Ashley Campbell


Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
School: Leon High School
Sponsor District: 6940
Sponsor Club: Tallahassee Sunrise
Host District: 1810
Host Club: Gummersbach


My Bio

Hallo! My name is Ashley Campbell and I am spending my sophomore year of high school (2016-2017) in Germany! I currently attend Leon High School where I am active in the Student Government, Key Club, Thespian Honor Society (I am competing as one of three freshmen in the district competition), and the Choral Program. I have been a Girl Scout for ten years and have recently received my Gold Award for building hammock camping facilities along the Suwanee River. I attended Trinity Catholic School for ten years where I was very active in the drama program and I was cast as Ursula, Wendy Darling, and Sour Kangaroo. I also was the founding president of the Junior chapter of the Saint Vincent DePaul Society and worked with the National Junior Honor Society. I am very excited for the year ahead as I know that I will grow in my independence, maturity, and confidence. I am grateful for my parents for allowing me to participate in this exchange and for my siblings who have been supportive throughout the process. I also want to thank Rotary International for allowing so many students to partake in this life changing experience. I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity and for all the people who surround and support me in this process. I can't wait for this year to start! Guten tag!

Journals: Ashley – Germany 2016-17

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    This is it. The last journal describing a full month of life in Germany. Not gonna lie, it’s a little weird to have to start admitting to myself that in just a few weeks I won’t be living in a tiny village near Cologne, where I can eat Schnitzelbrötchen in school with my friends, eating Müsli when I get home from a long day of hard school work, hanging out with my German friends, watching movies in German with my host family, and doing German schoolwork! If you had told me this time last year, that all of these different things would just become a part of my Alltag (daily routine), I would have told you to wake up because you were dreaming! It isn’t that I didn’t think this year was going to be as amazing as it has been, or even that I wasn’t expecting it to rock my socks off, but the fact that I decided to go into this year with absolutely no expectations, because I didn’t 100% know what I should have bee n expecting. How are you supposed to predict making friends on the first day of school when everyone told you you’d have to work for 3 months before finding anyone to even talk to? How are you supposed to expect and predict that you would find some of the most amazing host families that you could have even dreamed of, and that you could feel right at home in a place that used to be so foreign. That’s the thing though. A foreign country doesn’t have to be so foreign! It’s how we perceive the people, the land, and the culture that makes it foreign or not. Okay, enough of the sappy and nostalgic philosophy, let me tell you about the crazy cool and blur of a month that June was!

    I started the month out with a field trip to the Mathematikum! Not gonna lie, I did not have high expectations for this math museum that was a 2.5 hour bus ride, but you know what? It wasn’t half bad! Maybe it’s just the fact that my German friends can make anything better and funnier, but it was actually pretty cool to learn about shapes by blowing bubbles and standing in mirrors to learn about angles! After that, I went straight into Girl Scout mode because I was going camping. If I’m quite honest, I was not really looking forward to the trip as it got closer. It was supposed to be cold and rainy and I wasn’t going to know a lot of people there… as we got there, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm, sunny weather and the amount of people that I actually did know! I had a fantastic time and even participated in the annual camp talent show! I sang “I will always love you” in the style of Whitney Houston (sorry mom, I know its not your favorite version, but it’s the better known), and actually won an Ehrenpreis for my performance! What is an Ehrenpreis? Since Google Translate doesn’t know, and I had never heard of this award before and wasn’t entirely sure what I had won, I asked my trusty dictionary/best friend, Isabel! She said, “It’s a prize for something very honorable or special! It’s usually more on an appreciation or special recognition of something someone did than a competitive prize!” It was really cool to be a part of the camping trip, and I felt like I fit right in! 

    The weekend after that was one of my most awaited experiences of this year, the TenSing Marienheide Konzert/Musical!!! It was such a success! We sold over 350 tickets, which was a lot more than we were expecting, and everyone loved the show! I sang the songs “Oceans” and “Catch Me if you Can” as solo/group solo songs and then played the role of Melli in our self-written show! It was such a fantastic experience, but also a little saddening to know that this was probably the only time I would get to perform with this amazing group of people! 

    After that was Schützenfest! Basically, this is a huge sporting event with a festival and lots of other stuff to do and see! In Germany, most people are not allowed to shoot or own a gun. Of course there are a few exceptions to the rule, and one of them is if you are in a Schützenverein, a shooting club. The club/team meets up every week to practice for the Schützenfest where one of them will be crowned the king! To become king, you shoot at a wooden bird with a crown on its head. You have to first shoot at the crown, left wing, right wing, and then body (I’m not 100% sure on the order, but I’m pretty sure this is correct), and once they fall off, the teams of people shooting become smaller and smaller, until the last person is named king! They also have a version of this for citizens of the town, which means I was also eligible to participate! I unfortunately didn’t become the citizen king or queen, but I came pretty close! 

    The weekend after that was a very busy one! It started off with my very last inbound weekend… ☹ Friday evening was pretty much just everyone saying hello, playing games, eating dinner, and then the local Rotaract threw us all an awesome party! I have now officially been named the gringa who tries to hard to dance like a Latina, but you know what? That’s okay! I’m definitely more comfortable and confident dancing around the others now than I was at the beginning of the year! We danced to lots of south American music, Karneval music, and a few good old 80’s songs that all the Americans sang along to! By that time, it was like 3am so we all headed to bed! The next morning, we took a tour of the Dom, ate Dunkin’ Donuts, then ate in Früh Brauhaus, and then had some free time! During the free time, I went around the city with one of my good Brazilian friends and we climbed the Dom together, went up another tower to look over the city, and then ate some ice cream together because we had earned it! We then met up with Rotary again, and traveled a little out of the city to go go-karting together! I did a pretty good job and won second place in my group by just a few seconds! We then spent the rest of the night together playing, talking, and just enjoying the last moments that we had as a completed group. Sunday was a day of many tears because so many of us were leaving and we wouldn’t see each other again for a very long time. It wasn’t goodbye though, it was a see you again! And a few of us even saw each other the weekend after that because there was a district conference in Aachen, and we were all invited to participate! It was a lot of fun, and I stayed with some of my really good exchange friends since they live a lot closer to Aachen than I do, and because they are some pretty cool people in general! 

    I also gave my end of the year presentation in my Rotary Club. I was feeling pretty good about it as the day kept slowly getting closer and closer. I mean, this wouldn’t be my first time in my Rotary Club, I’ve presented things before (some of them were improvised or I wasn’t given notice a head of time), I was well prepared, and my powerpoint was AWESOME! I had a cute little Florida quiz show with prizes and lots of awesome pictures! I was ready to do this thing! I brought my first host mom with me as well as a future outbound to Taiwan, and two of my best school friends (we had all of our classes cancelled so they decided to join me for moral support!) and I had my laptop and a USB stick as back up in case anything was to happen. I was prepared! It was a pretty full meeting of about 35 members, maybe a little less, and I went to set up my laptop with the projector, and there it was, a projector that didn’t fit with my laptop’s cable. Okay, I told myself not to panic, I had a USB stick. I could just use that! Nope, my USB stick also didn’t work with the projector USB drive. At this point, I head over to my counselor and host mom to see what I should do. They both said, “You are in a room full of businessmen. Someone must have a laptop in their car, or maybe at the front desk?” Well, after asking every Rotarian and the front desk we still had no laptop. I’m starting to give up hope. I wasn’t feeling nervous before, but now it was all starting to get to me. What was I gonna do? My host mom even drove to her workplace to see if she could find something, but unfortunately that cables that she found also didn’t hook up with my laptop… at this point, it’s now or never. I stand up front, clear my throat, take a deep breath, and hold the laptop in my arms so that they can all hopefully see the powerpoint that I spent a lot of time making. And then I start. Of course there were a few more gra mmar mistakes that were made than I obviously hoped for, but I’ve decided to blame it on the unusual circumstances. I went through the slides, they all laughed at some of my jokes, and then it was over. In Germany when you give a presentation, normally they knock of the table. I don’t know why (and I’ve asked) but clapping is reserved for concerts or something really special. That’s why I was so surprised when they all started clapping, and not just a light clapping sound, but a big mighty roar! My counselor wrote me later that evening saying that she had never seen so many Rotarians show up for an exchange student’s presentation or ever heard them clap that loud. I don’t know if she was just saying that or not, but it still feels good to know that everything turned out okay in the end. 

