Vale Olano

 Germany

Hometown: Davie, Florida
School: Alpha Omega Academy
Sponsor District : District 6990
Sponsor Club: , Florida
Host District: 1940
Host Club: The Rotary Club Berlin Gedaechtniskirche.


My Bio


Hallo, my name is Valeria Olano. I am incredibly excited to become an exchange student. I am 16 years old, born in South Florida with a Colombian nationality. I have 2 younger sisters, Valentina ( 15 ) and Victoria ( 11 ) and 2 wonderful parents, Karen and Juan. I currently live in Davie, FL where I spend most of my time figure skating. YES, I skate in the sunny state of Florida. Because of my sport, I have had to sacrifice the social life that school brings; however, I enjoy homeschooling with my skating teammates. When I am not skating or being bombarded with rigorous school work, I always find a way to stay active while being accompanied by friends and family. Also, my favorite hobbies include dancing, acting, and singing. In past years, I was involved in musical theater, ballet productions, and several talent shows. Furthermore, my family and I love to have people over, which is why socializing comes easy to me. I love to meet new people and learn about different cultures. This past year, my family and I were able to open our home to a wonderful exchange student, Veronika, from the Czech Republic. She has been a great example of what being an exchange student is all about. Having her live with us opened my eyes and understanding that life can be more exciting embarking in a new journey abroad. Though living away from home is not always flowers and rainbows, it still is an unforgettable experience that I am so honored to have. I look forward to meeting my future families in Germany. Auf Wiedersehen - goodbye :)

Selfie with my mom and my sister in front of the Brandenburger Tür

Selfie with my mom and my sister in front of the Brandenburger Tür

My host family and me at the Berlin Tegel airport.

My host family and me at the Berlin Tegel airport.

Behind me is the Victory Column that Heinrich Strack designed after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War.

Behind me is the Victory Column that Heinrich Strack designed after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War.

Standing in front of Rathaus Schöneberg where P. John F Kennedy gave his " Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

Standing in front of Rathaus Schöneberg where P. John F Kennedy gave his " Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

Bellevue Palace, Presidents home

Bellevue Palace, Presidents home

Two good friends from school :)

Two good friends from school :)

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

German unity day, October 3rd. Reichstag Building

German unity day, October 3rd. Reichstag Building

Brandenburger Tur with exchange students

Brandenburger Tur with exchange students

Potsdam Adventures

Potsdam Adventures

French district, Lyon

French district, Lyon

Unity day at Brandenburger Tur with 2 exchange students

Unity day at Brandenburger Tur with 2 exchange students

Journals: Vale-Germany Blog 2017-18

  • Vale, Outbound to Germany

    Click HERE to read more about Vale and all her blogs

    Today marks 2 months in Berlin and I couldn't be happier!! It is seriously unbelievable how fast time is flying by...

    This month has been very calm for me, more about adapting to this new life and culture than anything else. Luckily, the language is only getting easier and I am starting to understand about 50-60% of conversations which gives me so much hope about these next few months. It has definitely helped to speak only German at home, with friends at school, and even with some exchange students. That is my number 1 tip, to learn a new language, you have to force yourself to speak it, even if you can't fully express yourself at first, eventually you'll learn how to... Some people just want to speak English with you or any other language other than the one you need to learn and you just have to keep telling them no, only German, no English. In this month I was able to celebrate with other exchange students, Germany Unity day, " Tag der Deutschen Einheit 2017 " It commemorates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990... Therefore, the name addresses neither the re-union nor the union, but the unity of Germany. Lots of museums were open and the entry was free which was a great advantage for all tourists and exchange students. In this month, lots of Rotary districts are traveling and I got to meet the French district from Lyon. As a matter of fact, I met up with a friend of mine that is from my district back home and it was a great time. I met amazing exchange students from that group and we all got to get to know each other. That's what I love about exchange students, we all have one thing in common, we are all away from home and ready to make new friends everywhere we go. And the best thing is that since everyone is from different countries, they give you a great reason to visit new places around the world. Also, as I am writing this journal, I am on vacation. From October 23rd until November 4th, Berlin has Herbst Ferien, Autumn Holiday. Since I am not traveling with my family, I have been to many museums, I've hung out with friends from school and other exchange students, and I've been able to catch up on sleep. Much needed sleep. The weather has only gotten colder, and living in the Sunshine State of Florida, anything below 75 degrees is FREEZING. Doesn't matter how many layer I have on, I am still cold. It is the one thing that will take me a while to get used to. It has also been raining a lot, which makes sightseeing not enjoyable since everything here requires a bit of walking. I seriously have walked more these past 2 months than I have in my whole life. It is true blessing to be here on exchange and share with you my journey. Berlin, you still have my heart!

  • Vale, Outbound to Germany

    Click HERE to read more about Vale and all her blogs

    Today marks 1 month here in Berlin, Germany and I have never loved a city and a country more in my life.

    It's crazy to think just 9 months ago, I went to my first orientation back in Florida and how I spent everyday dreaming about my arrival in Germany. This month has exceeded all of my expectation.

    Let's start from the beginning, my departure and arrival. On August 27th, I left Miami international airport at 4pm and it was one of the hardest goodbyes I've ever had. It didn't sink in that I was leaving for a year, even the week before my departure. I gave my " see you soon " hugs to my family and I made my way to the gate. My first stop was in Detroit and I was so exhausted I slept the entire plane ride. At 8pm, my plane left to Amsterdam and there, I had 2 hours to rest until my final flight to Berlin. I have never watched so many movies in my life as I did on all 3 plane rides. I was so excited and nervous at the same time about meeting my host family for the first time that I couldn't sleep.

