Damn. It's been 9 months since my last post and honestly: I am sorry. I remember when I was a hopee and I know that I really hated it when people didn't post regularly. I'm sorry for being just that type of exchteange student but I think a lot of people will understand this once they are abroad too. But I am still sorry. Today I was really bored (it's Valentines Day and I'm sitting at home), so I went on my blog and I saw that my last post had a new comment and there was one follower asking whether I have a conclusion of my exchange year. Of course I do and I wanna share it with you right now.
At first I want to tell you that doing an exchange year really was the best decision I did in my life. This year was just incredible and I get tears in my eyes when I think about it. Living in the US is amazingly different from living in Germany and for me, Americans have an amazing way of life. I don't know if I'm able to describe what makes their mentality and this country so awesome, but I will try. But I guess that's also something you will only fully understand once you experienced it.
When I think about my American life right now, I feel like I was a completely different person then. I feel like I'm watching a movie in my head when I think about it. It's a beautiful movie. A movie that makes me cry.
There are lots of thing that makes an exchange year so amazing. At first there are the people that support you throughout the year. I think those people are also one of the best things because they will stay. Before I left I never thought I could ever be able to be so comfortable with another family than my own. But now I can honestly say that I do have a second family and I'm sure that this will last for a life time. I love my American family the way they are because they love me the way I am. I am so thankful for them. Who else has a second family that accepts you the way you are and loves you for who you are? I think I am a really lucky person because of that.
A thing I definetely love about the US is high school. I'm sure each of you has watched a typical high school movie before, right? Well yeah, nobody started singing in the middle of class and starting a musical performance but besides that it wasn't even that different. Okay, to be honest one thing was different: In movies American teenagers are often portrayed as intolerant and the students are divided into popular and unpopular people. To be honest, at my school it wasn't like that at all. Of course, there were people that were known by more people than others (you won't find a place in this world where it's different) but I didn't experience bullying or anything like that at all. There were lots of weird people at my school but people didn't care. People didn't care whether you are fat, ugly, having a weird style or interested in different things than they are. I've never met such tolerant people in my whole life. People came to school with sweat pants and sometimes in their pj's but it didn't matter. What mattered is your character.
It is true that Americans are more open-minded than Europeans. There were so many times when I was in the bath room or just walking through school when people walking next to me just randomly started talking to me. I mean what makes you happier than getting a compliment from a random person? That's really something I miss about America. Those little tiny things that made life better.
Another thing that's true about high school movies is the school spirit. I think I'll never forget the spirit and I think I will always have that spirit in my heart too. It's so amazing how much Americans love their school. I'm not saying they love going to school because I don't think anybody does. I am saying that they are proud of their school. Most of them are very into charity events. American high schools organize a lot of things like Breakfast with Santa, a day where a teacher dresses up as Santa and takes picture with preschoolers or selling candy grams for Valentines Day (a tradition which I brought to my school this year:)). Those events are all organized and done by student which I think is amazing. In Germany we can't even create our own yearbook, no it's done by the teachers (which is responsible for it looking like a piece of ....). I sometimes wish German schools were a little bit more like high school. I can't find a fitting American word to describe school life in Germany but there is a German one: trostlos. Maybe saddening can describe it a little bit. School life in Germany is saddening, I think. It doesn't get you excited, there is nothing you can look forward to but graduating and finally getting out. That's sad, isn't it? Shouldn't we enjoy our youth and have great memories about our time in school? It makes me really sad that it's not like that and I'm not saying that school in Germany isn't fun at all, we also have laughs and it's great to talk to friends but I think that's it. That's a reason why I'm beyond happy that I got to experience high school. Because now I know that it's not everywhere like that. That there are places in this world where school life isn't saddening .
I know that my post makes America look all fancy and amazing and like the best place in this world and Germany look like a sad, tiring place. Of course, America has also got some negative things and Germany has got some good ones. Most people say that living in America is neither better nor less good than living in Germany, but I don't agree with that. If I compare my general mood when I was living in America and my general mood when living in Germany I have to admit that I was just happier when I was in America.
- A little note for all of those who read until this point: I didn't think my post would get that long and I haven't even written half of the things I actually want to tell you, so yeah... sorry.. -
But right now I want to tell you about my first months back in Germany..
I'm gonna start with the day when I left the US and the first day back.