    I have also started the process of saying Auf Wiedersehen to more and more people. I feel like I need to take a moment to explain that in German, you have two different ways to say goodbye: 1) Auf Wiedersehen 2)Tschüss The second one is more of a casual goodbye. It’s actual definition is goodbye, unlike the first one, which is a more formal version of saying goodbye, but the direct translation is “to the next time we see each other again”. I’ve chosen to say the “Auf Wiedersehen” because I know this isn’t goodbye for many of my friends that I’ve made here. The first big Auf Wiedersehen for me was the exchange students. Especially in these last few months, I have become a lot closer with my exchange student family than before and it was even harder for me to say Auf Wiedersehen, knowing that I missed out on hanging out with them in the first half of this year (@sushisquad), or the fact that they weren’t even here (@myawesomene wbies). I also finally had to say Auf Wiedersehen to my awesome theater group. Not gonna lie, I sobbed like a little baby at my last meeting. TenSing was the very first activity I joined here in Germany, and so they’ve literally known me from the very beginning. They were always so patient and kind and I just always felt welcomed there! Theater in general is something special to me, and they were my first German theater performance! That’s really special to me! I have made some of the best friends I could have possibly hoped for there, and also made a ton of wonderful memories that I will forever cherish and keep with me. It was so hard giving everyone the group hug and singing our favorite songs together, but I will definitely be keeping in contact with them, and look forward to seeing what they are going to do in the future! 

    It’s getting close. The day is approaching to when I will finally be back in Florida. It still doesn’t really seem real that I’ll be leaving this home to be going back to my original one. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO looking forward to getting a big bear hug from my family every day and also giving a few big bear hugs myself, but it will still be weird to be back living in a place where the street signs aren’t in German and that there will most likely only be songs in English on the radio. I know that I’m not leaving Germany forever though, and that I will be back before I know it! I’m just going to keep on enjoying the days that I have left here and will make the most out of them! After all, it’ll be over before you can say Unabhängigkeitserklärung (my favorite word in German!)! Until then, know that I’m having a great time and will see everyone again soon!

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Woah, woah, woah. I know what you are thinking, “Ashley how is it possible that you are writing another journal already? Didn’t you just write one a few weeks ago?” and the answer to this question is yes, I did, but time is moving at the speed of light and it’s already the end of May again! As of today, I have only 49 days left in Germany. What’s crazy to me is that I know the time is flying away quickly, but that doesn’t mean it is for the rest of the world back home in Florida or even for some of the other exchange students I know. May was the most musical month I could have hoped for, but it started out with some other events as well. Earlier this month, I planned a get together with some other Rotary Youth Exchange Students who are also from the United States. The occasion? The United States national hockey team was playing in Cologne in the World Championship (Weltmeisterschaft auf Deutsch) and we decided to go cheer them on against the Danes. The United States won 7-2 and overall, I had a pretty amazing time! 

    The weekend after that, I finally got to use my birthday present with all of my friends, Bodyguard das Musical. It was so amazing. I didn’t know anything about the story before I went in other than the fact that there were Whitney Houston songs throughout the show. It was such a thrill to be there. The show started off with a bang, literally the show starts with a gun shot and all the lights going out suddenly, and was amazing all the way to the end. I think I’m starting to annoy my friends because I thank them at least once or twice a week. (Ich weis nicht ob ihr mein Journal lest, aber dankeschön!) One of the things that was really cool for me lies in the Bodyguard program. I bought a program, as I do almost always, and naturally was just reading through the cast bios when something interesting caught my eye. There were a lot of Americans in the show. Okay, six total, but four were from Florida and one of them studied at Florida State University, and studied exactly what I am hoping to in the next couple of years!! For me that was really eye opening because I realized that I can still pursue theater and performance, but can also use my German language skills at the exact same time! I’m not saying I’ll be leaving the US forever, but it’s good to know what my options are and that there are opportunities to combine both things that I hope to study! 

    The weekend after that was a dress rehearsal for the musical that I will be performing in within the next couple of weeks! The show is called, “Catch Me if you Can” but it isn’t the show you all are thinking about because it is a self-written show that will blow you all away! I have my own role, a few other roles (the joys of double casting), and also sing a few solos (including the show’s opening…eek!) It is so nice to be performing again. I will say that is one of the things that I have missed the most this year, just being up on a stage in the ensemble or singing a solo. I’m so happy I found my theatre group here though, so I am able to put those thoughts out of my head and enjoy my year even more! 

    Then this past weekend, I enjoyed my host family’s end of the year present which was a trip to Hamburg to see Der König der Löwen das Musical (The Lion Kind Broadway Musical!!! in German of course!) Of course that was the main part of the trip, but I also got to see a lot of exciting things such as the Michel (a famous church with a fantastic view of Hamburg), Elbphilharmonie (and got to go to the top!), took a ferry and got to know the harbor a little better, and also took a guided bus tour. Don’t worry, I avoided the Reeperbahn. For those of you who don’t know what that is, don’t look it up. I was so happy that the weather was amazing because last time I was in Hamburg with Rotary, it just rained the entire time, forcing us to hide in cafes and restaurants (but if you need a good place or eat or cup of coffee in Hamburg, let me know!). The musical was just stunning and there is literally no way to describe how amazing it was! Another highlight was the Rollercoaster Restaurant. You are probably confused, but let me explain, the food comes to you by means of a roller coaster! The food was delicious and the experience was unforgettable! 

    Other cool things I got to do this month were visit the Haribo factory store in Bonn! For those of you who have been following my year on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll know Haribo is one of my favorite things to grab before a choir rehearsal or other fun things to do. There are so many different varieties and it was actually founded in Bonn which is about 40 minutes away from where I live. 

    I have also officially signed up for my B2 Prüfung which will take place on July 7th! The B2 test is a German test for people who speak German as a foreign language. If/When I complete the test it means that my German is at a level of fluency where I could work in Germany and apply for college in Germany. I took the A2 test with Rotary in November and passed it with a 1 (equivalent of an A), so I’m hoping to do just as well this time around as well! 

    It’s weird to think that my time here is coming to an end in a few months, but I know for a fact July 19th will not be the last time I’m here! I’m keeping on making the days count instead of counting the days. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store for me! I’ll be sure to tell you all about it. 

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    This journal was written in honor of: The #Run Squad and Sushi Squad of 1810

    Let’s be real for a second, I’m pretty confident that April was just two weeks long… How is it even possible that it’s almost over! I literally swear I just wrote my journal for the month of March. Anywho, it doesn’t matter if April was 2 or 4 weeks because A LOT still happened in that small amount of time!

