Hello my dear
it almost marks 7 years now that I went for my highschool exchange year to the United states of America.
So 4 years ago i was 16 years old. I was a real teenager, starting to go out and having my first boyfriend. Well.. when I decided to apply for this opporutnity I did not have one. And actually I believe I wouldnt have done this, if my two best friends didnt sign up for it before me. Staying in Germany without them wasnt really an option 😀 So I talked to my parents on doing this (after they asked me about it before and me keep on telling them no) and they thought it was a great idea. So we started to look at organisations.
After a while we decided to go with Treff Sprachreisen. Its a German organisation and for me, everything went smoothly with them. They also offered a few days to one week stay at Washington DC before going to your hostfamily, so you can adjust to the time change and just the USA in general. Meeting other exchange students who go through the same and seeing a great city as well.
So then all the writing, printing pictures, filling out forms stuff started – once we sent all of this and Treff accepted me as a candidate the waiting begun. Everyday I was coming home from school straight to the mailbox checking if anything came. And then the day came:
I will never forget it (even thought I am not quite sure what day it was, but I believe around april) because I was sitting at my desk doing homework when my mom was yelling “Luise, its Carolyn on the phone” (one of my best friends, also going to the USA). And she just got her family on that day! So she was super excited telling me she will stay in Michigan from August on for the next 10 months.
Shortly after that I logged in to my FB account and there was this random new friend request: “Colleen F.” and guess where she came from: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! I was so sure this is my new hostmom. But then shortly after, two girls and another woman added me all with the same last name, but not the same as this Colleen person. So I decided to just wait on the first message I would get. And there it was:
I believe my oldest host sister “Shelby” was the first one to write me: Hey, I am your new sister!
And now it was official. I would stay with this family for 10 months! Colleen was my REP – representative person. So if I had any problems or anyhting, she would be the one I can contact.
Then the connecting, packing and excitment started. Fast forwarding now to the day I left:
Well actually I never cried a day before when I had to say “bye” to friends or so, but the day I actually left I was bolling my eyes out! 😀 I called my grandparents again to say bye and I am pretty sure they couldnt understand a word I was saying. And then at the airport: saying by to my parents? Worst thing I ever had to do. As mentioned earlier I also had my first boyfriend, but this really was a weird relationship living 300km or so apart and dated for like 2 months or so – but hey first love, so that was pretty bad too.
So for me, having the trip to Washington with the other exchange-kids-to-be was great! We had a blast in Washington and the people were amazing!
And then the day came I would fly to Michigan. Actually to Kalamazoo. What? You never heard of this? Its a famous city just like NCY or LA… hahaha just kididng not at all. But that is where my hostfamily would pick me up and drive to Hopkins. A little village, and my little I mean really really little.
I still know exactly the feeling I had arriving at the airport. Really didnt know how to behave, my host family was so kind and loving I immediatley felt welcommed and the rest of the year was the same.
But let me tell you: its not like the movies! I mean ofcourse, the highschool, the football games, the prom – all of this gets pretty close. But you are living in a normal family. So dont expect the year to be just fun and games. Just like living at home, there were taff times as well. Fighting, diagreeing – I mean what do you expect with 4 teenage girls? (we also had a chinese exchange kid staying with us). Poor host dad, being the only man in the house, with the dog 😛
And for me the hardest time was being homesick. I believe I never havent been homesick the whole 10 months. But there are different levels of it. The beginning was pretty hard for me. It was a different life for me. I was used to having a lot of different friends, going out with them wihtout needing a car, because we had great public transport, and in Michigan you always needed a car. So I was always hanging with my host sister, which was great, dont get me wrong. But just not what I was used to.
I definitly learned a lot from the echange year and I would recommend it to everyone. I am not the girl telling you: it was the time of my life – which for a lot of people it was. But for me it was more: the time i learned the most about myself. I learned to be on my own and not having your mom around for everything (eventhought I had the greates hostmom you could imagine) but it still is something else. I learned to appreciate more what i have at home, having a loving family, having them spending so much money for me to experience this, having them spending time on skyping with me when I was homesick again, just having someone to go to when those great 10 months will be over, and knowing they are super excited to have you back. And also having someone to come visit you in this other country, because it was worth spending the money for them, to see your other life you will be talking about for the rest of your life.
So let me tell you, this is a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldnt wanna have missed out on this for nothing! Thank you to everyone who made this sucha great time of my life, thanks for all the friends I made. Thank you to my hostfamily, who I can come visit whenever I want to (I actuall did so 2 years ago – told them a week earlier I would come, no problem at all!) and most of all:
Thank you for being blessed enough to not only having one home, but two places on this wonderful world to call my home and family.