My name is Joey Simpson. I’m presently a junior at Titusville High School, but am fortunate enough to be able to spend my senior year overseas as a Rotary Youth Exchange student!
I was born in Altamonte Springs, FL, and moved to Titusville, FL when I was six weeks old. I have lived here ever since. Our house is right on the Indian River, and we have a great view of launches from Kennedy Space Center. I live with my parents and my two cats, Tiger and Cocoa. I also have two older brothers who have both moved out for college already, making me a single child of sorts.
Growing up on a river sparked an interest of wildlife and nature in me at a young age. I like just about anything to do with nature now. I also like doing things related to theater. I have been involved in our local theater since elementary school, and now it seems I spend all my time there. When I’m not at school or the theater though, I’m probably hanging out at a friends playing rock band or at the beach.
I am anxiously awaiting my upcoming trip, and plan to make the best of it. I hope to learn as much as I can and make friends with everyone I meet.
October 12 Journal
So I have been in Germany for quite some time now, and I have gotten the hang of things. The longer I’m here though, the more I love it.
I’m living in a small town called Dormagen, and it’s directly in between two huge cities, Düsseldorf and Köln. This makes for amazing opportunities. In Köln, there is a huge cathedral, called the Dom. In fact, it’s so big, it took over 700 years to build! It’s the most beautiful building I have seen, the only bad part about it, is that it’s impossible to take a good picture of it, but I tried my best. Then in Düsseldorf, there are many beautiful places. On my second weekend here, my host family took me on a bike ride to Düsseldorf, and a village called Zons. Both are along the Rhine River, so we were able to just follow it. As you enter Zons, it feels like you traveled back in time a few hundred years. There are old streets and remains of old city walls. Here, I had some of my first German ice cream, which puts American ice cream to shame. After Zons, we continued on to the city of Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf is amazing! It has an awesome TV tower with a restaurant on the top that spins around, so you can view the entire city while you eat. Everywhere in Düsseldorf is beautiful too. It’s all clean and has trees all over, making it nice.
The school here is also really awesome though. I go to Norbert Gymnasium, and it’s supposedly a really good school for some reason unknown to me. The school schedule here is completely different than schools in America. I have ten classes, and everyday I have different ones than the day before. For example, on Monday I have English, Math, Spanish, and Physics. The next day I have Religion, Sports, and Biology. Then on Wednesday, I have two hours in the middle of the school day where I have absolutely nothing, and can do whatever I want! Well whatever within reason.
Aside from ordinary days, I’ve seen some pretty cool things. My host club, Dormagen Rotary Club, went to see a huge power plant that was being constructed, and invited me along with them. Here too, I had the problem of not being able to fit whole buildings into my small camera. I can’t remember exactly how many mega watts the plant produced, but it was enough to power all of NYC, so it was a lot!
Then on another weekend, my host family took me down to Karlsruhe, a city in the south of Germany. Here, they showed me the Black Forest, named so because all the trees are so close together it’s black. It was beautiful, and there were many mountains, which for me, coming from Florida, was fascinating. They also took me to see a castle in Karlsruhe! It wasn’t at all like I was expecting, it was a lot more modern style rather than the ones in Monty Python.
Well this doesn’t even begin to cover what all I’ve been up, but it’ll have to do. Already, I’m adjusted to life here in Germany and have some great friends. I now understand why other outbounds have said they can’t thank Rotary enough.
November 16 Journal
I am now entering my fourth month here in Germany, and I must say, the last six weeks were the most amazing by far. They started with me on a two week vacation in Turkey, and ended with me doing an internship by the local fire department.
Urlaub (Vacation): I am staying in a Bundes (State) called Nord-Rhein Westfalen. In Nord-Rhein Westfalen, all of the students have a two week break from the end of September until the beginning of October. During this time, Germany is said to be cold and rainy, in general not pretty. So my host family always goes on vacation in the South of Europe, where it’s still warm and sunny. This year, they planned for Turkey, and invited me along with them. We stayed at a resort called Magic Life Club in Antalya. The great thing about this resort, was that it was Austrian owned, so everyone there spoke German, and it was all-inclusive. With an all inclusive resort, you can always eat food and join in on sports or activities for free. So during the day, I would play volley ball with a bunch of other people, play tennis with my host brother, or just lounge on the beach. There were also sailing and wind surfing classes for free. So I had to go to Turkey to learn it, but I can now wind surf. After dinner every night, the entertainment team performed a show in a big amphitheater. They were professional level and different every night.
When Germans vacation in Turkey, they always leave extra space in their suitcases, because you can buy clothes for amazing prices there. Apparently it’s legal to make fake copies of name brand, so you can find prices in Turkey for under half of the prices here in Germany. The only problem is that you have to haggle the prices down. Fortunately for me, my host parents happened to be great at this. I only bought two t-shirts, but they were a Lacoste polo and a Ralph Lauren polo, costing only 10 Euros together. I don’t think that’s too bad. However, I have heard cases of people getting polos for only 2 Euros before.
Praktikum (Internship): For the past two weeks, everyone in my grade at school did a Praktikum, or an internship. Everyone else had planned with a teacher last year, where they would like to intern at, and the school arranged it for them. I on the other hand, learned about it two weeks before it started and had to arrange it on my own. Luckily for me, I’m with a Rotary family, and they said I could probably do my Praktikum with someone from Rotary. So after looking through the Rotary book with the names of everyone and their jobs, the choice was narrowed down to two. A man that had a travel agency, and my third host mom, who’s the fire chief in Dormagen. It turned out that the man who owned the travel agency was staying at his vacation house in Orlando, and unable to be contacted by us. My third host mom, Frau Voss, came through though.
So for the past two school weeks, I attended the main fire department in Dormagen, Germany. While there, I learned about most of the equipment used on the fire trucks and how to check to see if some equipment, such as hoses, are still functional. I even got to go to one fire. It was at a factory where they produce colors, I assume in the form of paint but I’m not too sure. Anyways, it was caused by someone mixing together two chemicals that apparently don’t respond well to each other, resulting in a chemical reaction. For insurance purposes, I had to stay by the fire truck, but it was still interesting to see how they go about putting out a fire caused by a chemical reaction. And nobody was injured by the incident.
Then to top everything off, last Tuesday was the start of Carnival in Köln! Though the real thing’s not until February, the official start was on November 11. Carnival in Köln, is a huge thing by the way. We even get six days off in February for the real thing. Anyways, what I saw was a only a glimpse to what the real thing will be, which is crazy, because I thought the first day was crazy. Everyone had strange costumes on and partying to old German music. It was fun though, and now I can’t wait for the whole picture of what Carnival is.