    In the first week of April, I checked off a lot of bucket list things to do in Cologne (i.e. eating in a specific chocolate café with my German friends) which made me very happy! I finished up my school work, and then started preparing. Preparing for what you might be asking yourself? My district’s Osterreise! Osterreise is this huge trip that my amazing district leaders plan taking us through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the Czech Republic within a time span of a little more than two weeks! Crazy right? It was absolutely an unforgettable experience that I will cherish forever. We started off in Heidelberg (pretty castle place), and then drove on to France and landed in Strasbourg! It was a little strange to be in a country where I couldn’t fluently speak the language but I had one year of French class in Florida so I managed to get by with knowing how to say thank you and asking if they spoke English. I got to eat some delicious Escargot (which I love and will gladly eat for anyone who orders and then backs out after one bite!) and Le Croque Monsieur (no clue how to spell it, so I apologize to anyone who speaks French, but I can say it!) From there we headed on to the Black Forest, which was so beautiful! We visited the highest elevated lake in Germany, Titisee, and I think I’ve seen more Coocoo clocks in this one trip than I have days of rain on my exchange year, and there have been quite a few!) We also visited a clock museum which was interesting to learn about because I never realized how many different types of coocoo clocks and alarm clocks there were and that were made in Germany! From there, we headed on to Switzerland for a few hours to see the Rhein falls, which were breathtakingly beautiful! Still the second day of the trip, we headed to Konstanz which is on the Bodensee and took a tour about the middle age in Germany. The next morning we went to a wonderful Bavarian Cheese Maker and ate our happy little hearts out with delicious Bavarian cheeses while learning how they were made! We then traveled on to Schloss Neuschwanstein which is a castle that Disney used for inspiration when designing Cinderella’s castle. I can see why because it is unbelievably gorgeous inside and out! Next day we took an hour train ride up and through an Alp to get to the Zugspitze, the highest mountain peak in Germany! It was very cold and icy, but a nice trip across the border into Austria for lunch warmed us up in time to make the train ride back! It was then time to head to Munich, but on the way we made a few pitstops at the Ettal Kloster and Wieskirche, which were both two very impressive and beautiful Bavarian Churches. The next day took place in one of my favorite German cities of all time, MUNICH! I absolutely love Munich, if you get the chance to go, GO! Of course, my Dirndl accompanied me on the journey and it made an appearance in Munich because when in Munich, do what the people most likely do o nly in October! While there, I visited the Residenz Platz, TheresienWiese (Oktoberfest grounds), the English Gardens, and so much more that I couldn’t possibly tell you all about because I’m not entirely sure what the name of the monuments are… they were still pretty though! We started the next day with a pretty emotionally heavy stop, Dachau Work and Concentration Camp. It was a very emotional and powerful experience for all of the exchange students and gave us a lot to think about though. For me though, it made me think just about how different the country is then and now, that type of mentality, those types of actions are ones that are hard for me to imagine happening in this country. Especially as an exchange student who is a foreigner, they welcomed me with more open mindedness and open hearts than I could have even hoped for! We finished our visit there and then headed on to a HUGE salt mine near the German-Austrian border. I guess you could say we were in a Salz Berg, but not Salzburg… am I right? Okay, I now apologize to those of you who just read that bad joke, but it’s staying there okay? We may not have been to Salzburg that specific day, but we were the next morning! The Dirndl made its second appearance and added to the wonderful Sound of Music photo I finally got! It was fun because I got to play a little bit of tour guide since I knew where most things were after my trip in January. And of course I bought Mozart Kugeln because it isn’t a real trip to Salzburg if you haven’t bought a Mozart Kugel! We spent the rest of the day traveling on our way to Vienna, where, yep you guessed it, I got to see Isabel again! She joined our group in the morning for the Elisabeth Emperess Apartment Tour and then took me on a bit of a personal tour of Vienna. We saw a science museum, Manner Store (comes from Vienna!), the Rathaus and Parliament, and she also took me to a café so I could try my first coffee in Vienna! I greatly enjoyed the time with her again and I know I’ll be back to see her soon! We then spent Easter in Prague! We climbed up the astronomy tower and walked around the Easter markets before heading back to Germany in the direction of Dresden, where I had an amazing time visiting the Semper Oper and also finding a really cool trumpet player who played all of our national anthems! 

    We had a good next couple of days in Potsdam and Berlin, where I saw pretty much all that there was to see! My new group was awesome and efficient, which helped us see everything we wanted to see! We then took a few more stops as Volkswagen (Fun fact: they make more currywurst/sausage than cars each year), Scwerin (a castle island), Travemünde (the north coast dudes!), and Lübeck (land of the Marzipan) before heading on to Hamburg! The weather during the day was definitely not at its finest, but the evening was fantastic because I saw Aladdin das Musical! It always makes me feel right at home, walking into a theater. It was just an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to seeing Bodyguard and König der Löwen next month! We then had to head to our last stop in Münster where we said our goodbyes. It was actually the first time where I had a truly difficult time leaving the exchange students. I had never really bonded with them like I had over this trip, especially with some new awesome friends that I met! Performing concerts in the hotel lobby, regretting wearing ballerina flats in Munich, and guessing how I would write all of my Instagram posts for later are all things that I miss about this trip and the group of people I was with! So, Osterreise may have ended, but April still hadn’t!

    Not a lot more happened, but I did visit a very cool cathedral that is literally just in the woods. Like, nothing is around it except for trees and a few hiking paths. It really was a beautiful sight and was so cool to explore with my host family! 

    April was one heck of a whirlwind, but such an amazing and memorable month. There is literally not enough time or words for me to be able to tell every little detail that happened. It’s crazy to think it’ll be time to start packing my things in three months or so. I’m just not going to think about it and enjoy all of the time that I have here and live it to the fullest! As a wise Canadian Rotex I met once said, “Don’t count the days left, but make the days left count.”, and I couldn’t agree more. 

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    March, what is this strange month that seemed so much faster than February??? I am honestly not joking, if someone could give me a moment to catch my breath or for time to slow down, that would be really great! Where to even begin? I guess I’ll start with school because that is what I just got back from! I’m doing much better in my classes than in August for starters. I’m sure you are probably saying duh Ashley, but really! The teachers are finally willing to give me grades on my participation and things like that rather than just saying that it isn’t necessary. Okay, not all of the grades are up to par with my academic record in Florida, but let’s say I have a C+/B average. That may not look like a lot to you guys, but for me that means the world. Most of my teachers in December decided to not give me a grade during the exam season because it would have been a failing grade, but now it is at least a C! I’m proud of that and that’s the most important thing. I also am a little sad because one of my favorite teachers is not coming back after our spring break in two weeks. I’m excited for her because she’s having a baby and that’s exciting, but at the same time she was just always so sweet and patient with my poor German skills at the beginning of the year. She sat down with me in the extra German class I had to enhance my grammar skills and asked me what I wanted to learn and where she thinks I should focus on next. She was absolutely amazing and I am sad to see her go, but I’m glad I got to have her for most of the year!

    I also had a wonderful inbound weekend with my Rotary district! We were in Monshau which is a gorgeous tiny village about 45 minutes away from Aachen. The place where we stayed was so cool! It was literally an old castle type of situation with an amazing view over the town! Seriously, the town looked like it was out of a fairytale. We visited multiple coal mining museums and an actual, still working coal mine! That was really cool because my host dad had worked there a long time ago so when we were telling him about it he was able to describe everything in much more detail than we were. We also visited Vogelsang, which was a very interesting stop on our tour. The location was located in the Eiffel national park and had many different uses throughout the year, but the one that our tour focused the most on was the use of a National Socialism school. It was one of three schools in Germany to be set up and train the workers and soldiers of the National Socialism party during the Third Reich. I am not sure I have the right words to put the experience into an emotion or something. It was very, shall I say, eye opening. When you are living here, in modern day Germany, it is sometimes hard for you to think about the past and history that they have because that just seems so different from the life that you are living. It isn’t that the history is forgotten or not there, but it doesn’t seem as up front as when I was touring the grounds of the school. It hasn’t changed my thoughts or views on the beloved country I’m living in, but it has just educated me more about history and how we should make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. I had a wonderful time with all of my exchange student friends, and it was a strange feeling because I love being with all of them, but I was also so excited to go back to my German friends and school and host family!

