This has been the fastest and slowest week of my life. It doesn’t look or feel too much different here than from home which is disconcerting because it still feels like people will turn and speak English to me. My host family is really nice but I’m having some trouble fitting into their family dynamic. I think mostly it is because I don;t know German and therefore can’t really be a part of their jokes. I have mostly just been running errands and helping cook which is fun but gets a little boring because I try not to stay in my room for very long. Luckily though, tomorrow I will start school so I’ll have something to do. I also think I am going to play soccer and sing in the school choir which are both after school activities. I will also be going to Bremen (the big city right next to Osterholz-Scharmbeck) and taking language lessons with all the other exchange students so that will be fun. A lot of things here are really funny, I was watching some German tv show the other day and there was a promotion for a new show that was going to be on…and it was Shaft, dubbed in German by the most feminine man’s voice you’ve ever heard. Also, the Harlem shake has apparently just become a thing here, German radio stations only play really mainstream American pop, and in the main part of my town there are a bunch of people who do caricatures of people for 10 dollars or so but every single one of their sample pictures (which are prominently displayed, I might add) are not good. They make the person look super depressed, and maybe that’s the look that sells but it would not make me want to buy one. So yeah I’ll write tomorrow about school and I’ll be making a Vlog showing off my town soon! :)
So I left my parents and brother at security last night and it was a pretty teary goodbye but we all got through it. I’ve already flown now for about 8 hours an I’m stuck in Detroit for another 8. My next stop is Amsterdam and then Bremen, Germany. I’m weirdly calm, but that might be due to the fact it still hasn’t quite sunk in that I am actually leaving the country. Well, I guess it will sink in soon. Next time I write I will actually be a real exchange student. In Germany.
I leave in 5 days- This surmises what I am about to go do…
I won’t know what anyone is saying or know if they’re even trying to say it to me…
I’ll ask myself ‘Isn’t anything possible anymore?’…
But then I’ll say ‘you know, this actually is pretty amazing!’…
Just when I think I’m fine, the holidays will roll around…
Eventually it will pass and I’ll realize that at last I can finally speak without thinking about which words I need to use…
And that wonderful feeling of fluency will last for the next couple of months…
Until I have to choose a return date and be faced with the prospect I actually have to leave…
Then the day will come when I actually have to pack up and go…
But, after a while, my life will get back to normal and I’ll be happier than ever living my life knowing that I have loved and been loved by so many great people…
And I’ll return to my regular lazy self that we’ve all come to love…
If anyone is interested here is what I packed for a whole year. This list is a little OCD, just excuse the crazy.
Germany Packing List
• Rotary Blazer
• Snacks for on the way
o Cliff Bars
o Dried/Fresh Fruit
o Unsalted Almonds
o Sour Candy
o Small bar of dark chocolate
• Host Gifts
• Sleep Mask\Travel Pillow
• Cash($ and foreign)
• Debit Card
• Camera/Camera Bag
• Phone/ Phone Charger
• Plug Adaptor
o Make-Up and Make-Up Bag
o Make up remover
o Face wipes (oil removing)
o Mouth Wash
o Lip Balm
o Hair Brush
o Dry Shampoo
o Face Wash/ Moisturizer
o Eye Drops
• A Full Change of Clothes
• Extra Socks
• Travel Documents
o Copy of Passport and Host Guarantee Form
o Copy of U.S. ID
o Copy of Itinerary
o List of all Relevant Phone Numbers
o Luggage Receipts Tags
o Picture of Checked Bags
• Clothes: (2 weeks’ worth)
2 pair skinny jeans
2 pair boot cut jeans
2 pair shorts
1 pair slacks
1 pairs leggings
2 PJ pants (1 short one long)
1 Pair Tights
2 Pair Running Shorts
2 Dressy Shirts
2 long sleeve shirts
4 Tank Shirts
3 Tank tops
1 Formal dress
2 Casual dress
14 Pair Socks/ Underwear
2 Sports Bras/ Regular Bras
1 Yellow pea coat
1 Rotary Jacket
1 Shoulder Bag
1 Back Pack (Carry-on)
1 Pair Tennis Shoes
1 Pair Flats
1 Pair Heels
1 Pair Vans
I’m not really sure how I did on packing. I think this is a reasonably small list, but hey no matter what it all fits into my suitcase and its not coming back out now, it’ll pop out like those snake in a can things. Anyways, 6 Days to go. <3
I am 16. In many cultures I would been seen as a grown woman by now. Historically, I could be married to a 40 year old fat man who I’m not entirely sure wouldn’t be a drunk, enjoy my so fulfilling job as housewife, and have a daughter to care for until the day I can finally find her a suitable husband who will hopefully give enough of a dowry to support my husband and I until we die (fingers crossed she’s pretty!). I could even today be denied the right of education, suitable healthcare, and fair wages as I work for a living to support my family. My life could have already started, but sitting here in my securely upper middle class house in America, it’s not a surprise I haven’t been pushed into an early adulthood.
