September 11, 2013
August 3rd 2013, I stepped on the plain opened minded and ready as I can be; saying goodbye to my old life for a year and opening up a new chapter of my life.
I had been waiting for this moment for over a year and it had finally became a reality .The excitement had been building up after a long trip on the plane, as I greeted my Host Family (my father, and two sisters; my host mother arrived later that night) that held up a sign that said,” Herzlich willkommen Kristina” (worm welcome Kristina). My Journey had begun. Within the first few days I had started to feel like part of the family. The first week they taught me their way of life for example; their different eating styles, the different rules and daily life. To start learning the language they had labeled everything in German. Every day I was learning something. It is a new experience having siblings, being in a different country, and learning a different language.
Within the first week of being here I had started school; not knowing what I was in for. In class I had to spend my time studying, as I could not understand any of my lessons except English, Spanish, and sports. For the first week a friend of my host sister whom was going to school with me showed me around and helped with my classes. One of my host sisters whom were 16 was not going to school because in a few weeks she would be leaving for her exchange to Argentina; therefore she could not show me around the school. Entering a new country and a new school I felt like a toddler discovering the world; as I learned how different the schools can actually be. Most of the students traveled to school with bike or a public bus, school dress code did not matter, during the brakes there were 10 and 11 year old playing in the court yard, and classes schedules changed every day of the week. If the teachers do not show up to class in the high level grades like 11th and 12th the students do not either. Also another thing my school Gymnasium Carolinum is over 1,200 years old being one the oldest schools in Germany pretty cool. You would never see that in the United States.
Ich bin heir ziet funf wolchen (I have been here now for 5 weeks), as it is hard to believe. What I have learned and done in 5 weeks it is hard to be summarized. I have made new friends, met the family, went to my first fussball game, met the exchange students form my district, discover the city, tried new foods, started school, celebrated my 18th birthday here, met one of my host sisters and watched her leave for her exchange, and have tried to adapt to a new way of living. It is starting to feel like home and I know it is going to be hard for me to go back home when the time comes, but for now I will make the best out of, as I still have a long Journey ahead.
Within the last 5 months some of my hardest challenges I have come a crossed is the language, and becoming more independent. Although, many people speak English in Germany I met some people that new no English. My German is finally coming along as I can start to understand more and more German every day when people speak slowly. I try to speak it although; I can understand more than I can speak. The lessons in classes are still very hard and next week I start my beginners German course .Even though German is hard it only takes hard work to learn the language. Also another thing that I faced was learning to expand my independence; as I have learned to find my way around the city, meeting new people. And taking the initiative to do new things for example sports.
Every day I am learning something new. This is truly a life change experience as I feel this is my second home. Thank you Rotary and parents for giving me this opportunity.
October 4, 2013
It's hard to believe that it has already October and two months have gone by.My German is finally starting to improve, where I am able to form basic sentences,I am making many new friends, traveling a lot , and experiencing life as a teenager in Europe. One of the biggest questions I get asked is " aren't you homesick?" well, I have only been homesick once since I have been here, but no I am not homesick; I am use to being away from home. Don't get me wrong I miss my family and friends very much but here I get the chance to discover the world, grow, and learn , and see things that I would never see back at home.
When life gives you lemons I say make lemonade. The reason I say that is that is because just a few days ago on our 3 and half week vacation, I got the chance to spend almost a week in Italy with my school and It was an experience of a life time.Not only that but I had the opportunity to really get to know my classmate and make new friends. I kinda wished we stayed longer though. The whole school drove by bus for one day and we stayed in a camp ground in Rome in mobile homes. We got to go visit many church's including the Popes church,St. Peter's Basilica, we got to go to Pompeii where there was a volcano that erupted almost 3000 years ago, not only that we got to see the current Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio give a speech in front of everyone. Nothing beats the experience of actually being there in person. In the End I even enjoyed the bus ride as we passed many mountains and extravagant sights to see. My Journey has only Just begone as tomorrow I leave for my trip around Germany with the other Rotary youth Exchange students and will have more to tell when I get back. :)
October 16, 2013
I just came back from my 6-day Deutsch trip on October 11th with the other exchange students from Rotary. We went to Erfurt for over a day. We got to visit the border that used to be there between the East and the West that many people tried to cross. It is amazing how many people risked their lives trying to get from the East to the West and what they did. The thought that it was less than 25 years ago is hard to believe. Now the life between both sides seems so normal. Also we visited the City of Erfurt, which was pretty old and picturesque, and there were many interesting sights to see. Then, by the third day, we headed off to Berlin, where we went to both sides--East and West--of Berlin. We visited the Wall that used to be there. We went past the building where the burning of the books took place in 1933 and pasted many famous churches and buildings. For example, the German Government building in Berlin called the Reichstag Building, where Angela Merkel (chancellor of Germany), works; and we went into the Building and were taken on a tour, and even got to go on top of it a few days later. Also, on one of the days, we got to visit all of the Castles of Frederick the Great, which was almost 300 years old. We spent three days in Berlin. Then on our last day, on the way back home we went to Wolfsburg, where the famous cars were built. We got a tour and got to see many spectacular cars. I enjoyed the Germany trip, as I saw many places and things I had never seen before, and had the chance to get to know the other foreign exchange students. Also the bus drive was not too long. When I finally got back in Oldenburg, an hour away from Osnabrück, my second host family picked me up. I spent a day with them because my first host family was still on their trip. In my second host family, I will have three brothers, and they greeted me with a warm welcome. I will be moving in with them in January and I am very grateful to be blessed with loving host families. The next day they left for a family trip, so I spent the day with a family friend, which was nice. On Saturday night, my host family got back home where we shared pictures and all that I did and they did. Now I have a little less than a week left of vacation until school starts again. Our next vacation is in December.
