From Stubbendorf to South Huntington

Left to right: Walt Whitman’s Boys Swimming Coach Michael DePaula, Max Beitel, and Walt Whitman Principal Kathie Acker.
Left to right: Walt Whitman’s Boys Swimming Coach Michael DePaula, Max Beitel, and Walt Whitman Principal Kathie Acker.

High school sports on Long Island have become so competitive, and talented athletes are so numerous, that receiving one’s varsity letter may seem like no big deal to many. But to Max Beitel, a young exchange student who hails from a small village of 500 in Stubbendorf, Germany, it’s a great honor. 

“Max came to this country not knowing much about the way of life here in America, and he’s embraced it wholeheartedly,” said Walt Whitman’s boys swimming coach Michael DePaula. “He’s fit in well with his classmates and met many new friends as he competes on the swim circuit for Suffolk County’s high school athletes. He’s extremely well liked where ever he goes.” Max competes in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle.

The small village of Stubbendorf, in the northeast part of Germany, is a good hour’s ride to Hamburg, the largest city in the area. “The music, the kids, the food, all have many similarities,” said Max. “Probably one of the main differences between high school here versus Germany is that here you move from classroom to classroom and in Germany you stay in the same room with the same students for all of your subjects,” said Max. “I have been swimming for several years, but it’s not a competitive sport in the German high schools,” said Max. “I also play tennis, and I would like to continue to play tennis here in America. I look forward to playing on the Whitman boys team this spring.”

Max first learned about the Whitman exchange program when he attended an informational seminar in Germany and heard firsthand from fellow students who had just returned about their experiences. He immediately knew that it was an experience he wanted to have. Max says that from his very first day, his experience at Whitman has been positive. “Everyone here, the teachers and students, welcomed me and were so helpful in letting me know how things are done,” said Max, who was shown around and introduced to many new friends.

Max misses his family and his girlfriend, but the warm welcome extended to him by the Whitman community has eased his homesickness. Max wants everyone to know how grateful he is for their warmth and generosity and for how they have extended themselves to make him feel like part of the Whitman family.