    I did a lot with my friends and host family this month too! One of my friends is actually coming to visit me this year in October/November so we were having a Skype session with her mom and my mom to work out the details and things like that. We finished pretty early so she called her friend and asked if we could come over to visit. So we went to her friend’s house and little did I know, her friend lived on a farm, like professional grade really cool farm! I got to see a lot of newborn calves, feed some chickens, play with ducks, and met some pretty adorable dogs who love to be played with and petted! It was so much fun and they said I am welcome back anytime I’d like! They even sent me home with a bottle of milk from their cows! We also had a very exciting week where we celebrated 3 of my friends birthdays back to back. I mean Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday three of my friends all had birthdays. Talk about a crazy week! I also have been introduced to some new German cand ies produced here in Cologne, Hitschler. I gave up Haribo for Lent, and these are nothing like Haribo, so I don’t feel guilty about eating them! A colleague from my host mom works for the company and brought her a HUGE bag of different varieties for Alejandra and I to try out! They were really good, but now my room smells like chemical fruit odors. The taste is worth it though! I have also been frequently traveling back and forth between Cologne and my home here. I have visited the Cologne City museum and learned a lot of cool things. For example, one of my Karneval costumes was actually a historical/fictional figure in Cologne legends and I had no clue! I also saw the No. 4711 House where the perfume is made! It wasn’t open because it was a Sunday, but I plan to go back and visit it again so I can maybe take some home with me or even learn what it smells like because I have no clue! I also visited the Zoo in Cologne with my host-brother. We saw a lot of amazing animals and also a week old baby elephant! It was so adorable and such a cool experience! They are celebrating being open for 150 years this year, which I think is just amazing! One of the things that I though was really cool, was the fact that you could literally forget that you were in a major city in Germany. It felt like you were transported right into the world of these animals. I also got a great picture on top of a tower in Cologne as the sun was setting! It was unbelievably gorgeous! 

    Now I just want to say that the theme of me still doing a lot of stuff involving entertainment and television is still continuing! First of all, my host mom got tickets for me and two friends to go sit in on a filming of Die Millionär Show, the Austrian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Fun fact: according to my sources here in Germany, the concept for the show actually comes from Cologne!! The show is so popular that the waiting period to get tickets to the German version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire is five years! Luckily, they film the Austrians and Czech version in Cologne too, so we were able to get tickets to the Austrian one. First of all, I am proud to say that I understood 75% of what they were saying! People think that just because they speak German in Austria and Germany it is exactly the same, BUT IT IS NOT!!! They have a very strong dialect and accent which can make it hard sometimes to understand what they are saying, but for the most part I can understand what is going on. I also was able to answer all of the audience lifeline questions correctly which made me feel pretty smart! I’m saving the best for last right now, the place we got to sit. STORY TIME! I’m ready to go. We are leaving in five minutes to start the drive to Cologne. 

    I am wearing a cute red top because they look at everyone’s clothes before giving them a seat to see if they will blend in okay or not. My host mom comes running up the stairs and said, “Ashley, I think you should wear your Dirndl to the filming because lots of people wear a Dirndl in Austria to special events!” I thought about it for a second and then put it on and became a cute little German/Austrian girl in her Dirndl! We got to the studio, did a tour, and then they gave us the tickets for where we would be sitting. Little did we know, but they gave us front row seats DIRECTLY BEHIND THE SHOW HOST!!! Literally, if the camera was on the host, you could see us, the entire time! So, if any of you want to watch the Austrian Who Wants to be a Millionaire on the Monday after Mother’s Day, feel free to do so because you will most definitely be seeing me! It was really funny because they asked everyone before the beginning of the show who was from Austria and when we didn’t raise our hands they got really confused and actually “interviewed” my host mom and I about why on earth we were wearing Dirndls and where we came from. That wasn’t filmed so you won’t see that, but it happened! Finally, I also saw a new take on Les Miserables, the musical, called Barricade. It was basically the same story and characters just in German and with completely different songs. It was interesting and I bought a CD to take back with me because the songs were really really good! It was exciting to see a musical in German and understand what was going on! 

    Overall, I had a fantastic month and am looking forward to the coming months. It is a little weird that I don’t have a lot of time left in Germany. It has just become a part of life that seems like it was always there. I am going to enjoy all of the time I have left in the beautiful country before I head back to Florida! 

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    I honestly thought I had two weeks until I needed to write this journal, but I looked at my calendar and then today was March 1st! February has flown by to the point where I’m not entirely sure I actually experienced the whole month! I have done so many amazing things this month, but most of them revolved around the greatest time of the German calendar, Karneval! Okay, technically not everywhere in Germany because apparently it is just in the areas around Cologne and Dusseldorf. It was such a fun time of the year and I will never forget it! Normally, people have one really stunning costume that they wear for the entire time. I however, being the overachiever that I am, had eight different costumes. They consisted of a cowgirl, scarf character, pirate, sheep, genie, scarecrow, Moroccan princess, and then a traditional Karneval Costume, Tunisan. I have attended singalongs, coffees, and so many parades that you’d think I’ve had enough a lready, but that is the problem, I haven’t! I just love the atmosphere of everyone being dressed up and singing songs together, it really is beautiful. Something else that is really showing language improvement, is that I am now able to understand and speak a little bit of the special dialect that they have in Cologne. Okay, I’m able to sing all of the songs and understand what they are saying, but I think that it’s cool I can speak really well in High-German and then also speak a little bit of the dialect that they have too! I also was able to visit an UNESCO World Culture Sight with my host family. We went to an old coal washing center and got a tour of the sight! It was really interesting to see some of the everyday lives and domestic aspects of how people used to live in the early 1900s. It was also nice to see some of the family members from my first host family. I’ve happily and wonderfully adjusted into my second host family and am having a great time. I am in a new choir at my local church which has been going great! I do think it is funny because I’m the youngest person there. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a senior citizens choir, but my host grandma invited me and they all are really sweet so it isn’t a problem. I love that I am back singing in my happy soprano voice once again! My transportation to school has also changed. I now take this really cool double decker bus to and from school. It takes about 40 minutes or so, but it isn’t so bad. I usually end up sleeping or talking to some of the other kids in my class. It actually is quite entertaining sometimes. My life hasn’t completely changed though. I am still a very active member of TenSing and am so happy that we are finally starting to work on our final show for the year! I even have a few solo songs, and also have a speaking role, IN GERMAN. I guess that is kind of clear, but I’m really excited since that is also a huge sig n that my German has improved enough that they are willing to give me a role in the show. I have also had a lot of really cool experiences that have to do with the entertainment industry. I saw a beautiful Irish dance and music show at a local theatre with people who came all the way from Ireland. It was nice to hear a little bit of English again and the show was just amazing. I also went to the live filming of a TV Show in Cologne. We went to see Little Big Stars (German version of Little Big Shots) and had an amazing time. There was a scientist, stunt biker, pianist, and also a singer who happened to be from California. It was really cool and interesting to see how a TV Show is filmed and I look forward to seeing the final product in a few months so I can see what the finished show looks like. Finally, I was on national German news television! Since I walked in the Karneval parade, it was pretty much bound to happen since it is recorded like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but I also was in a special clip. They gave people the option to record videos from the parade and send them in to be put in the broadcast. I was walking with two other exchange students and we sent in a video explaining that we were celebrating our first Karneval because we were exchange students, and they put it in the broadcast! It was really cool because we definitely weren’t expecting it! Overall, this month has flown by and I have made so many memories. I honestly am not sure how this year has gone by so fast because it feels like last week I just stepped off of the plane in a new country, not being able to speak the language, but having lots of hopes and goals for this year. I have already accomplished so much of what I dreamed I would, but I know I still have less than half a year to do even more and leave my legacy here. I can’t wait to see what this new month has in store and write to you all about it! Warum ist dieses Jahr so schnell gegangen? I know that I am going to have an amazing rest of this year! I just wish it would slow down a little bit!

