My plane ride to Frankfurt, Germany was very tiresome and long, but nine hours in a plane is very expected, but I was happy it was a direct flight. I didn’t sleep at all on the plane, and the guy next to me slept the whole plane ride I was envious of him. When I arrived in Frankfurt I found my luggage fairly easy all thanks to the signs with the pictures and text. My first host mom, dad and sister so my whole host family was there to meet me. It took us an hour to get back to the small village Kleinmaischeid where I’ll be staying for the first couple of months. I had a week left of summer before I started school at Martin-Butzer Gymnasium Dierdorf. I was really excited to get school started and meet my class mates.
Kleinmaischeid is a very small village, there’s not much to do. I love my room it’s on the first floor where ever one else’s is on the second floor, and the view from my window is really pretty. Well to me it is, it’s more of a view then back in Florida where you look out the window and you’re staring at the side of your neighbor’s house. I was curious to see what this village contains so I and my host dad Manuel went for a walk and he doesn’t speak English so he told me a bunch of words in German like bicycle, tree, flowers, house, woods and cemetery etc. Then on Saturday my host mom Bernhild and my host sister Antonia went shopping in Köln. It seemed that on every block there was a café. The big stores are like the malls in Florida but they have 4 to 7 levels where in Florida it’s usually 1 and if you lucky 2. I also went camping at a local park, in a tent, with my host sister and her friend, and my host mom’s whole family and close friends. It was a lot of fun; we played fußball (soccer), table tennis, badminton. Everyone was really nice to me and helped with my German a little. On the second night everyone sat in a circle and sang mostly English songs while one played the guitar, and everyone else sung, but there was some German songs sung it was really cool. We danced a little, and I learned some German folk dances.
My first hour of my first day of school was boring; because no one knows you and the other students don’t talk to you because they’re too busy catching up with their friends that they haven’t seen all summer. My first class I couldn’t understand anything my teacher was saying, but luckily I had a neighbor who would try his best to fill me in on what was going on. I was really grateful for that. The way school runs in Germany is very different from Lake Mary High. I have to take 13 classes; Math, English, Latin, German, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Physic, Music, Sports, Social Science, Religion and History. Each day you have six of these classes for 45 minutes, and between the first three classes and last three you have a 25 minute where students usually eat their lunch, but they isn’t a exact lunch hour. And depending on the class you have a 7th lesson on one day of the week for me it’s on Thursday and I have Physics, and when you have a 7th lesson your allowed an hour to go into to town to get something to eat. Another difference about school in Germany is you stay with your class all day, and the teachers usually come to you except for science classes, music, and if the teacher has classes in another room.
The weather since I been here has been very on and off. The first week in midsummer was cold. The second week the weather changed from cold to rainy to hot. Then the third week I think it rained the whole week and now this week its been hot. It sometimes feels like I'm still in Florida with all this weather change.
I can’t believe I been in Germany for almost a month, I’m absolutely loving it and can’t wait to visit more places and take lots of pictures.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I have been in Germany for officially 2 months as of September 27th. On September 18 I went to my first inbound meeting and meet most of the other inbounds. It was really nice getting to talk to other exchange students and compare our first month in Germany. Then on September 23 to the 25 I had my first Inbound Orientation in Bad Berleburg, with 47 other exchange students from Brazil, Mexico, Taiwan, and so many other places. It was so confusing when trading pins, not completely sure of whose you already have and haven’t gotten yet. This weekend we visited Bad Berleburg Castle, and for once in a tour we were allowed to take pictures. This castle was beautiful it even had the very first IKEA piece. We also got to go in this year old mine where shingles were made and where people now a day can get married and have birthday parties. I don’t know if I want to have my birthday in there regardless of how beautiful the old fashioned shingles are. All the exchange students got to wear the yellow and red construction hats; I think that was everyone’s highlight of the dark and cold cave. Then to finish off our tour in Bad Berleburg we visited a Beer Brewery to see how the best beer in the world is made (the guy said it was the best beer in the world). The whole weekend was so much fun; I can’t wait until December when we have our second Inbound Orientation. I keep working really hard on my German, my German has gotten better I can understand a lot more then I could a month ago, but my problem is finding the words to answer, without saying ‘ja’, ‘nein’, ‘Ich weiß nicht’, or ‘bitte?’.
