Jeremy Neal
2011-12 Outbound to Germany

Hometown: South Miami, Florida
School: New World School of the Arts
Sponsor: South Miami Rotary Club, District 6990, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Aalen-Heidenheim, District 1830, Germany

Jeremy's Bio

Gutentag!

My name is Jeremy Neal, I am 17 years old and am currently a senior at New World School of the Arts High School in downtown Miami, Florida. I have been studying percussion there for the past 3 years and have acquired an immense amount of knowledge through both my school and my friends. I love to skateboard, listen to dubstep, and throw myself into the unknown. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit far off lands and experience all there possibly is in order to connect with everything this Earth has to offer. Now I wait with mounting anticipation for one of the most important years of my life: the chance to live abroad in Germany for ONE WHOLE YEAR!!!! Just going around my house poking around in my German-English dictionary has filled me with both anxiety AND ecstatic joy! My goal is to learn an entire page of German each day up until my actual departure.

I must say that for a while the application process for Rotary wasn't easy. However, after completing my application, making it through my interview alive, and talking in front of my entire sponsor club I’ve realized that it was 100% worth it! I feel as if the Rotary Youth Exchange has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Therefore, I would like to thank the Rotary Club a thousand times over for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime.

I can feel myself turning a new page in my life as I prepare for an unknown culture vastly different from anything I could possibly imagine. I will be terrified, overjoyed, lonely, and isolated for who knows how long. What I do know, though, is that with every step I take in a new direction I accept into my life confidence, security, and an appreciation for all that is different.

Jeremy's Journals

First Impressions

Ok so today is October 22, 2011 and I have officially been in Germany for about 6 weeks now. When I found out I was going to Germany I thought I would have a pretty good idea about how life would pan out in my first couple months. As it turns out I was actually right in some of my assumptions but in the area’s I hadn’t anticipated, boy oh boy was I WRONG! Of course at first “it was all a dream come true”, “an absolute vacation”, and “the most amazing experience I was to ever have” (yea I might be poking a little fun at what I’ve seen in the other journals). But I WAS having a blast! I was going out to play “Fussball” with all my host brother’s friends around the neighborhood every day, which consisted of about 5-6 guys and two girls. There were still two weeks of summer left before school started and it was even hot back then (not like it is now, haha… ha… rofl…… lol…… It’s cold!). We went to the outside pool and laid out in the sun playing more and more fussball (soccer, I just can’t seem to get enough of it). But as the weeks slowly rolled by I realized I was starting to catch sight of a problem that was only going to get bigger and more depressing the longer I tried to ignore it, “the language”!!

School

Sure the first day of school was amazing! With every single girl turning her head to get a good look at “the new kid” who apparently for some reason looks like Edward Cullen (I swear I’m not kidding, I have been addressed as Edward Cullen and asked for my autograph at school. All the guys were even encouraging me to do it) but I decided I was a bit too modest and politely refused they’re advances. How could I not enjoy myself though? I was basking in all the attention being directed at me and it was quite enjoyable, like soaking up the warm rays of the sun. But of course, most unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I became less and less interesting once my fellow classmates realized they couldn’t easily carry out a conversation with me in GERMAN. So I decided to grab hold of my resolve and plunge into the extremely delicate, confusing, and complicated language of Deutsch, and thus far I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well. After only 6 weeks I feel very confident in my ability to carry out a basic conversation in German with any German individual, provided that individual speaks slowly and coherently in order for me to understand. The experience I must say has been thoroughly enlightening.

Mental Picture

In order to put it in perspective imagine you were a monkey and wanted to go live for a year with a family of Gorilla’s (of course they’re friendly Gorilla’s that are loving and supportive ). At first it’s all fun and exciting but every now and then you get the idea that those Gorilla’s are saying bad thing’s behind your back and after a while your little monkey self wants to understand what’s really going on. So he works his butt off speaking to those Gorillas’ all day every day until a steady bond of love, trust, and respect is established. Yea that’s pretty much my first 6 weeks in a nutshell, haha.

Recap

As of today I have gone to Nuremburg to witness the Red Bull BMX World Championship, Ridden a train through the beautiful countryside to the phenomenal city of Stuttgart, visited a famous torture museum in Ansbach, and sailed the Croatian coast for 8 days in a southern tour of its beautiful Islands. I have grasped a basic understanding of German with absolutely no prior knowledge of the language other than 3-4 two hour crash courses with a neighborhood friend (Ken if you’re reading this you’re the best), and am now within a month of fluency. I can already see how this year is going to change me, how it’s going to help me establish and independence and sense of efficiency far beyond my average years. This program is above all other things………. Selfless. Thanks to all. I bid you a de.

January 24, 2012

Ok so today is January 24th and I have been in Germany for almost 6 months now. Half the exchange is over (the HARD half) and I'm pretty much just settling in for the ride right now. People were absolutely right when they said this was going to be a roller coaster. The first 6 months were absolutely, without a doubt, me riding up and up, the pressure building and building before finally releasing into the downward plunge, an easy ride back to home base. So naturally right now in Heidenheim everythings been great. I mean of course I miss my family and everything but my host family at the moment is a dream come true and I get to stay with them till around the middle of April.

School's mostly boring at the moment because I have to sit through a ton of classes without really understanding them. I've been through my share of tough times over here as well. When I was prepared for this exchange I had no idea what I was walking into. I mean sure a lot of the time I was having a blast, but for a period of about 2 months I was battling with a host family and dealing with minor depression in the midst of my every day of life. One major factor I had no idea was going to have such a huge affect on me was the absence of the sun. At first I thought it was nothing and that I could deal with it, but after about a month of weather that was mostly cloudy, cold, and rainy I started to get real with how I really felt. People who are in a constant state of sunshine (aka people who live in Miami) can be subject to depression from lack of sunlight. Its a real thing, and I learned it first hand. But after a while I found outlets for myself to start putting all my energy, and in a sense retreat inward for a while.

I read a lot and just kept trying to make more and more friends, integrating myself more deeply into the social network of my small town. No small easy task, and the key..... learning German. It took me a while but I just kept at it until I actually started getting feedback from my friends and teachers. That I was getting a lot better and that my German was quite good for only beginning to learn and speak it since September. On a more somber note, however, there's always gonna be some problems that stay consistent throughout an exchange, regardless of all the good things going on. In that regard let me just say that some people lead themselves onto self destructive paths that tend to center on their respective ego's and there's nothing I can do about that. I can't change the way a person thinks... and trust me I've tried. Other than that its been absolutely beautiful outside the past week with all the snow coming down in my area. Couple that with the sun and its an absolute winter wonderland over here, which definitely comes as somewhat of a shock to someone who has practically never know snow his whole life.

So yea just to wrap things up I've been trying hard to focus on the better aspects of life right now and keeping things real with who and what I am. Being truthful with my friends and more importantly myself has been quite an inward, self-discovering journey that at first I was afraid and quite unsure of, but am now wholly committed to. I'm keeping a journal that I started around Christmas time. Its quite a testament to my life and experiences over here in Germany. I hope that someday if I happen to have a kid of my own that goes on exchange, I can pass it on to him just as my father passed his on to me. Its a powerful thing a journal. Much more powerful than I had previously thought. I hope other exchanges might consider starting one because trust me it guided me through the dark days and led me into the light of a new exchange, a new experience, a new me.