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Okay, are we really sure January is almost over? Like, last week I was skiing in the Alps with my best friend and this morning I woke up to January 30th, 2017. This year is flying by WAY too quickly. So, to start out I will tell you about the amazing adventures I had this month! On exactly January 1st I took a plane to the city of Salzburg to meet the sweetest, most amazing Austrian rebound/Rotex that I could ever ask to have in my life, ISABEL!!! It was almost like a dream that I was actually there, hanging out with her again, talking with her again (this time in German!), and getting a glimpse into what her life is like! Well, vacation life that is. She lives in Vienna, but they were on a ski vacation in the town of Böckstein which is near Bad Gastein which is near Salzburg for those of you who have no clue where I am talking about! We stayed in this really cool house that belongs to the whole family. Their cousins have the first floor and were so welcoming and sweets to us all! There was also this amazing tea, but I'm not sure what it is, although it's what I imagine a sugar plum tastes like in Candy Land! It was just so amazing! Enough about the tea and back to the adventure. 

    So we were skiing for four days and went to a different slope each time. Now, let me tell you, I've gone skiing in North Carolina many a time with my family and grandparents, but NOTHING WILL PREPARE YOU FOR SKIING IN THE ALPS!!! I was so lucky that both Isabel's parents were ski instructors at some point in time because I probably would not have made it down safely if it wasn't so. I learned quickly that being on the blue or "easy" course doesn't always mean it is easy. Isabel said that they determine the toughness of the course based on how many trees, sharp turns, anything that can potentially harm you are in your way. That does not mean that a direct drop qualifies a slope for a red or black course. I just about had a heart attack when I saw on the first day a direct drop on a blue course! I did eventually master the art though. Well, somewhat. I was still a little slow with carrying my skis and putting on the ski shoes but they were very patient with me and helped me out! Okay, there was also another exchange student there from California, Chris!

    Isabel’s brother is currently on exchange and they have Chris for the whole year. Just like for me, snow and mountains are a really cool thing! The first day there wasn’t a whole lot of snow of the mountains. The ski slopes were covered but not over all. Chris and I were still being the touristy exchange students and taking thousands of pictures and just in awe at the mountains and talking about how beautiful it is and what does Isabel say to us? “That isn’t pretty. There isn’t enough snow!” That was the running joke for the rest of the week. We ended up getting A LOT of snow, like 15 centimeters a day later in the week, but we would always say to Isabel that it, “Isn’t pretty enough because there isn’t enough snow!” Also in Austria are the most amazing chocolate bon-bons I have eaten in a while, Mozart Kügeln! I may have gone a little overboard and bought like, 5 different types when we visited Salzburg… Speaking of which, Hey! I visited Salzburg! Some of you theater nerds are probably already freaking out like I was, but for those of you who don’t know, that is where a good portion of The Sound of Music was filmed. A lot of the sights were closed due to the winter weather, but I still got a picture or two. Don’t worry about that! We went to a couple of museums, saw Mozart’s birthplace, and took a lot of pictures. Some of the most interesting facts I learned were: 1) There was a Mozart Cult back in the day and people would like steal old things from his family. One of the strangest things that was on display in this section was a lock of Mozart’s hair, donated by a family member of a previous Cult member. 2) There is an on-going war between the Mozart Kügeln manufacturers about who is the real Mozart Kugel. It is a proven fact that Fürst made the first ones, but that isn’t good enough for the other factories who claim that they aren’t the first ones, but the real ones! I had a wonderful time with my amazing friend and her family, but it was eventually time for me to head back…  I did have a surprise for me waiting back in Germany though, MORE SNOW! We finally had our first REAL snow of the season. To the point that we actually had a snow day. And the Germans are very prepared people especially when it comes to snow! I traveled to Cologne and Bonn with another district for a weekend and got to tour the Dom, eat some delicious blood sausage and potatoes (I’m not kidding, it was REALLY GOOD), see lots of famous Cologne sights, and then travel to Haus der Geschichte in Bonn! I was able to learn so much and had an amazing time. It was actually quite funny because all of this history information from Bonn was fresh in my mind and I was able to use it exactly a week later when I traveled with MY district to Haus der Geschichte in Bonn. I kind of cheated the system because they would ask questions that I already knew the answer to and they weren’t expecting anyone to know the answer, but I finally confessed why I was able to answer the questions. The tour guide even called me Ms. Correct because I kept solving the questions! I got to meet the future outbounds of my district here, see some of the rebounds again, and then also see my inbound class! That was a jam packed day and then I was off again the next day to start building my costume for Karneval. Why am I building a costume? Because I am blessed with the opportunity to walk IN a Cologne Karneval Parade because my host family is the coolest ever! Something also really cool happened to me in the month of January, I turned 16! I may not of had the stereotypical Sweet 16 that most of my friends are having this year, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! I spent it surrounded by my loving German friends and loving Host families. I truly won’t forget it! And lastly, speaking of host families, I have some very important information/an update to share: I am no longer living in Marienheide, but am now in Engelskirchen because I switched host families! I have had no troubles in my first one because I already knew them pretty well and we have gotten along just fine. It’s a little strange being an only child in the house because I’ve not experienced that since I was like, 1 year old. I do think it is interesting for me to see how different life can be without siblings though. Like, we are doing a lot more out of the house stuff because we only have one kid’s schedule to balance and not 3. I’m lucky though that I do get to see my other family still. Of course I do miss them, but I am very happy in my second family! Just all around in life, I’m doing great! School is going well, the language is really coming along, and my friends and host families are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. It is so sad for me to think that I have only a half of my exchange year left, but I will use all of it to the fullest! I know February may be a short month, but I can predict that it will be jam packed and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! I’ll write again in a couple of weeks! Until then, here are five German phrases/words that I just love for you to learn and remember!
    1.Unabhängigkeitserklärung: Declaration of Independence
    2.Erziehungswissenschaft: Educational Sciences
    3.Brötchen: Basically it means tiny bread which I think is cute because it is literally a tiny loaf of bread
    Hope you all just learned a little German! Have fun!

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Fröhliche Weihnachten!! December was such an amazing month of my exchange! I did so much and had such an amazing time. First of all I want to start off with some AMAZING news. My Rotary district here in Germany tests all of the inbounds on their language at our first and second inbound weekends to track our progress and make sure we are actually learning something on our exchange. Our first language test was a basic introduce yourself, read this newspaper article to us, basically just seeing if we could talk a little bit. 

    Our second test however, was an A2 language test for German. For those of you like me who have no clue what A2 means, let me tell you! In Germany, there are language tests that foreigners can take to test their German skills. A1 is the easiest and C1 is the hardest available for people of my age. All of these tests focus on speaking, reading comprehension, writing skills, and grammar, but they vary in terms of how hard the test is to take. People take these tests to show that their German is almost at a fluent level and if you take a B1 test or higher (wait it might be B2. I’m not 100% sure) a German university cannot turn you down for reasons of not being able to speak the language. They could for other reasons, but not for reasons of language barriers. Back to the story. I took the A2 test with Rotary at my second inbound weekend. This test was very important because if we receive a 5 or 6 we could receive a yellow card, and 2 yellow cards= a red card, and a red card= a plane ticket back home. I was so stressed for this test. I completely finished DuoLingo and kept all of the bubbles gold, I completed workbooks, went to German language school, I was making sure that I passed! The day came and I it and wasn’t really too worried about my score. I thought the test was kind of easy and that is what scared me the most. Whenever I take a test in school and I think I did good, that is usually when I received a really bad grade. I waited and waited for almost a month. The other students had already received their scores and it was just me left. I was so stressed out. Then I heard a ding on my email, and what did I see but an email with the subject, “TEST RESULTS”! I opened it and found out that I received a 1! That is the best score that you can get on this test. I was one of two people to receive the score and the other person scored only 0.5 points higher than me because I used an umlaut where I shouldn’t have. I was beyond thrilled that I was able to see that score after only three almost four months in Germany! That is my language update for this month. I know my German isn’t perfect, but it makes me happy to know that it is really getting somewhere.

