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.