Study Abroad to Germany - My Family Travels

It is a rare occurrence that a person is able to time a dramatic shift in life. It is a truly unexplainable feeling to be so certain that the comfort and routine of everyday life will be taken away and replaced by the ambiguity of what change will bring.

A voice came over the loudspeaker of the train, ‘Meine Damen und Herren, nachste Haltestelle: Gettingen. Bitte, alle an der rechten Seite aussteigen.’ The time was now 13:37 and this was it. This was that indescribable moment where instinct takes over and all sense and solid footing are lost. The conductor had just announced the commencement of my journey.

I was about to embark on a seven-week home-stay exchange program to Germany. In only two minutes, the train would arrive and take me to my foreign family. In only two minutes, I would begin to change from the typical American teenager to a member of German society.

It is at these times that the body and mind do not function in coherence. My mind told me six years of honors-level German study should prepare me for immersion into the society. Studying for national exams, writing papers and being tested orally should make basic foreign communication an easy task.

However, my shaking hands and rapid breathing told me otherwise. I found myself fabricating possibilities, both dreadful and optimistic, about the outcome of my approaching introduction. I began frantically rehearsing lines of elementary German, hoping they would stick with me in times of trial.

As my fears beat rapidly in my heart and flashed continuously through my mind, a sudden realization stalled for enough time to startle me with its blatancy. In the next seven weeks, I would be constantly inundated with new faces, names and figures, and somehow from these figures would naturally form friendships and relationships. I comforted myself in realizing that the responsibility of my German counterparts was not to critique grammatical errors or expect perfection, but rather simply see my personality in its truest sense.

I came to the realization that in any new setting, uncomfortable situations would undoubtedly present themselves. Crucial to success is the ability to objectively comprehend the entirety of any situation rather than viewing it through a fearful myopic perspective. Yielding to fear often hinders the expression of ones true self and it is rather through composure that true personality is revealed and passion developed.

Hindsight, in fact, is quite accurately a 20/20 perspective. I now find it comforting to think back on the warm reception from the family and friends with which I developed a life-long bond.

One minute left.

It was during these last pivotal seconds that natural instinct and rational thought began to function as one; the body and mind began to work in that long sought-for coherence. As the train pulled into the station, I remember thinking to myself, ‘No one is demanding perfection; no one is demanding success. These are qualities you must strive to achieve for yourself and simply hope for the best. Here we go!’

13:39: Arrival.


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