    School is going great! I am able to complete all of my assignments and homework now which is really cool. I think it makes the teachers happy too! They usually don’t grade the assignments because they know that my grades don’t count here, but they normally write in the corrections to my German and then they also write a little note at the bottom encouraging me about how my German has improved and things like that. I also write all of the exams with the classes. I received my Biology exam back (without a grade, but wait for it) and my teacher said that I was completely correct in the first section of the exam regarding the structure of a cell and the organelles and things like that, not even a little bit with the functions of a microscope, and partially correct on my experiment analysis! It made me happy to know that I was actually learning a little bit. Well, at least enough to write an exam and get some of the answers correct! 

    I also continued the tradition of bringing Christmas presents to my teachers. I brought them candles with their initials engraved on them. Rotary gave me a glass engraver after we visited a glass museum and learned how to etch glass and let’s just say there is a theme to my Christmas presents this year… There is no tradition like that in Germany and all of the teachers were so taken aback and surprised. And they made sure all of the other students knew that people do that in the United States and they should start the tradition here too. 

    Now, other than receive language test results and do school work what did I do in December? Well for starters, I visited a LOT of Christmas markets. They are just as amazing as I had heard about. I visited the 4 major ones in Cologne, a few in museums, a couple local ones, and even one in a castle! In Cologne, I must say that the best is Heumarkt! Everything was so festive and exciting! And the food was excellent! There are a lot of tourists and my friends that we were visiting the markets with said that this is the one year of our lives that we won’t be the tourists there, but we are part of the locals visiting the markets. Another favorite was the market in Engelskirchen, where my second host family lives. Okay, there is a story that goes along with it though. So, in Germany Santa Claus has a helper to help deliver the presents since they celebrate it on a different day. The Christ Child is the helper and the Christ Child actually lives in Engelskirchen. You can write a letter and receive one back. The coolest thing about this is that anyone from around the world can write a letter and they will send the letter back in the language that you sent it! I wrote mine in German so I got it back in German, but other students wrote it in both English and German as well as some with Spanish and got responses back in all languages. When you visit the Christmas market in Engelskirchen you can actually visit the Christ Child, give your letter to them, get a picture and then the post office will print your picture (free of charge) on a post card AND a stamp! That was really cool. 

    Then of course there was Christmas! It was a little strange because they celebrate it in the evenings, but it was a beautiful Christmas nonetheless. I do have an important cultural message though. Despite what your “Christmas Around the World” books say, THERE IS NO PICKLE ON THE CHRISTMAS TREE IN GERMANY!!! I asked my family about it as well as my friends and they all looked at me as if I had three heads. Sorry to disappoint you all but it had to be said. They also have two celebration days. I thought it was only my host family, but I asked my friends and they said that there are two! The first one is normally celebrated with just your immediate family and then the second with the extended family. We celebrated “Holy Evening” (Heilige Abend) by going to a church service, eating a fantastic dinner at home, opening presents, and then we watched Christmas Vacation (in German of course and without English subtitles). We then celebrated the second day once again in the evening at my host grandparent’s house with all of the host cousins, host aunts and uncles, and then my host family! We celebrated the same: dinner, presents, and socializing. Both evenings were so beautiful and I just felt so happy and blessed to be a part of my host family. Everyone was so kind and thoughtful and it is just hard to think about starting my exchange with another host family. 

    We don’t have anything really planned for the December part of Christmas vacation, so that means that I’ve had a lot of free time. Sort of. I go to my host grandparents a lot for afternoon coffee which is almost like a German version of high tea in England. One time after coffee my host grandma invited me to stay a little longer and watch a traditional Christmas movie. The movie comes from the Czech Republic, but the Germans watch it every year. Let’s just say that I have found another Christmas favorite. It’s the story of Cinderella, but it’s a little different than the cartoon that I grew up with. I’d say it’s more similar to the live action film than anything else. I’m a little sad that I can’t find it in English to bring back for my family in Florida, but I now have the film in German so I guess I’ll just have to translate everything! They have a version with English subtitles, but the language they are speaking is Czech . I have nothing against the Czech language, but I do think that it can get confusing trying to listen and read at the same time. Like when I started my exchange and would watch movies with subtitles, I’d listen for the words I did know in German and translate it. I now have the problem that anytime I see subtitles in a movie now, I do the same thing. It really isn’t much of a problem, but it can get confusing especially when one word can mean something different in another language. It really was a great movie and my host grandparents even gave me a copy of it! 

    I also had a lovely day with my host aunt. We baked waffles and she gave me a book to fill with German recipes that I can take with me back to Florida! We also were talking about books and things like that and long story short, I now have over 100 audio books in German! Don’t worry because all of them are computer downloadable so they won’t take up space in my suitcase! I’ve already started listening to them and am surprised by how much I can understand. I was a little worried because sometimes they can talk really fast or with funny voices, but I am able to pick up just about everything. It was such an amazing day and she said I am welcome anytime. 

    Another awesome thing that happened was that I was in a German newspaper, in an article featuring my exchange as well as the other exchange student in the area. If you want to read it in German the link is:">"> If you don't speak German, you could 1) learn the language by going on exchange or learning in some other less-cool way of learning a language or 2) go to the website and copy and paste it into a translator. Personally, I'd go with the first option, but it might be easier for the majority of you to use the second. 

    I feel like there is so much to say that I haven’t. There are literally not enough pages to fill and not enough time to try and write down everything that happened! I have an exciting week ahead of me because I am travelling to Austria to see the lovely Isabel! For those of you who don’t know who Isabel is she was an inbound last year in Tallahassee who was not only a classmate and German teacher, but also is now my best friend! I am thrilled I get to see her! We are going skiing in the Alps with her family. Speaking of the trip mentioned above, I better get packing! I’ll tell you all about my Alp adventures and much more in my next update! Until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Twas the night 'for December and all through the house, not a creature was stirring including Ashley because she is still trying to recover from her amazing inbound weekend with her great Rotary Youth Exchange friends! So, I am apologizing now for the grammar mistakes that are most likely all throughout here... November was so amazing but also such a blur!! I have a brand new schedule in school that makes every day except for Tuesdays long days in school (that means I get out of school at 3:30) and then Tuesdays I have language school until 3:45, so I am staying VERY busy! 

