Semi Finalist 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Last summer I left my family and friends to study abroad for a semester in Germany. I left in July and upon arrival in Frankfurt I was joined by eight other American teenagers doing the same program.
Last summer I left my family and friends to study abroad for a semester in Germany. I left in July and upon arrival in Frankfurt I was joined by eight other American teenagers doing the same program. We boarded a train and for an hour rode to a smaller nearby city. We met our host families at the train station. These were our arrival families we were to stay with for a month during our intensive language/orientation camp. Classes started two days later and we were in for a treat. Our classes german proficiency ranged anywhere from one year to four. And it was intense. We had language class from 8 A.M. to noon and then orientation from one to three everyday. The days started whizzing by and after numerous trips to nearby Cologne with new friends I had made from my language camp, and grill outs, I wasn't ready to leave when the end of August came. I boarded a train once again only to travel alone for five hours up north to Kiel. It was here I met my permanent host family. I can still picture it clear as day – my youngest host sister, Nele (8), was wearing a Hard Rock Cafe New York City t-shirt, my older host sister, Inken (17), ran up to me and gave me a hug, my brother, Lasse (14), waved sheepishly, and both my host parents, Torsten and Eike, gave me a hug and said greetings to me in english. English speaking didn't last long in the household, and I was prepared for that. They started speaking German to me a day later, and if I completely didn't understand something they would translate for me. After the first month of processing and translating and keeping up with the crazy fast speaking, I was starting to get the hang of speaking German fluently. School was a whole different story.. I could hardly understand any of the homework or things they were going over in class, and I was blessed (for the most part) with very gracious, understanding teachers who really didn't mind if I didn't turn in every assignment or get an A on a test. As long as I paid attention and gave effort, I passed their class. Half-way through my exchange in October, I met numerous other exchange students that actually lived in my city! It was so relieving to know other kids were there that I could talk to and share my experience with. We went bowling, out a couple nights, took a couple trips to Kiel, and did a bunch of other random goofy things to enjoy our time with each other. I made some really great friends on my exchange, including Carl Nakken, from Norway. We talk a couple of times a week still and he's coming to New York this summer! My exchange changed my perspective to not only life in America, but also life in another country. Meeting new people and adapting to totally new customs (like eating with my elbows on the table – who would've thought!?!?) helped change the way I look at a lot of things now. For example, I have decided I want to further pursue my German education in college. I would like to major in German to teach seconday education, and eventually get my master's so I can teach college level German. My exchange definitely changed my life, even if it was just for a semester. I would recommend it as one of the things you must do before you graduate from high school or college!
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