve also been braving the cold winter.
“We have snow in Germany now, but it’s colder here than in Germany. But we kind of expected that,” Mach said.
Circus Juventas students said they’ve liked working with the Germans and making international friendships.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Sam Kellar-Long, a 16-year-old student at Circus Juventas. “It’s really interesting to see the different tricks that they do, because we’re all pretty good at circus but some of the things they do, we wouldn’t have even thought of here. It’s just been a fun exchange of ideas. … It’s going to be sad to see them go.”
Katrina Pross (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.