    I finally have become more active in my Rotary Club here in Germany! Technically my first meeting was in October (they requested that I wait until October so my German could be better for the meetings) but I have been a lot better about going to meetings. To any exchange student reading this or anyone who is going on a Rotary Youth Exchange, I HIGHLY recommend going to the meetings as much as you can! Get to know the Rotarians! I have been able to go to two handball games and meet the players afterward and I've had the opportunity to tour a firm here in Germany with a room that was -22 degrees Celsius. That's Cold! I honestly don't know what that is in Fahrenheit. It's so hard to convert back and forth from things like kilometers and celsius and things like that all the time. Anyhow, all of the Rotarians are so nice and make me feel welcome in the club! 
    School is also going well. Well, for as good as midterm season can get for a student in a foreign country. I got high marks on my English exam though, so that's a plus! Didn't do great on my math (forgetting my calculator and dictionary probably didn't help my odds either) and I'm still waiting for some other grades to come back. So they don't really have tests any other time of the year here really. Homework is on the honor system, it really is quite easy! And, you don't have to take all of the midterms (called a Klausur here)! You have to take it in Math, English, and German, and then anything else that is going towards your Abitur (college acceptance/high school degree), which apparently for me is Spanish... not quite sure how that happened, but it's ok! Could I survive in Spain or Argentina? Hah! Not a chance, but I could probably order a small meal... of apples and water... Some of my teachers don't give me grades because they know that my grades don't count this year, but the ones that have given me grades are along the line of a C-B average. I'll take it! It has been a little hard for me to accept things like a C here because back home I am an A-B student most of the time. I just have to remind myself that the grades don't matter and that I am here to learn the language and learning the language means that I will get better grades! :) 

    My friends are literally the best people I could ask for!! This month we went ice skating. They thought it was funny that I could already ice skate because I told them that we never really have snow or really cold weather in Florida, so they were expecting me to fall down a lot, but I think I held my own! We took multiple trips to Gummersbach (the "largest" city near us, aka 15 minutes by car) together because who doesn't love shopping with their friends?!? The best though was the "international" night. So, one of my school friend's dad actually comes from Paraguay! Cool right? So, we planned a night where we could have a little bit of food/culture from the U.S., Mexico (thanks to Alejandra), Paraguay, and Deutschland! I provided wonderful PB&J sandwiches and PB&Banana sandwiches along with peanut butter and apple slices! I've gotten the hint that peanut butter is DEFINITELY an American thing. We ate lots of good food and then we watched a l ot of Disney movies... in German!! Thanks to my avid Disney watching because I am a Disney fanatic back in Florida, I was able to understand the plot line and able to translate the words most of the time though. It is a little strange though because when you are watching Finding Dory and it isn't Ellen Degeneres talking you get a little sad and confused as to why it sounds like a German Ellen. By the way, would not recommend watching that movie on exchange. Great movie! I loved it! I also cried like a baby because (yes, I'll admit it) it made me homesick! The whole finding home and your family thing just kind of got to me and it made me think of home a little too much a little too fast so I didn't have enough time to process my emotions and what was happening, so I cried. Right there in the Gummersbach movie theatre. But I think it is important to recognize, YOU ARE GOING TO GET HOMESICK ON EXCHANGE. 

    There is almost no changing that fact. But if you saw my first journal you will have noted my line that I always remember, "A homesick day in Germany is better than an normal day in Florida". I'm doing great and am having the time of my life here. Literally, wouldn't give it up for anything! But, that doesn't mean that there aren't nights when I open my jar of Jiff and eat half of it with apple slices just to make me feel a little more at home! It's ok and it's normal, I hope...

    The German is coming along much better! I'm starting to sound more like a slightly broken down computer with incorrect grammar than a cave man. I'm getting corrected a little more by my friends, but that is ok! It has helped me realize what my weakest points are and then I can go home and fix them with a worksheet or an exercise. They also heard that I had a German test coming up with Rotary. They also heard that if I didn't pass that I'd be sent home, so I think they were also just trying to help! But just so you all don't worry, I did pass the test! 

    The test took place over one of my amazing inbound weekends in Bonn and Rheinbach. I went to a Christmas market, saw the old Rathaus (capital building), Beethoven's birthplace, went ice skating, went to a Glass museum and learned how to etch glass, and just had an amazing time with the other inbounds!! It was a little sad because I had to say goodbye to my oldies, but I am so excited to meet my newbies!! 

    So, I think I have just about covered all of November. December starts tomorrow and I know it is going to be BUSY! I am looking forward to every moment of it and can't wait to tell you all about it! Until then let me say Tschüss! That's another way to say goodbye instead of Auf Wiedersehen and it is actually used A LOT more often than the other version. I am loving every minute here and just want to end with a huge Thank You to Rotary for allowing me this opportunity and so many others like me. You are truly helping change lives! Until next time my friends!!

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Whoops! Time got away from me and I forgot to tell you all about my wonderful October here in Germany. I wrote this in a word document, but forgot to submit it, so here you go!
    So I'll tell you first off that the language is coming so much smoother!! I have had many Rotarians, teachers, and friends tell me that my German has improved leaps and bounds since I first got here! If you are an exchange student and those words don't make you happy and feel good about yourself and what you are doing this year, then I don't know what else will. Ok, back to what actually happened in the month of October.
    I had the opportunity this month to to a lot of exciting things with my school!! I was able to tour a plastic factory in Wipperfurth! The highlight of that visit? Watching plastic get made and then afterwards finding out that it is lemon scented! No, it wasn't just the fumes getting to my head. It says on the bottom, smell me for some fresh lemon scent!! Then I spent the day in Wipperfurth with my school friends which included riding a horse and singing lots of German... I also went climbing on a ropes course! It was so much fun and I literally had to bend over backwards sometimes!! 

    I also had my first school holidays. What? In the month of October? Yes, you read that right! Two weeks in the middle of October. One of the nice things about living on a continent where the next international border is only 1-2 hours away is that it is really easy to travel. In those two weeks I was able to vacation with my host family in Holland. Or is it the Netherlands? I don't know the difference, so if someone could please inform me that'd be wonderful! My new home was in the tiny village of Zuizande! I loved the cute little Dutch houses and the people were so nice! A lot of Germans vacation in the area, so there was definitely lots of familiar sounds. Not that Dutch is COMPLETELY different, because I was able to kind of understand what the street signs and construction signs and so on and so forth were saying between both my German and my English. Alejandra and my second host family were also in the neighboring area. Like a 20 minute bike ride away. We also were ther e with family friends (who also happen to be Rotarians from another district in Germany) and my host aunt, host uncle, and host cousins. It was never really quiet which was a good thing because that meant there was lots of entertainment! In my time in Holland, I went to Sluis, Breskens, a LOT of little villages, and we made multiple day trips to Bruges and Ghent which are in Belgium. In Ghent there was a car show where the Porsches were the cheapest cars there. My host family called it the Monaco of Belgium. And Bruges, Oh my goodness. It felt like I had stepped onto a movie set or a step back in time. It was so beautiful!! Bruges is a UNESCO World Culture Site because pretty much EVERYTHING is in Middle Age architecture and is gorgeous! I climbed a giant tower of some sort, I ate a chocolate covered waffle, a regular waffle, regular Belgian chocolate, Belgian hot chocolate, Belgian Pommes and so on and so forth. It was absolutely amazing and I would go back anytime! But back to Ho lland. I saw Dutch potato farms, rode my bike... a lot..., saw the Ocean, saw a light house, and most of all, was reunited with my beloved Orange Juice! Now you may be thinking, "Ashley, you are from Florida. Why do you care so much about the Dutch orange juice?" Ok, the true answer is that the machine that it is made with is just so dang cool!! But it is like REALLY freshly pressed and it tastes like heaven!
    I do want to talk for a moment about the Dutch potato farms. So, after the big machines come through and harvest the big potatoes, a lot of the little ones that are perfectly tasty and good to eat are left behind. (I know they taste good because I myself ate one or many...) The farmers don't care about them, so you can just go to the fields and pick up what you'd like and take them home for free. My host sister did say something though that really made me feel a little bad though, "Think about all of the hungry people in Africa or other countries who would give anything to have these potatoes and we are just taking the pretty ones to eat back at home." Can someone please start up a Second Harvest or Project Potato or something, because there were SO MANY that we could probably feed like a village for a month or two... Ok, enough random thoughts from Ashley! I enjoyed my wonderful vacation time, and then it was time to head back to Germany.

