My city, Omaha, Nebraska and the city, Braunschweig, Germany are sister cities. There is an exchange program, where high school students from Braunschweig stay with students in Omaha for three weeks. The German American Society in Omaha matches American students with German students. During the three weeks all of the German exchange students get together to tour our city and learn about American culture. One of the best parts is when the American students travel during the summer to stay with the German exchange partner for three weeks. This is the American students chance to see what it is like for a teenager who lives in Germany. Getting hands-on life experiences of what a German student goes through helps participants understand their culture.
I signed up to be a part of the exchange. I was anxious to meet my new friend who would be staying with my family and I. My exchange sister was Janine, she was sixteen years old and a delight. While she was here I wanted to show her American way of life. We did everything we could fit in to the three weeks. We went to the malls, sporting events, parties. We had an sleepover, made s’mores, went to the zoo, and went bowling. After the three weeks were up we were as close as sisters. Saying goodbye wasn’t too sorrowful because it wouldn’t be long before we were together in Germany.
When I arrived in Germany, Janine and her family were waiting with signs and flowers. Janine’s family consisted of a older sister, a younger brother, and her parents. They welcomed me into their home. Janine, her older sister, and her mother all spoke English; so there wasn’t much of a language barrier. During the weekdays the other American students and I went to the Volkswagen factory, a steal factory, the mountains, the list was endless. The group and I also had the oppurtunity to visit Berlin. Janine and her family showed me around Braunschweig. We went to the local market where they buy their food. Germans buy groceries almost twice a day. They like fresh food and they don’t have large refrigerators. I also spent a day at Janine’s school. In Germany the school days are much shorter, they don’t serve lunch. Because, of the shorter days German students only get a few weeks off for summer. Janine and her family took me to a castle that was built in medieval times. All the rooms in the castle were fashioned the way they had been during King Otto’s rule. History was brewing out of the castle. Before I knew it my three weeks were over. Janine and her family were so kind; my stay in Germany couldn’t have been better. I said goodbye and took all my precious memories with me.
I believe staying with a exchange student in a foreign country is ten times better than going alone. Living with the family and being treated like one of the siblings creates a life long bond with the whole family. I got to eat their meals at their table and join in their family celebrations. Having a German heritage, made my going there full of wonder about my past, ancestors and the German way of life. I learned more about their culture and how we are more a like than we are different. This experience is always going to be imprinted in my heart.
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