June 12, 2012
MSP Airport, Security Checkpoint
I was crying. The trip to Germany hadn't even begun, but my eyes were wet as my friends and I waited in the long queue to go through security. Though it would be my second time in Germany, the first time having been two years prior with my parents and older brother, I was nervous. The only difference between the trips–and the reason for my tears–being that this time I'd be on my own once everyone left the airport and train stations. I knew this trip would be a good experience for me, helping me to grow up and become more independent. This would be a very important excursion, since I would be heading off to college in just one year. I was glad I wouldn't be leaving for college already, feeling that I wasn't yet ready.
My plan was to fly first to Toronto and then on to Frankfurt with the rest of the group from my school's German program, and then to fly back home with them at the end of four weeks. In the time between flights, I had arranged visits with three families, two of whom I'd met on my first trip to Germany. I would begin by staying seven days with my penpal of four years and her parents in Bergheim, a small town thirty minutes from Cologne. The next nine days would be spent in Cologne with my exchange student from just three months before, her two younger sisters and their parents. While staying in Bergheim and Cologne, I was permitted to attend a few classes in my friends' schools. and it was very interesting to compare my high school in America to their gymnasiums in Germany, with their daily changing schedules and groβe Pause, or long breaks, between classes. I also had the valuable lesson enforced that being true to yourself is something that should make you proud. Being faced with people and activities I didn't agree with, I chose different routes and did what I wouldn't be afraid to tell my parents.
In Cologne, a city of one million, I was surprised and enlightened by the masses of people from so many different backgrounds. Though their cultures set them apart, the city they live in and share unites them. After Cologne, however, came possibly the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of my trip: an hour-and-a-half train ride with myself and my suitcases, from the Hauptbahnhof in Cologne to the Hauptbahnhof in Wiesbaden–including a transfer in nearby Mainz. Something on the trip that did not quite work out was handling my luggage on my own. I was very fortunate to meet some kind people on the train rides who willingly helped me with the bags. The final eight days of my trip were easier: I would be staying in Wiesbaden with the first exchange student I hosted two years before, along with her younger sister and her exchange student from California, and their parents. Here, I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet an older German woman who taught me to not be afraid of trying things like speaking German, because if you never try, you never learn.
Throughout the entire trip, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with new people and old friends, learning more German, and becoming more prepared for the years ahead.
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