    Not a ton happened after I arrived back in Deutschland, but I did receive and perform my first solo in my theatre/choir group here!! It was at a concert in Gummersbach called, "City of Light." It was so cool and I hope to perform a lot more this year! I also walked 27,6 KM to climb the highest monument/point in the Ober-Bergische Kreis, the region I am living in! It was so much fun!! Everything has been going great here and I look forward to the upcoming months!

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Guten Tag, Guten Morgen, Guten Abend, or whatever time of the day you may be reading this. Here’s my check-in for all of you back in the Sunshine State!! So, September was one heck of a whirlwind. The Rotex and Rotarians told all of us that this year would go by in a blink of an eye and I think I understand what they mean now. I mean, one day you wake up and it’s September 1st, you go to school, eat your dinner, and before you go to bed it’s September 30th!! I hope that you can understand my poorly written metaphors. School has been going really well!! I was so nervous that I was just the new face in the crowd at the beginning of the school year, but my friends have stuck around! Everyone told me that it can be difficult to make friends with the German people, but I have found that opposite! You just have to have the courage and self-confidence to talk with them. Yes, I’m sure I sound like a caveman most of the time, but everyone here is so nice and kind, that they patiently wait while I try to explain what I’m trying to say.

    While there still is a bit of a language barrier, I can feel the language getting easier and coming more naturally as the days go by. Milestone examples that I can remember are 1) Understanding a Math Class enough to be able to do the homework 2) Watching a movie with my host family [without English subtitles] and understanding the characters, storyline, plot, etc. 3) Actually talking all the time in German with my host family!!! There is no way to describe the pride and joy you feel when a teacher, a host parent, a host sibling, a friend, really anyone, tells you how much better your German is. It’s one of those, “Oh! This is why I am doing this!” moments. More of those moments are ordering ice cream in your village by yourself, or even when I went to a museum and the people didn’t speak English, so I communicated my way through in German!!! I believe that especially if you put in the time and effort, it will eventually come your way. I’m by no means fluent, but I have improved leaps and bounds since I got here, and I think that is something to be proud about.
    Another cool thing about exchange is all of the experiences you get to have. Yeah, yeah, I know all of the life experience is what you all are thinking I’m about to go on about. While I have had many life experiences, I’m talking right now about the just plain cool things you get to do this year! I have gone to an ostrich farm (where I held a baby ostrich that was like 4 days old *insert squeals of joy here*), hiked up mountains to get, in my opinion, the best view of the Rhine there is in all of Germany, walked through castles, walked in rivers (sometimes of my own accord and other times because the earth literally crumbled beneath my feet, but that’s a story for another day), walked through the woods for 2 hours because you and your group are probably lost (it’s ok, we found our way back!), walked on streets older than The United States of America, and so much more!! 

    My host families are just absolutely amazing! They are literally, the sweetest, kindest, and funniest people in the country of Germany! I say host families, because I hang out with both my first and second! The families are good friends and I am happy with both of them. The question now is if I have a third or not, because it has been going back and forth. Either way, I feel as though I am in good hands. My host grandparents are wonderful and are literally so cool! And my host aunts and uncles and cousins are really helpful, especially when it comes to school. That’s because my host siblings and I go to different schools, but my host cousins go to the same school as me! Seriously, I have been truly blessed here.
    There is so much more I could say, but I know time and words are limited in life. I am going to try and update once every month or two. I do have an Instagram account and Facebook page specifically for my exchange if you are interested in seeing and hearing more about my adventures this year! If you are reading this deciding whether or not you want to go on exchange, I ask you to please please take this opportunity and at the very least, apply!! Sorry, the Instagram is @ashley_in_germany and the Facebook page is quite literally “Ashley Campbell’s Exchange to Germany”. I now want to leave you with a quote that I found in my travel journal I use every day. Kim Mance said, “Sometimes it’s time to get away from it all and experience things in a completely different way.” I think that this truly describes the practical application of exchange. Exchange puts that article that you are reading about the Romans and the Germans in your history textbook right in front of you, for you to experience with your own eyes and heart. To me, Germany is no longer a faraway place that is the land of fairytales and people wearing lederhosen and dirndls all the time. It has become a real place, with real people who have real lives, just like you and me. 

  • Ashley, outbound to Germany

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    Hallo to all reading this first journal of mine! What a crazy couple of weeks it has been! So, I’m pretty sure you could have guessed it, but I have arrived in Germany and am living in the wonderful village of Marienheide. For the large majority of you who have no idea where that is, it is like thirty-minutes from the city of Cologne. I was welcomed to the beautiful country by my loving host family at the airport. They were very patient with me as I was so excited to meet them, that I left my phone on the plane. I got off the gate and grabbed my phone to call them and it wasn’t there. Thank you to the kind Lufthansa man who helped me figure out what gate I came in from and help me get my phone back. I had a wonderful week of just getting to know Germany before school started. I spent it meeting my host family’s extended family, speaking German every chance I got, and eating all of the different foods that they put in front of me! I h ave been reunited with my beloved Kartoffel Salat, after the lovely Inbound Isabel made it for me last year. We live right next door to my host-grandparents and my host-aunt, uncle, and cousins. Everyone is so nice here and are very patient when I ask them to please repeat what they have told me in German a little more slowly. During my “free-week” I met my Rotary Exchange Officer and my counselor, who were both very nice. I haven’t made it to a meeting yet because it meets during the school day the majority of the month, except for one evening meeting which hasn’t happened yet. I also met the other inbound in my area, Alejandra! She is very nice and it is nice to know there is someone else who understands the roller coaster of emotions I am going through during the beginning of my exchange. 

    I saw the beautiful cities of Dusseldorf, Wipperfurth, and Gummersbach within my first two weeks here. For anyone applying this upcoming year, I just want to say if you are blessed with the opportunity ride your bike every day for a month or two before you come!!! I did ride my bike for about a month, but boy was I not prepared for the amount of activity that I would encounter here. I have biked multiple times (including a trip to Wipperfurth that was 26,8 km total), played sand volleyball, ran around the lake near our house with my host mom, and walked my host-dog a gazillion times. Some of those things I really had to be a “yes-person” to participate, but I am really glad I did. 

    I enjoyed my week of fun, and then came even more fun, SCHOOL!! I was low-key really nervous because I was getting really good at understanding what people were saying in the German language, but speaking it is a whole different story. Not many people at my school speak English which is a blessing in disguise I guess because now my German will improve faster. I have made a couple of really nice friends and have already been invited to some things! I look forward to the upcoming weeks of school and I can’t wait to see how much my German has improved!

    Ok, final thought train. Just German things that I absolutely love!! First off is a delicious treat called spaghetti eis (that means spaghetti ice-cream). It quite literally is ice cream, only it looks exactly like spaghetti. They have about 15 different flavors of it in the ice cream parlor in the village, so guess who has a new exchange goal?!?! Not really a high-standard exchange goal, but a goal nonetheless. Second, I am officially that crazy American who bought a Dirndl. They don’t really wear them here unless it is an Oktoberfest or Carnival, but I still bought it and I love it!!! The only reason why I bought mine so quickly was that it was a really good deal, for a really good quality. They are usually really expensive. Finally, the bread. Eat as much German Bread as you can whenever you are here!! It is always fresh, and hearty and I just love it!!

    I just wanted to make sure everyone knew I am having a fabulous time. Yes, there have been really hard days. But, I wouldn’t give up those bad days in Germany for an ok day in America. The experiences I have already had have made me grow stronger as a person. I know I have a long year ahead of me that is going to go by in the blink of an eye. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!! 

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