December 5, 2013
As I walk outside in early in the morning there lays ice on the seat of my bike and smoke comes out of my mouth. The leaves are no longer on the trees, which means winter is right around the corner. I am used to the warm air and the lack of seasons. I say to myself, “I hope it snows for Christmas”, because coming from Florida I have never had a white Christmas. The Christmas market is located right next to my school that will take place from now to Christmas. Many of the decorations depict many of the stereotypical decorations (use another word), like the gingerbread houses in Germany, but still many things customs and/or traditions are very different. My host family and I have already started to put up decorations in November and we are planning on going skiing for the New Year. December is going to be a busy month between Christmas parties, my German test, the Rotary sleep-over, and the Holidays.
It is hard to believe it has been four months since I arrived here. My journey is more than 1/3 of the way over. I am finally starting to be able to make some conversations in German, but of course I don't understand everything or 70 percent in school. Sometimes I try to keep up with my other subjects; as sometimes I will try the math, but other times I just sit back and listen, but don't understand. Like I had mentioned I can participate in sports and Spanish. I don't want to lose what I have learned in school the last few years.
For a week or two there will be exchange students going from France with the school and One of the teachers in the school has organized it so we( the 3 long term exchange student at my school and I) can participate in the program with them. We will be able to go on class trips with them during the school day; for example go ice skating and the zoo and more.Also a group of exchange student from England will be coming for two weeks also and we will be able participate with them, which is cool.
After school I do sports, go out with the exchange students, hang out with my friends from school, spend time with my family, and travel. About three weeks ago we spent the weekend with some of the other exchange students in Amsterdam, and we got to see the hiding place of Anne Frank and learned a little bit about the culture, which was interesting and very cool. For being so close to Germany, the Netherlands can be very different surprisingly: for example: the landscape, and the rules .
As you might be thinking, do I get homesick sometimes? The answer is yes. To deal with our (the exchange students from America) homesickness during Thanksgiving, all of the Americans in my district decided to get together and celebrate Thanksgiving that following Sunday at one’s house, which was a great bonding moment. To be honest with you, it has been a great challenge for me at times, being away from home for this long, as I have stepped out of my comfort zone and have done things that I was not familiar with; as these are my first Holidays away from home. But, I am not always homesick -- only sometimes. I am very grateful for this experience and this opportunity. It has given me time to relax, to see the world from a different perspective and to interact with many different people.
December 17, 2017
It is hard to believe it is January, 2014. It has been a year since the first Rotary exchange orientation in Florida and now my time in Germany is halfway over. In two weeks, I will be changing families and I look forward to the change.Don't get me wrong I love my host family now and I am grateful for everything, but change is good right.
I spent Christmas with my host family in Osnabrück at my host Grandparents’ house. It was pretty small, but relaxing; and I received many gifts, for which I am grateful.
Shortly After Christmas, we packed our stuff and on the 27th (which is my host mother’s birthday), we headed to Austria, where we would be staying until January 3rd. It was 10 hours in the car until we reached our destination. When we got there, it was an amazing sight to see.
It was so beautiful in the mountains. The snow covered the trees and the bare branches were white and sparkled like you would see on a post card.
We stayed in a place called Krimml on a mountain about 6,000 ft high or more. There was high and low Krimml. I stayed in high Krimml with my host sister, my host Aunt, Uncle, and their children. My host parents stayed in a small place in low Krimml not far from my host Grandparent[s?].
The first day after we arrived it was too late to do very much, so we unpacked and the next day (Saturday), we got our supplies and started skiing.