Two weeks ago I changed families and now I live in Puderbach, with my host mother Inge, my host brother Nico, the dog Luke, and my host dad Stefan who works in Milan Italy on the weeks and is home on the weekends.
The questions I get asked a lot are;
• Why did you pick Germany?
• How do you like Germany
• How’s Germany treating you?
• What’s better United States or Germany?
• And in Latin class, Can you explain what this word means?
• Or my favorite question, Can you help me with my English Homework?
Last week I took a class test in Math and I didn’t understand anything on the test. It’s really hard to learn math when you barely know the language and you have no book where you can look back and read the text. And when someone works a problem out on the board I try to follow along with what they are writing, but then its gets annoying when I think I understand one way of solving the problem then another similar problem comes along and the solution for it is different. I also wrote a class text in English and it was good feeling to take a test and be able to at least write answers down, but then I found out that I won’t get marks for any English assignments I do.
How are you going to know what a dream is...if you've never completed one.
How are you going to know what an adventure is...if you never undertook one.
How are you going to know what anguish is...if you never told your family and friends "see you soon" with your eyes full of tears.
How are you going to know what desperation is...if you never arrived in a place, alone, without understanding anything the others were saying
How are you going to know what it means to miss someone...if you've never been away from home
How are you going to know what diversity is...if you've never shared under the same roof with people from all over the world
How are you going to know what tolerance is...if you've never had to get used to something different, even if you don't like it.
How are you going to know what independence is...if you've never had to make decisions for yourself.
How are you going to know what it means to grow...if you never quit being a child to start in a new direction.
How are you going to know what disability is...if you've never had to urge to hug someone, but the computer screen got in your way
How are you going to know what distance is...if you've never looked at a map and said "Wow, I'm far"
How are you going to know what a language is...if you've never had to learn one to make friends
How are you going to know what patriotism is...if you've never shouted "I love my country" holding a flag in the hand.
How are you going to know what a party is...if you've never traveled hours to go to one
How are you going to know what true reality is...if you've never had the opportunity to see many different ones so you can create your own.
How are you going to know what an opportunity is...if you've never taken advantage of one
How are you going to know what pride is...if you never felt it for yourself when you realize what you've accomplished.
How are you going to know what it means to seize the moment...if you've never seen how time passed through your hands with great strides
How are you going to know what a friend is...if the circumstances never taught you which ones are real
How are you going to know what a family is...if you've never had one that supported you unconditionally
How are you going to know what your boundaries are...if you've never passed them to see what lies beyond.
How are you going to know what money is...if you never had to manage it to get along.
How are you going to know what imagination is...if you've never thought about the moment you get back home
How are you going to know what the world is...if you never were an EXCHANGE STUDENT.
October 7th 2011
I and three other exchange students enjoyed the night in Köln and going to see a Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert. This day was also my first time ever riding a train, in Florida you have no reason to take a train to the nearest big city, but Germany it commonly used for normal day transportation. Another thin I realized is that there are no exact speed limits on the high ways and also they aren’t any stop signs. I was informed that 98% of Germans drive stick shift and the other drive automatic.
I went to my first German birthday party and they are nothing like birthday parties in the US for a kid turning 16. And their Friday nights are way different from Friday nights back home. While teens on a Friday night go to the movies with friends, teens in Germany go to a kneipe and hang out until 1 or 2 in the morning. The place we went to was called Erlebniskneipe Florida and the decorations of this place was all Florida stuff like; Florida licenses plates hanging around the room, Palm trees in the middle of the room with string white lights. It’s funny knowing that 13 or 15 km away from me is a small remembrance of Florida.
