Judah, Outbound to Germany

Well, it’s been about two and a half months. What a crazy time it’s been.

This time last year I can remember myself thinking, “I wonder what my life will look like in a year.” I can specifically remember sitting at my lunch table at GHS the day after I sent in my application thinking that. It’s insane to me that it’s already been a year.

I’ve been journaling every day of my exchange. Every night before bed I sit down and write about my day. This is one of my practices that I’m most proud of. It’s a fantastic way to take a second to look back at my day and my exchange and see how much me and my life has changed. I haven’t missed a day of journaling yet. So now actually being forced to sit down and write about EVERYTHING is proving difficult. It’s been one crazy ride. So I’ll try and start at the beginning.

My first month was a whirlwind. My first week I spent getting accustomed to the time change and all the little things that had to change immediately. Like having to push a switch to summon the hot water from the water heater for my showers. And eating a big meal together at lunch instead of dinner. And eating bread all the time. And putting my laundry down a chute as soon as I’m done wearing it. (I still haven’t been able to quite get the hang of that). The next two weeks were my language course in Dachau with the other exchange students. That was a blast, and I made some great friends. Then I had a week before school started, and before I knew it my first month was gone. My second month was mainly just getting used to school and trying to make friends, something that proved difficult. I ended up basically just making friends with girls because none of the boys wanted to talk to me. But that’s improving now too. I had a weekend in the German alps as well as a school field trip to an opera in Austria. We had another field trip to the Dachau concentration camp, something that was both fascinating and horrible but equally important to see.

School is very interesting here. The curriculum is practically impossible for me given that it’s in German and that its entirely new to me. But I think I learn more by merely observing the way of life and the minuscule differences between American and German students. Now I have a much greater perspective on the way we educate ourselves, and I personally find that much more valuable than what is in the lessons. Of course I say that now knowing that I will most likely have to repeat my sophomore year of high school and that none of my grades count, so we’ll see how I feel about it in a year when I’m in a grade surrounded by people two years younger than me.

Back on the topic of learning things that you can’t get from school, my German is coming along very well. From the very beginning I have only spoken German, and coming over with a strong base in the language set me up for instant success. I am so happy that I did that in the first place. It paid off. Now when the exchange students are together I can switch back and forth between English and German without a second thought. To all future outbounds, even though they haven’t been chosen yet, I’d say to begin with a language learning program as soon as you know your country. I started in the car ride back from the big reveal. You won’t regret it.

So back to my breakdown of my time here so far. After my first few weeks of school, before I knew it it was time for my first tour. My awesome host club paid for the trip, which was a week long tour in Berlin with the other exchange students. We saw the Bundestag, a couple of castles, the wall, the city, the Stasi museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and a bunch of other cool things. It was a blast. And now I’m back to my normal school life. Crazy that it’s almost been three months. Time flies. What an an amazing life it is.

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