Therefore, I am facing the scariest reality I have ever been faced with. It is hard to comprehend what I am actually about to go do. Everything seems so abstract, I will say goodbye to my friends and family and home, leave everything behind and fly to Germany, be welcomed in by strangers, become family with those strangers, become fluent in another language, make new friends, be welcomed in by 2 more families, have a whole new alien life, and then say goodbye to that. It seems like an incredible feat to accomplish having never really been outside of the country, and it is.
You see, I am 16. I the most independent person I know, yet in the face of this situation I am scared and freaked and so excited but so sad I just want to break down and cry. These emotions really can”t be captured, I try not to think about it too much because it’s so overwhelming. Sometimes I think “Why did I ever sign up for this?’ and others ‘How on earth can I do this?’ but I have to remind myself that I’ve got to play the long game. I have to think about what I will gain. How much you grow from experiences like these and how precious few there are.
I think the best advise I would have for someone preparing for exchange is to write down your reason for going and tape it on your door, another on your wall, up on your fridge, put it in your diary, in your planner, and in your phone, even write it on the back of your hand if you need to, but look at it everyday and every night until you realize that your doubts are meaningless.
I have 9 days to go. There’s no turning back now. As freaked as I am, I’m as ready as I can be and there’s no reason to be anything but optimistic about the situation. So you know what? It’ll be great. I’ll be great. And it will all work out for the better in the end.
P.S. As per my blog title, I will be sure to throw in some lighter material in the future. I haven’t read anyone’s blog who discussed what it felt like prior to departure so I felt this was pretty important. :)
So officially I am going to Germany. I will be living in the town of Osterholz-Scharmbeck, right outside of Bremen, Germany.
The town has a population of about 150,000 people and I will be attending the local high school IGS (short for some seriously long German name). Oh and I’ll bike to school, even in winter, that will be exciting.
My first host family seems really nice! The father is Andreas Topp, the mother is Sabine topp and they have 4 kids: a 19 year old boy who will be going off to college about a month after I get there, a 17 year old girl who will be a senior next school year, a 15 year old girl who will be going to Canada and I will be taking her place, and a 13 year old boy.
OH, I LEAVE IN A MONTH. That’s insane. July 31st. But I’m excited :) I get to look forward to some pretty great stuff :)
1. Why did you want to become an exchange student?
Well, I always thought it’d be cool but one day some people came to my school who were from Rotary and they talked about their experience. They gave everyone a “short form application” or the form that you turn in to let Rotary know you are interested. I talked to the lady afterwards and I was really excited about it. I never really had a plan before that day on actually becoming an exchange student. My first thought on why I wanted to do it because the people who came back seemed so confident and cool. I also want to do it because I love traveling and experiencing new cultures. It just seems like such a great experience to have. I honestly don’t know why you wouldn’t want to study abroad.
2. What is the process for becoming an exchange student?
Rotary has a pretty long process. You first fill out the “short form application”, they then contact you on a time for you to be interviewed. Your interview is like 20 minutes and there is a panel of past exchange students, YEOs, an other rotary people who ask you questions like “why do you want to study abroad,” and things like “How will you be a good ambassador of your country,” and even the age-old “what is your greatest strength.” They then contact you to tell you whether or not your accepted and you attend a winter orientation. They give you more specific info there and you get assigned your countries. In most districts, you get to pick your country, but in mine they pick for you. After that you start learning your host language and then 3 months later there is Spring orientation where they go over how to fill out visa paperwork, deal with culture shock, and specific requirements of you country. Then you actually have to fill out all your paperwork, which varies by country, and in August you leave.
3. Why did you pick Rotary?
Rotary is like a big family. They really take care of their kids and make sure they stay safe. There are a lot more rules, but those are there for your own protection. They also cost a lot less. For my district there is a flat fee which is $6,900. This is super cheap compared to other organizations and that includes airfare, insurance, and a stipend which is usually like $100 month.
4. Will you go to school there?
Yes. But you’re not really expected to do much. You have to try and actually attend school, but no one keeps that great of tabs on your academic standings. Kids who come to the U.S. have much more rigorous rules because they are required to have passing English skills before they get here. I don’t really have to have any German or French skills.
5. Will you get any credits?
Maybe. I have no idea. I’ll probably get elective credit but nothing else other than that. My school has been really unhelpful in that sense. In reality, most kids don’t, but your exchange year is so worth it, even if you have to take an extra semester or even a year of school.
6. Will you get homesick/Isn’t it scary?
Yes and Yes. I will be ridiculously homesick but you get over it. Rotary gives you tips to help you with that, one is that you shouldn’t talk to your parents after you get there for at least 2 weeks. It helps you get acclimated. And also yes, it is scary leaving home, but you’re going to leave the next sometime anyways, so why no t make an amazing experience out of it anyways.
7. How much stuff will you bring?
I’m planning on bringing one large rollable suitcase with about 2 or 3 weeks worth of clothes. I’m then going to put that inside a slightly larger suitcase so that I can have two on my way home. I’m jut going to bring a backpack as my carry on. I really don’t want to bring that much stuff, and in reality, 2 weeks of clothes would be enough for anyone. I’ll make a video or post of my packing list/me packing later in the summer so watch out for that.