    I arrived early afternoon, around 1pm, to Berlin Tegel and as soon as I got my luggages and headed out, my family was standing together with a beautiful welcome poster that said, " Herzlichen Wilkommen Valeria," which means, " Warm Welcome Valeria. " I expected for them to greet me with a simple handshake but NO, I got 4 loving hugs. Right there, I knew everything was starting off on the right foot. The first person to greet me was my brother, David, who is 21 years old. Then my sister, Sarah, who is 19 years old, my mom, Renate, ( I don't know her age but she looks young and beautiful ), and lastly my counselor, Jan, who handed me 2 small German and American flags. Although I had known my host parents were divorced, I didn't know they were good friends. We all got in the car and my dad drove us home.

    HOME SWEET HOME! I live in an apartment now which is very different but I was ready for it. We live on the second floor and lucky for us, the building has no elevators so I walk up 44 stairs. YES, I count them everyday, in German just so I can practice remembering them. My mom showed me to my room and that was the biggest surprise yet, it was HUGE. Bigger than my room in Florida, and I honestly, didn't expect that. It's actually the biggest room in the entire apartment which I felt very blessed to have. There are 4 bedrooms including mine, and 2 bathrooms, but only one has a shower, which has been a lot of fun to share with my hostfamily. My sister made a DELICIOUS chocolate cake for us and there it hit me, this is my wonderful family that I can't thank God enough for. They were perfect!

    Later that evening, I unpacked my luggages and my sister took me biking to the supermarket. Yeah, everyone bikes here. I've never seen so many in my life. It was a surprise to me that I was biking on the road and cars were passing by not even an arm length away. They're used to it here. Cars respect bikes and vice versa. After going to the supermarket, my mom and her friend took me " sightseeing" around Schöneberg. I live 0.3 miles away From Rathaus Schöneberg where President John F. Kennedy gave his speech, " Ich bin ein Berliner. " I pass by it everyday and it's unbelievable to see something in person that I only saw on youtube. The " quarter" which I live in is called the Bavarian quarter, and back in World War 2, Schöneberg had many Jews living there. On every street, there are signs with a different picture and behind it are also different laws passed by Nazis of privileges that had been stripped away from the Jews. My mom told me that these signs are a reminder for the people currently living in Schöneberg so that they don't forget their origins. Also, some buildings have gold square shaped rocks in front of them engraved with the name, birthday, and death of the Jews that once lived there. This keeps the history alive for anyone that lives there or passes by it. Night time quickly came and my first dinner was at an Indian restaurant. First day and I was already trying new things. We ate with my sister, her boyfriend Julian, my brother, my mom, and her friend whose name I don't know. My jet lag wasn't too bad since I had traveled to countries with a 6hour difference, so I was still pretty awake. My brother invited me to a get together with his friends and as I learned in my orientation, don't say NO to going out, I wen't with him. I spoke a lot to his friends and they were very enthusiastic to hear about my life and why I had chosen Germany. No one believed me when I told them it was because of the language, the culture, and the history. It's absolutely fascinating!!! At around 12pm, my brother and I wen't home with the Ubahn, underground train, and the Bus. Although I couldn't fall asleep until 2am, it was an amazing first day.

    My mom and my sister took me sightseeing on Tuesday and I took pictures everywhere. We went to see the victory column, the Brandenburger Tür, the Spree River, and the president's home. Spectacular to say the least. My first week was adapting to my parents rules, expectations, and of course lots of sightseeing. I went to a beautiful lake called the KRUMME LANKE and after a good 30 minutes, I was able to get in. The water was FREEZING! I was shivering the entire time but it was so worth it. One of the biggest shocks I had was the nudity. Here in Germany, it is very normal to be naked when going to a lake, the beach, or just lying in the park. I think no American is ready for this shock but I am now starting to adapt to it. About a week later I started school. Absolutely AMAZING! I love it. In fact, I hate missing school. I've made such great German friends, and some were on exchange the year before so they are even more understanding of how I feel.

    Waking up for the first day of school was a mix of emotions. I was super excited to meet people my age but I was nervous about how I would talk to them or interest them. I understood some Germany but when they started talking fast to each other, I was lost. It didn't hit me how much I had to learn this entire year. My schools name is Marie Curie Gymnasium and it's 15 minutes away from my home. I take the train everyday and I feel very independent now that I learned how to use the German transportation system. I am in 11th grade and it's awesome because when I have lunch break or simply a free hour, I can go home, or leave school. There is a delicious Bakery right next to my school and I go there almost everyday for lunch. My school starts at 8am and finishes at 2:40 pm. We have courses, just like in the US. Of course, everyone speaks really fast in class so I don't understand the majority of it but I am making progress. I can proudly say I understand more German n ow than I did 1 month ago.

    I recently had my first Rotary orientation and it was so much fun. We danced all weekend, and saw so many country presentations. It's crazy how being away from home brings people together. We are 55 exchange students in Berlin and we all get along so well, which is a blessing. We hangout every weekend and we're always having great laughs and getting to know each other more. I couldn't have asked for a better group of exchange students to do exchange with.

    All in all, I have loved my exchange. It was the BEST thing I've ever signed up for and I am more than grateful to my family for giving me this opportunity as well as my AMAZING Rotary Davie/ Cooper city Club for sponsoring me. Germany, you have my heart!

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