BATAVIA — At 19, Guido Heuveldop came to the United States from Velbert, Germany as part of a student exchange program the Lions Club Youth Exchange program.
Guido was the first youth to visit abroad through the program. Arrangements for the trip were made through the effort of Donald Burkel, a Lions Club member who visited Europe frequently; F. Manfred Germant, a former Batavian who was a member of the Velbert-Heiligenhaus Club; and Guido’s father, Dr. Alfred Heuveldop, who was president of the German Club at the time.
Staying with the Ricci family in Stafford, Guido said America meant to him at that time an encounter with the “New World” — skyscrapers, glamour like Broadway, big cars and an easy going life.
“The reality I found in Stafford was exactly the opposite,” he said, adding the family he stayed with had six children already, and he became number seven. “Farm country, huge corn fields and living ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ ”
Yet after he left, Guido said he had really seen America in the rural towns of Stafford and Batavia, and the big cities like New York City and Los Angeles don’t represent the country at-large; it’s the country and people in between he was interested in.
Fifty years later Guido still keeps up with the people he got to know in Batavia and Stafford that summer vacation, and it would end up promoting his great interest to the American people and our society which continues to this day.
“Since then I would say I have a long-lasting relationship and friendship to the U.S.,” he said.
Every two years he visits Batavia, but due to COVID-19, he wasn’t able to visit this year.
When first visiting America, Guido said the biggest culture shock was corn on the cob because in Germany, corn was only for cows.
The biggest difference between Germany and America he had to get used to when visiting was how Americans manage their daily life — “easy going, very friendly and polite and the big shopping malls.”
That wasn’t to say there wasn’t similarities between the two countries in their family life, TV watching and young kids with their interests in music and sport activities.
When Guido initially came to America, he was at the beginning of his second year of his banking apprenticeship in Germany. He visited local banks to compare systems, organization and methods.
“It was to early for me to find out where the differences of the systems were in the everyday life. What I knew was that the U.S. banks operate by an institutional separation of commercial and investment banking functions while Germany has an universal banking system,” he said. “The number of the ATMs impressed me in the branches.”
Guido had gotten into banking initially because he said having knowledge in financial services seemed to him as an always great value for later in life. During his professional life, he said he was frequently in New York and Washington, but whenever he could make it, would visit Batavia. He worked for Deutsche Bank for 25 years where half the time he worked at the headquarters and the other half managing different branches.
It was also through working for financial sector that Guido meet his wife at Deutsche Bank in 1974.
“I told her about my experiences in Batavia and my connections to a lot of American friends and families there,” Guido said. “This led to a common trip to Batavia and Stafford later, where I could show her all the people and places I have been.”
Since then he’s had two children and two grandchildren.
Although the Lions Clubs of Velbert and Batavia paved the way to the U.S. for Guido, he joined the Rotary Club 1992 in Paderborn, East Westphalia, first. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Club Frankfurt-Friedensbrücke, where he was president last year.
For many years, Guido said he was also involved in various youth exchange activities of his Rotary Clubs, which were triggered by his Batavia experience in 1970.
“In a global world it is nearly a ‘must’ to get very early in contact with other people and countries. It helps a lot to understand them and create a common basis of trust which is of tremendous importance for a peaceful coexistence,” Guido said when asked what advice he would give to young exchange students who are nervous or unsure about visiting another country. “The learning effect and wealth of personal experience is enormous!”