My host mother took me to The Eiffel where her mother lives and it was really hard to understand the German they speak because it is old German and everything is different. I felt like I was back at day one where I understood nothing but hallo, my name is.., how are you?, the simple basics again. Starting on Monday I will be joining the 5th class at my school to learn German, because in Germany during the 5th class is where the German kids start learning the grammar. I don’t know exactly if I’m going to like being in a class with a bunch of 8 to 9 year olds, but if my German approves faster and gets better then that’s all I could ask for. On Monday 24 of October my music teacher made me and the other exchange student read out a passage in the text book in Deutsch. At first it was a little embarrassing and totally surprising because the teachers never ask us to read anything out in deutsch, but it was pretty cool everyone after we were done said “oh that was really good German speaking” or “you did a really good job”. It was nice to hear my classmates complementing me on my German even though it’s not completed and still needs a lot of work.
On October 27 , this date is also my mother’s birthday which I thought was cool, it is also my third month in Germany and I can’t believe that I only been here for three months and everything has been going by way too fast.
Well okay until next time.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
So this last two months have been so crazy, first off not having Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in 16 years. I asked my host family if I could cook a turkey for them, but they don’t eat bird. I went to my third host family and they made a duck for dinner and a small dinner, it wasn’t the normal Thanksgiving I usually have, but I loved it. It was really nice and I never had duck before and it was really tasty. After dinner me and my friend Marvin built a Ginger bread house, it was so much fun. Every year my third host family has a tradition where they make Christmas cookies on the first Sunday advent before Christmas, and I was really happy that this year I got to help and be a part of their tradition. It was a very eventful Thanksgiving Dinner and night for me and I couldn’t have been happier for once that month I wasn’t sad about not having Thanksgiving with my family.
I learned a new tradition for when Christmas is almost here, it’s an Advent calendar almost but not 24 days before Christmas it’s only the 4 Sundays before Christmas, and instead of a calendar you use four Candles. You have four candles and on the first Sunday advent you only light one candle and then on the Second Advent you light the second one and the first, and so on. And on each weekend before Christmas some certain towns or Germany have a Weihnachtsmarkt, which is a Christmas Market, and what you do here is people open shops and sell things for Christmas or sometimes there are games for the little kids and you can drink a special drink “Gluhwein” that people drink during the Holidays. It’s basically just wine sometimes mixed with cut up lemons and oranges to add flavor and then it is heated over a fire or in a Crockpot. I been to so many Weihnachtsmarkt and each one was better than the last, but my favorite was Weihnachtsmarkt in Köln, because all the Christmas lights and decorations right in front of the Kölner Dom it was just breath-taking. On It snowed here in my city for the first time on a Sunday morning, but it wasn’t a lot of snow just enough so when you first walk outside everything is covered in white. It was so pretty seeing things in white. This month I went on two class trips with my class, first with my English class to see an English film in a Kino in Köln and also to the Weihnachtsmarkt and the other class trips was with my Geography class to Bonn to Ice Skate and see the historical places of Bonn.
Christmas this year was really cool and a special Christmas for me, and I finally see that it’s not just about presents but being with people who care for each other what counts. I really enjoyed the big family Christmas dinner at my host mother’s parent’s house. I miss that in the USA we don’t have that big of a family dinner. A tradition in my second family’s house for Christmas is to only put up the tree the night before December 24th. On December 24th in Germany you open presents not like in America where we open presents the morning of the 25th. Then after dinner we all went to my host brothers room and played Soccer on his Play station. This was a Christmas I will always remember.
I can’t wait to see how New Years is like in Germany and how they celebrate if it’s different from the States. For New Years I am making an early New Year’s resolution: I won’t speak English unless in English class or talking with my Family on Skype.
This is my last Rotary blog of 2011 while I’m 16 years old, next blog will be in the year 2012 and I will be 17, and I will be in my third and finally host family for this exchange year.
I just want to thank Rotary again for this wonderful opportunity of a life-time, without Rotary I wouldn’t have meet such amazing friends. Frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes Neuen Jahr! (Merry Christmas and a good New Years!)
