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I can't believe it's been almost a month since I've been in Germany! It feels like I've been here for much longer and I think my family and friends would agree! I’ve been meaning to write a journal for a while now, because I feel like so much has happened, but the first lesson I’ve learned on exchange is that there is always so little time and so much to do! Naturally, I have no idea how to even begin to relay all that’s happened so let me start at the most logical point: the beginning.
My Trip/Arrival: It was very bittersweet to leave pretty much the only place I’ve ever known. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of walking away from my family and friends and onto a plane that would take me across the ocean to another continent. I think this is one of the hardest moments of being an exchange student. The moment you finally walk away from everyone and everything and realize, it’s just me and I’m going to be somewhere different for a year. Luckily, despite me leaving a little before Hurricane Irma would arrive in Florida, I had a really smooth trip. I had about an hour flight to Atlanta and an 8 hour flight to Stuttgart. I met a really nice stewardess on my flight to Atlanta and she asked about my blazer so we talked a lot that flight and now she wants her daughter to do RYE! I’m always happy to share about my experience with Rotary! When I landed, I didn’t have to wait long in Atlanta (30ish minutes), which was great becaus e I was anxious to get to Germany. Then the flight from Atlanta to Stuttgart felt so short, I couldn’t believe I had arrived in Germany so quickly! The Stuttgart airport was really easy to go through and though my luggage took what felt like forever to come out, I finally made it outside where some members of my host family were waiting. They were waiting with this really beautiful poster that they had made and it felt so nice to finally meet them!
My first couple days in Germany: Stuttgart is about 1 ½ hours from my city, Sankt Georgen im Schwarzwald, which meant that I had time to take in the scenery and talk to my host family. Now, before I left I had talked to my host family a lot which actually made it so much easier to talk and I highly recommend it. They will always be strangers when you first meet them but I felt like talking to them before made me feel so much more comfortable and helped me transition from stranger to family much quicker than I would’ve thought. My host family is made up of my host mom (Conny), my host dad (Henny), my 3 host sisters (Jenny, Danny, and Anny), my 3 host brothers (Jonny, Benny, and Lenny), my host grandmother (Oma), and my host grandfather (Opa). It’s definitely different to be living with so many people, sometimes I feel like I’m living in the German version of Full House. I have to say though, I love it! I’ve always loved being around people and everyone i n my host family has been so welcoming that I can’t help but be happy to be living with so many people. Later that day, my host family took me to a farm owned by their friends and I got to see so many different farm animals! It was fun to see how a farm works and we got some fresh milk which I don’t think I’ve ever had but it was really good! The next morning, after eating breakfast, my host mom got straight to cooking because the following morning was my host brother Lenny’s birthday! One of the things I love most is to cook so I asked her if I could help her and she was happy to oblige. At that point she introduced me to a wonderful, magical machine called Thermomix. It’s like this machine that does everything from cooking rice to making bread dough to making slushies. My mind was blown because we don’t have anything like it in the US. After making stuff for Lenny’s birthday, I played some boards games with Lenny and my host mom. I felt li ke I really bonded with them which was a great feeling. That being said, I didn’t have much time with my host family before I had to be in Lindenberg for Language Camp so though I met everyone, I didn’t have much time to really talk to them.
Language Camp: Sunday morning, I had time to sing my host brother happy birthday (my host family celebrates birthdays in the morning) and then I had to leave for language camp. To be more efficient, I carpooled with Genie, an inbound from Taiwan and also the nearest exchange student to me. It was great meeting another exchange student and I took a ferry in a car for the first time which was really cool! One of the most famous lakes in Germany is the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and this was the lake we took the ferry on. It took about 3 hours to get to Lindenberg but it was worth it because it’s a really nice town. Walking into the building where language camp was being held was crazy because I really didn’t know anyone, but that changed really quickly. At first, we had to sit through a presentation from Rotary about the rules, expectations, etc. and we had to take a placement test to see which class we would be in for the week. We didn’t really have the chance to talk to each other then but after that it was really cool because it was sort of like free time and we all got to talk. All of the inbounds are really great and throughout the course of the week, we all got really close. Though it was all German classes in the morning, in the afternoons we had activities like swimming, arts and crafts, and going out into the city. On Wednesday, it was a little different though because it was excursion day and we got to go see waterfalls which was a lot of hiking but it was worth it. Coincidentally, a couple of students from our group accidentally took the wrong path and ended up in Austria which we all had a good laugh about later. Overall, language camp was a great time! On my way home from language camp though, I was with another exchange student and for some reason our tickets were incorrectly labeled and we accidentally took a train to Switzerland! We both kept cool under pressure though and were able to get home again with just an hour delay. I als o got appointed to be the group speaker with my friend from Taiwan which means that we will be talking to the district chair and speaking for all of the inbounds in 1930 (like middle men). I was so honored to be chosen for that!
My First Week of School: After coming home from language camp, I only had half a day and then suddenly it was time to go to school. I thought it was really surreal to be starting in a new school, especially since I’ve only ever gone to PK Yonge but it was refreshing to start somewhere new. Similarly to my school back home, my school in Germany has children of all ages so at first it was a tad overwhelming due to so many people in the halls, but my school here is so wonderful! My host sister went on exchange in Paraguay last year so she had to be in 10th grade instead of 11th this year, but she did introduce me to all her classmates from when she was in that grade which was nice because they were all super friendly and it made it easier to meet everyone in my class. In pretty much every subject they asked me to introduce myself briefly and let me just say, my district motivating me learn my elevator speech for language camp was the best thing to ever happen because now I know wh at to say whenever someone asks me to introduce myself. A whole day in a foreign language tends to make you so much more tired than you’d think but it’s the best way to learn and that first week was definitely one giant learning experience.
My time here in Germany has been amazing so far! It’s had it’s hard times, especially when it comes to doing and thinking everything in German, but this new culture, family, and school that I find myself in has opened my heart and mind to so many new things. I wish I could write so much more but I don’t want to go on forever. Also to any future outbounds, if you guys have any questions or just want to talk, I would be glad to help or talk to any of you. When I was applying last year, talking to the current rebounds who were outbounds at the time, was really helpful and reassuring. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, find out everything you can, and enjoy the application process because as you’ll quickly learn on exchange, time flies by and you only get to live things once! Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!
P.S. Every time I post a journal, I’ll put a crazy but cool German word of the month. This month it is: Unwahrscheinlich which means Unlikely.