Hallo! I've been in Germany for three months now and I still can’t believe it. So far my exchange has been so amazing and I am still in shock that I’m actually in Germany. I’ve been getting lots of questions from people back home so I decided that I’ll try to answer some of them here.
My host family: My host families are so amazing! They’re all so helpful in teaching me German and I’ve done so many new things with them. I’ve already been to France and Switzerland. My next family is going to take me skiing almost every weekend once it starts to snow. I’m so lucky to have them!
School: School in Germany is very different from school in the USA. Here I have one class and we go to all of our lessons together. Everything here is also way less competitive. In Germany we have no GPA or class rank, the students just try hard because they want to learn. In my school a normal day is from 7:50-1:05, which I love. Classes are in one hour periods and most of the time I have two periods of each class. Every Wednesday, I have an hour long break for the Mittagspause at 1:00 and then I have more classes after that until 5:00. On Thursdays I have band but it ends earlier. During the pause we’re allowed to go into the city and buy lunch. In Germany instead of only having one science class or one history class, we take a little of everything. Here I have English, Music, Latin, Math, Chemistry, Biology, German, Art, History, PE, Politics, Physics, Religion, and Ethic. I try my best to participate and I take all the tests, but obviously it’s very difficult. School is very different here but I like it a lot.
Language: German is very difficult, but for only three months I think I’m doing alright. I’ve started a language course which is also helping a lot. In school, I only speak German, and at home I only use English if I really need to understand something important. It’s very hard but it definitely helps. It’s also very tiring; I don’t think I’ve slept more than I have since I’ve gotten here. If you’re reading this before your exchange: study as much as you can before you leave, it’ll make life so much easier.
Friends: I‘m very lucky to have met the people that I have so far on exchange. My classmates are all super nice and they help me so much. I hear so many stories about exchange students having trouble making friends and it makes me so thankful for the friends I’ve made. A few tips I have for making friends on exchange are:
1) Be able to laugh at yourself. When I first got here I wasn’t able to understand much so when people talked in groups I’d just say "genau“ which means "exactly“ and people would laugh.
2) Be as outgoing as you can. In lots of European countries people are a little shy and won’t start conversations with you. Don’t worry! Once you start talking with new people almost everyone is nice and wants to be friends but they were just too shy to introduce themselves first.
3) Make as many plans as possible. If you hear people talking about going to a party or a movie, ask if you can go too. If it feels too weird to invite yourself, try inviting people to do something. Once you start making plans you start getting invited to more things and you start making more friends. It’s also very helpful to go and find people to do things with once you start to feel a little homesick.
4) The best way to make friends is when you meet new people, to say, "Hi, I need friends. Here’s my Instagram and Snapchat, let’s hangout soon.“ Or once you’re close with someone to tell them to introduce you to their friends. It might feel weird at first but it definitely works.
Food: The food in Germany is amazing! I’m already trying to figure out how to start a restaurant with German food back home. For breakfast normally we have bread with butter and jam. In the US that’s not much, but German bread is so amazing and the jam is all homemade. After school I have lunch with my host mother and brother. We have anything from pasta to soup or schnitzel. On days where I have longer school, I eat in the city with my friends. There are lots of options, we have Chinese, Dönner (which is my favorite), we can also get pizza or curry wurst. For dinner most days we have bread with butter, wurst, and cheese. I think I’ve eaten more bread in these three months than I have in the past three years in the US.
Differences in culture: I didn’t really experience much culture shock when I got here, but there are a lot of differences. First off, Germans are a lot healthier than Americans. Here they only use a car if it’s completely necessary. My five mile bike rode to the train station is considered nothing. Another big thing about Germany is that they don’t use ice. Iced coffee doesn’t exist here and it makes me very sad. Here we do have Eiskaffee and it‘s coffee with ice cream in it which makes the no ice thing a little better. A lot of the German stereotypes are true. They eat lots of pretzels and drink beer. Sausages are also eaten almost daily. There are also lots of things that are only here for tourists like Kookoo clocks and Lederhosen.
Rotary: I’m in District 1930 and I love it. There are 15 of us, and we’re all a huge family. We met at our language camp a few days after I got here and we still meet up every few weeks. So far as a club we’ve had two trips. We were in the Black Forest a few weeks ago for the fall break and it was so amazing. We hiked, swam, ice skated, and the most important thing for a Florida boy: we saw snow! Last weekend we went to Ulm for a language test and to meet the future outbounds. We also went to the Christmas market which was beautiful and we climbed the tallest church in the world. It’s really important to be close with the other exchange students because they are going through the exact same things that you are. If I have any problems, I know I have so many other people that understand exactly what’s going on. My club is also great. My YEO got me a saxophone to use in band and he set me up in a language course so I can learn German faster. In a few months, we have a trip to Paris and after that we have our Deutschland tour.
I wrote this journal sitting in my Latin class because I can’t understand anything that’s going on. Before I finish writing this already too long journal, I just want to say that if you’re thinking about going on exchange, please apply. Coming to Germany is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Also if you have any questions you can always message me or any of the other exchange students because I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of talking about our exchanges. Okay, until next time,
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