It was not as cold as I thought it would be, although the first day was the warmest, around 3C(36F or so) a little too warm for snow, but there it was. After that it got colder and colder. The coldest day was -20C(4F) , but on average it ranged between -7C and 0 degrees, which is somewhere between 20F and 32F. With the right type of clothes I stayed warm, sometimes very warm. On Saturday (the day after we arrived), the whole day there was no ski school, so my host parents decided to get me started because they have been snow skiing almost their whole life . They started out with the basics, of course, and they even explained it in English so I would understand all of it. By the end of the day, I was able to go on one of the small lifts.
Sunday was the first day of my Ski course. I started out with the basics again as it was a beginner’s course. The course was taught in German because most everyone was a native German speaker. I got to meet many new and interesting people in the class including: a girl that was born in the USA and lives close to Osnabrück in Germany, and another girl from Canada that is also with the Rotary in Germany not far from me. The first day I understood most of it; as for the rest of the week if I had any questions he (the instructor?) could explain it in English, but most of the time it was not needed. From Monday to Tuesday, I got better everyday and learned new techniques. Tuesday was the last day of the year and New Year’s night is called "Heiligernacht" in German. Although I was enjoying the year and having a great time on New Year’s night, I got homesick as it was my first time being away from home on the holidays for me. On Heiligernacht nigh t, the whole family (grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins, host parents and I) went out to a restraint (restaurant?) and stayed there until midnight, and ate the whole night. At 10 p.m., before the New Year, we followed and old Austrian tradition. The tradition is to walk a trail in snow with torches to a small church as a way of looking back on the year. When we came back to the restaurant, after the walk we watched fireworks for the New Year. By the time we got back to the house, I was exhausted-- it was almost 2 a.m. The next day we had no Ski course, so my highlight of the day was hanging out (having dinner and dancing) with my friend Meyler and her family, that I had met at the ski course, whose company (or: and that) helped with my New Year’s homesickness. Thursday and Friday my ski course (class?) and I went up on the higher lift with the more extreme slopes, but after 3 or 4 days we were ready for it. The sight up that high in the mountains was so very beautiful words cannot describe it. The last day I was good enough that I asked my instructor to take a video of me. I definitely had a great time, and I will definitely stay in contact with some people. The worst part of the last day was saying goodbye. Friday night we had everything packed in the car and Saturday morning we were on the road again. Unlike the north part of the USA and the mountains in Austria there was no snow here in Osnabrück, Germany when we returned and there still is none. Many people here actually say it unusually warm for this time of the year at about 5 to 10C ( 39- 50F). The warm seems to follow me.
Well, anyway, school has started back and vacation is over for everyone here. All in all I had a great vacation.
I think to myself now it is a New Year and a New Beginning . It is time to make some new goals for the New Year. So Happy New Year to all my friends and family back at home!!
March 9, 2014
I am now left with a little over 100 days until I fly back to Florida. I have been living with my second host family for a little over a month. I only have one more month with them until I switch, which is hard for me because that is not long enough. Within the last month I have met new people and got involved in new activities. My host family has treated me like part of the family and has helped me with my homesickness. They are very interesting to talk to as my host father travels a lot and my host mom owns here own company and was also an exchange student for a short period of time in the USA. My host brothers are very active and are open to listen if I need someone to talk to. Sometimes my host brother Clements takes me shooting with him with his bee gun. Also my younger brother Max and I work on English together; as it helps me with my German too. In the last month I got involved in a scouting group helping out and started attending church on the weekend. The Church is like my Church at home except with different people and it is in Germany. It is a lot easier to understand then a Catholic church. The songs they play on Sunday morning are more modern some with English under titles.
About a month ago the old exchange students left that had arrived in January 2013,and this month new exchange students arrived. Just two weekends ago the district had a great big sleep over in the near from Bremen with all the New exchangies, The outbound, Inbounds, and Rebounds. There was over 200 of us I would say. It was Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. It was Just a big sleep over the whole weekend and we say one museum. There was about 10 new exchange students mainly from Australia or south America. They felt the same way we did when we first arrived and did not know vary much German. Every time the exchange students get together it is like a big reunion again. Well, anyways spring brake is almost here ( 3 weeks more) and I am looking forward to that vary much because my mom comes at the end of the month with friends of hers and mine for 10 days. We go to Paris and she spends 4 days in Germany. I know that when spring brake start things are going to fly by faster because after 2 and half weeks of spring brake I have 2 to 3 weeks till my Europe trip. Then after my Europe trip I have a month left in Germany and a few holiday brakes and I will be traveling a lot during the breaks.