I remember exactly how I felt the day when I left. To be honest I don't know whether I didn't feel anything at all or everything at once because it was just weird. I was calm, I wasn't excited and I wasn't directly sad either, I just really didn't realize that it would be over in just a few hours. I spent the day with my host family, watching a last horror movie with my sister, cooking an egg sandwich for my Dad for the last time and packing my suit case. While driving to the airport I slowly started to realize it but I didn't want to let the tears come out yet. It fully hit me when I had to say goodbye to my host family. I think nobody around me understood how I felt that moment. I cried and cried and cried and everytime I thought ''I won't see them for a long time'' and ''It's over'' I just started crying again. I actually cried during security check and during check in. These last hours were just awful and horribly sad. These hours I didn't even get excited about seeing my family again. I was just sad. I got a little bit better when I sat in the plane.
10 hours after experiencing the saddest moment of my life I experienced the happiest moment in my life. I remember exactly that I wasn't really excited when I got out of the plane. I couldn't believe I would see my family again in just a few minutes. I neither realized that I was back in Germany. When I was getting my luggage I met a girl which had also spent a year in the US. I felt sorry for her because she was even sadder than me and after getting our luggage we walked to the exit together. I didn't know where my family was at that point (Frankfurt airport is kind of big...) and we just walked up some stairs hoping it would be the right way. I was carryiing some of her luggage because she had too much. I was still talking to her when I took the last steps of the stairs and my family came into my sight. The first thing I noticed was that all of them had red eyes full of tears. I dropped her luggage and dropped mine too and just ran right into the arms of my father. Even though I wasn't really excited before simply because I didn't realize it, I started crying the moment I saw them. It was a magic moment. This time I cried tears of happiness. I will never forget this moment.
The first day back went by so fast because I had so many stories to tell and I also was beyond tired and in the evening there was a welcome back surprise party organized by my amazing family.
The first weeks were weird but beautiful. I was happy to meet a lot of people again and even though I also cried a lot during these days, I enjoyed my summer and I especially enjoyed being with my family again. Almost every night I cuddled with my parents on the couch just watching TV and being happy to be with them. The first month back is weird, but nice. Everything is so familiar but strange at the same time.
For me, the months after were really hard. Really hard. It was hard for me to deal with school and I also had kind of a culture shock (which I didn't have in America.. which I think is kind of ironic). I cried so many times and guys I want to be honest with you: I've lost some of my best friends too. There were times my Mom said: ''I wish you would've waited until after school to spend a year abroad so you wouldn't be so sad right now.''. I understood her point but I didn't agree and I still don't. It's true that I was often really sad and having hard times because I missed everything so much but I know it was definetely worth it. And now we're slowly getting to the end..
My year abroad truly changed my life in so many positive ways. My relationship with my family is better than ever before. I learned to appreciate so many things I hadn't appreciated before which influenced our relationship in such a good way, I think it couldn't be much better.
Through living with an American family I didn't know until 2 days before I left, I've learned so many things. I didn't only learn and improve things like adapting, appreciating, independence and tolerance but I also got to know a foreign culture, a new amazing way of life and even better people which I call my family now.
I think, for me, spending a year abroad was the best decision I've ever made. It was totally worth all of the tears, all of the work as well as the money (which was quite an amount as every exchange student knows) we spent. It will forever be the greatest gift my parents gave to me and I am sure it will influence my future in many positive ways too. I think for everybody who dreams of spending a year abroad (the country doesn't even matter) it will be one of the best years of their life. Of course it also depends on host family and some other factors, but it mostly depends on YOU! In the end it doesn't matter how great or bad your family is, how big or small your school and whether people come up to you or not, you have to have a positive attitude and the courage to speak up when something isn't going right, you have to be adapting but at the same time you have to recognize when it's too much to adapt to. I know how it is to be an exchange student and I want to give you some last advice which I think will help you a lot:
Don't compare your year with other exchange student's years. Every exchange year is individual. Every high school and every family is different. It's possible that everything I wrote above about my high school maybe doesn't apply for yours. It's natural and it's okay that some exchange students might experience different things than you. And here's the point: Their exchange year might be different. It's not better and it's not worse, it's just different. It is up to YOU whether you like your exchange year the way it is. You don't? Go and change it. You don't get along with your host family (I am talking about the chemistry, not about having some small arguements)? Talk to your LC and try to find a solution! You might feel alone at times but remember that there are always a lot of people you can talk to like your LC, your organization etc.. Don't give up and don't be shy if you don't get along with something. You get this chance once in a lifetime, so live it to the fullest. :)
And remember to keep a smile on your beautiful face! I've learned that smiling and being friendly and polite opens a lot of doors and makes many things easier. :)
I hope you got a small insight into my exchange year and how I experienced it, I hope it gives you hope and doesn't make you doubt your decision.
If YOU really want to spend a year abroad, do it, you won't regret it. :)