Vale, Outbound to Germany

9 months in Berlin and just 1 month left until I fly back home! As I approach the end of my exchange, my heart is heavy. Of course I am excited to return home to my family and friends but at the same time, I'm leaving an incredible exchange life behind. The thought of saying goodbye at the airport brings tears to my eyes. However, I still have 30 days left of adventure!

This month was even better than the last, filled with lots of traveling and adventure.

Right after my Eurotour, I had the blessing to have my parents and sisters come visit me in Berlin. They stayed 10 days and it was filled with so much excitement and sightseeing. They got to meet my host families, my school friends, and see the city that they have only heard of on the phone when I share things with them. My dad had been to Berlin years ago, as the wall was still up, so this time was completely different and still a total new experience for him. My mom had never been to Berlin before so everything was new for her as well as for my little sister, Vicky. Valentina came to surprise me as well and had the chance to visit Berlin for the 3rd time. We traveled with trains and it was so cool to show them how everything worked and how they depended on me completely to get everywhere, something I used to do back at home. It was also incredible to show them how much German I learned and them asking me to translate certain things for them when they couldn't communicate with someone.For 3 days, we all got to travel to Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, where George, my Rotarian, invited me to go to the Karlsbad. It was incredible that my parents were able to tag along because we all had the chance to visit such a beautiful city that none of us had seen before. Karlsbad is quite an elite ball that can only be attended by personal invitation, so for this to have been my first ball ever was outstanding. I got to meet such powerful people and even what's left of European Royalty. I danced the entire weekend. Friday night was a cocktail dress party, Saturday morning was a horse race and at night was the Grand Ball, and Sunday morning was the church and brunch followed by a themed ball; Carnival in Venice. Everything was prepared months ago and finally the moment arrived to wear all the exciting costumes! Unfortunately, my parents couldn't stay with me the rest of my exchange so it was time for them to fly back home. After they left, I went on traveling through Europe, which was also a huge blessing.

My second host family invited me to go to Denmark with them because of a confirmation from a family member. We stayed directly in Copenhagen and it was a blast. We went shopping, sightseeing, and had the opportunity to go to the oldest amusement park in Europe, TIVOLI. It was incredible how many people could speak fluent English in Copenhagen. Now you might think, "oh everyone speaks English, it's a universal language." Well, the key word here is everyone and it isn't true, which came as a small shock to me when I arrived in Berlin. In fact, here in Berlin, not everyone can speak great English. People that work in supermarkets or areas that are not touristic, speak barely any English, which forced me to really learn the language. Even in school, very few people actually wanted to practice their English, they found it easier to speak German to me, even if I didn't understand. In Denmark, everyone, everywhere could understand and speak English which made things easier for the family and me. The following weekend, George, the famous Rotarian that I constantly write about, invited me to go to the Netherlands for yet another ball; The Tulipp Ball, located in Amsterdam. It was such an exciting trip for me because I had always wanted to visit Amsterdam. It's culture is so intriguing and its history is so fascinating. It exceeded my expectations. The best thing was the amount of time I was able to spend there, a total of 5 days and I got to see so much. I saw a total of 4 museums: The World Press Photo Museum, the Heritage Museum, the Diamond Museum, and finally the Stedelijk Museum. I also got to see the entrance to Anna Franks house. Unfortunately, all the tickets were sold out for the entire month so I didn't have a chance to go in however, I have another reason to visit such a beautiful city again! There was no way to not take a boat tour in the famous canals, so that was the first thing we did when we got there. It was also really cool to go with George since he is originally from Amsterdam. Just listening to him speak with others in Dutch was so cool! An interesting fact about George is that his family began the clothing company C&A and he ran it a few years ago. Now he is retired and that's why he has the time to travel and has given me the opportunity to travel with him and other friends. His last name definitely opened doors on my trip to Amsterdam and I will never forget this trip. Another country to check off my bucket list. The past 2 weekends I've been in Berlin and yet I haven't stopped with my adventure. George picked me up from school in his Caterham, the car he spent a year building. It was incredible for all of my classmates to see him in this toy car, and I just casually getting in. Such an adrenaline rush to be honest. In Berlin, when someone has an exotic car, you drive down the famous shopping road called Kudamm, and that's exactly what we did. It was something I hadn't experienced before and something I would repeat everyday if I could. What made it even more unforgettable was the fact that we got in and for the first 5 minutes, it was beautiful outside... Warm, sunny, and a bit of breeze. In a matter of seconds, it started to rain, and as you will see in the picture below, we didn't have a roof to protect us from the cold water. What was crazy was that it didn't just rain, it started hail. I had never seen hail before, or even been outside to actually feel it, but seeing smalls balls of ice on my shorts left me speechless. I took lots of videos while getting soaked. We couldn't stop laughing which also made it such a cool bonding experience. Another interesting passion I've acquired on my exchange is the Opera. I went once again with my counselor, Jan, to see a classic Opera piece called La Traviata. It was actually a Christmas present from him and we finally used the tickets! I cried I enjoyed it so much. The emotions and singing were incredible and left me in awe. Now I know what I'll be searching for back in Florida.

So these past 3 weekends have also been about sleepovers and meeting new exchange students from other organizations... as well as saying goodbye to old ones. And now it's really hitting me that my exchange year is almost done. But with 30 days left, who knows what more adventure is in store!

Click HERE to read more about Vale and all her blogs