See You Later, Alligator - My Family Travels

It was 7:30a.m. as I stepped out of the Frankfurt airport and took my first look at Germany.  A year earlier, I decided to participate in an exchange program offered by my German teacher.  After already hosting German students in the U.S., it was our turn to experience life in Germany.  Our host students met us at the airport and soon we were on our way to Annweiler.  And so began my two week exchange.  Giulia, my exchange student, and I picked up easily again right where we had left off after her visit last fall.  Of  course, we had stayed in contact so it wasn’t hard to get caught up.

I was quickly caught up in German life.  When we reached her house, I met her parents and her boyfriend.  Later that day, we went sightseeing to an old castle and a vineyard. The following day, we went to school.

As soon as I set foot in the school, the culture shock I had expected when first arriving at the airport finally set in.  Everyone was speaking German!  I froze, trying to remember everything I had learned in my four years of study.  Everyone was asking so many questions!  But I quickly overcame that, and was able to converse fairly easily.  The classes were interesting (once I understood what was going on), and I quickly made some new friends.

Those were the best two weeks of my life.  Giulia and I went on a whirlwind tour of the Rheinland Pfalz, where she lives, and still didn’t come close to seeing everything.  We even took a day trip to Strasbourg, France.  I learned so much in such a short time, and my German noticeably improved.  Plus, staying with Giulia and attending her school, I learned a lot about modern-day German culture and was able to pick up some slang so that my speech sounded more natural.

In exchange, the German students learned American slang and culture.  In fact, classes devoted to learning about the similarities and differences of the two cultures were offered at school during our stay.  We all had our favorite things that we learned.  Mine was learning some simple, modern German dances.  Giulia’s was learning American phrases.

All too soon, the two weeks were over and it was time to say goodbye.  There was a lot of hugging and crying; no one wanted to leave or be left behind.  Everyone promised to keep in touch and visit each other again.  Giulia and I hugged each other at least half a dozen times.  And then, just as I was getting on the bus, I heard her say her favorite American phrase, “See you later, alligator.”  I smiled through my tears and replied, “After while, crocodile.”  A couple of minutes later, the bus pulled away, but the last thing I saw was Giulia waving to me outside my window, tears streaming down her face.  Through the sadness, though, I kept thinking about two things: how much I had learned, and how much I was looking forward to learning more the next time Giulia and I saw each other again.  And we will.

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