June 10, 2012
First let me say sorry for not writing recently, but when your into that last couple months of your Exchange, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to sit down at a computer and write what your feelings and new experiences are. I don’t know where to start to tell you about my new country, friends, and family. I come to realize that words and pictures just don’t describe it as the way I am living it.
It is really hard for an American or English speaker to go to another country that doesn’t speak much English, because most people here might not know English but they always want to talk in English and improve their English. It’s sad I been in my school for over 8 months and I start talking with one of the teachers in my school at a German-American Fest and she doesn’t even know who I am?? It’s funny I been in that school for this long, and I learned my share of German and I can speak it pretty good now, but she automatically thinks that I can’t speak German, and she starts speaking to me in English in my ninth month here.. so I tell her “I can speak German and understand what you’re saying.” , but come on just because I’m from America don’t assume I’m not up to learning another language. I have heard so many stereo types about America/Americans over this one year that just make me laugh. I had someone say to me that all Americans are fat -_- Vielen Dank McDonalds. So many people this year have been really negative toward me about learning German and made it really hard to stay here and complete my exchange year, but I know better to let other people change my mind. One in particular is a teacher, someone who is suppose to encourage the students to do better and to learn more, not tell them that he/she thinks your school work and new language should be a lot better then what it is. I didn’t let what one person say affect me, it just made me work a lot harder so they can’t think that I’m just another ignorant American, and so I can show them that their first 2 months impression on me was completely wrong.
These last two months have been really hard and filled with so much emotion, I still have until July, but so many of my friends that I really got to know this year are starting to go back to their countries. It’s so sad that, this one Saturday was the last time that I will possibly see them. I start to think about how will school go for me next year? How will I be around my old friends? How can I sit in a class and after a year of not doing the assignments for actually grades, but now it really matters and I actually get the credits for the class? I still don’t know the answer to these questions. It is going to be awkward when we aren't the foreign kid anymore when we go home, nor will they care about us being exchange students. For a month they might comment on it but our awesome stories will be forgotten to them, we will fade in with the others at school. Family gatherings might bring it up or the curious teacher, but our eventful life will be forgotten, except to us. The way we live from the day we return is influenced by our host country, with our self esteem boosted, confidence amazing, humor worldly, and all barriers broken. They may not see it but we will always be exchange students, kids who actually grew up and saw the world.
My Exchange year has truly been a blessing and if I could I would in a heartbeat repeat this year in the same country with my wonderful new family and friends. While I am sad about leaving I am also really happy that I will be with my friends again, and be able to march in my school’s marching band and sitting in the stands for a football game watching our school team lose every Friday night, going to that one college I always dream of going to. It was easy for me to leave behind my old life in Florida with my friends and family, because I knew that I would come back to that known place, but now it’s so much harder for me to leave my new life, knowing that I might possibly not see any of these people again. That I won’t sit at my host family’s dinner table and share funny stories and laughs with them. I’ll even miss the way how my host brother acts like my real brother and bugs me every chance he gets. Knowing it’s the last time going to Köln on a Saturday with some of the most amazing exchange students and hanging out by the river. Time is really flying by and before I know and will be able to accept the fact I have to leave I’ll already be on that 10 hour plane ride back home.
This April I was on the most amazing two week trip with some of the most amazing people i have come to meet and know this year. It is funny an Exchange Student has seen more of their host country and other countries around it, then a native living in that country. For a seventeen year old girl in her sophomore year in ONE year has seen more of her host country then she has her home country in sixteen years. This trip took us to the famous Black Forest, to the highest mountain in Germany, the birth house of Mozart in Salzburg Austria, to the Capital of Germany, to the West Sea, to where they make the ships for Disney Cruise Line and where Titanic was built, and then right back to the small Rheinland-Pfalz.
I am really thankful to have the chance to visit another country and meet wonderful people and this life changing experience is something I will never forget. I want to thank you so much for Rotary who allowed me to go on this year. Vielen, Vielen Dank! :)
I had an amazing chance to represent my country in my city’s Deutsch-Amerikanisch Fest and got to take a picture with the Bürgermeister of Dierdorf and be in the online Newspaper. :)