If I were to sum up my exchange so far in 2 words they would be “unexpected” and “fulfilling”. The Rotarians and Rebounds (people who went on exchange the previous year) attempt to prepare you for this difficult / amazing experience. They tell you that you’ll have the best and worst times of your life. They tell you that you’ll get homesick, but by the end you won’t want to come home. Then they also tell you that it’s different for everyone so you never know how you will feel till you are already there. The word “unexpected” covers a lot of what I feel. I came here trying not to have expectations but it’s normally out of your control. Expectations like, ‘I’ll have so many friends.’, ‘I’ll be fluent in the language by the end.’, and, ‘My host families will be like a second family.’. All these things have happened more or less but not in the way I expected. Looking back I’m happy about how it turned out because it made my exchange the way it is and has shaped me into who I am.
The word “fulfilling” because I have accomplished the one thing I set out to do “go someplace, where I know nothing and no one and become comfortable, while experiencing it’s wonders”. So far I have had 2 host families. I have met endless amazing people. I have learned a new culture. I have learned and will continue to learn about this country and it’s people. I have traveled to Paris with 107 other exchange students. And I have got to share some of my new world with my Mom.
I always remember hearing how the last few months of exchange are the best and go the fastest. I think I have started that stage. On the first of April I started my Germany tour for almost 3 weeks and in this time we will see 24 cities. Then I get back and have 10 days till I leave for my Europe tour for almost 3 weeks as well. I will be seeing the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and Italy. I know these last months will fly by because of how much fun they’ll be and I can’t believe it’s already been over 9 months.
Germany compared to other countries isn’t that different from Canada. Most of the differences I have seen or experienced are like the difference between a farm or small town and a big city because that’s a huge difference within itself.
When you think of Germany you probably think of Lederhosen and Dirndl which are the names of the traditional clothing and are only worn at Oktoberfest and festivals. You must also think of beer. Of course. One event when everyone will have a beer in their hand is when there is a soccer game. In my city there are fans everywhere with the team’s shirts, and scarfs, screaming “DY-NA-MO, DY-NA-MO” (which is the name of the team) even when the game’s over. It’s a big part of the city and the couple games I have been to were amazing and I will always remember the feeling of being part of something and how the air was filled with electricity.
History is very apparent here and in everyone’s mind making them cautious and not the most open people. Still today the difference between West and East Germany can be seen. I’ve heard many personal stories while being here and heard the things people had to go through making it feel closer to home because it wasn’t too long ago.
A couple other things I’ve really noticed about this new country I call home is how healthy they are. Everyone exercises and more or less eat healthy. The recycling is more intense. There is 4 different sections, I still haven’t quite got the hang of it. Also school is a lot more demanding, it’s one of the hardest systems in the world. There also isn’t a lot of open space but you probably could figure that one out yourself. With roughly 81 million people and being 28 times smaller than Canada with its mere 36.5 million therefore there isn’t a lot of room within Germany. So when you come for a visit there is lots to see and not so much driving. When you get here there is some typical German cuisine that you must try for the full experience. SAUSAGE! When in Berlin go with the currywurst, personally I really enjoy it. When in Bavaria Weißwurst is a must try.
They way I’ve felt about going home has fluctuated between, “I’m ready to go home right now!” and, “I’ll just stay here forever.” Normally changing daily. There are things I can’t wait to do again when I get back. Like eat one of Tim Horton’s donuts with an Ice Cap. Playing cards with my family. Reuniting with my friends. And eating a good portion of Hearn’s ice cream because in Germany every time I’ve gotten ice cream it has been the smallest scoop I have ever seen. So I’m looking forward to the bigger ice cream portions.
Actually come to think of it the first thing I want to do when I get back is sleep for a full day. Then have a Harry Potter marathon. While eating ice cream.
Okay so if you are planning a trip, maybe this helps prepare you a bit or at least entertained you. Just keep in mind Germans are very direct and stare a lot. But this experience has opened my eyes to so many new things. There is nothing about my choice to go on exchange that I regret and it couldn’t be possible without the St. Mary’s Rotary Club, so thank you! Hope you enjoyed reading this and plan to travel because the rewards are extraordinary.
(If you are interested in becoming a Rotary Youth Exchange student or in hosting an exchange student please contact Mark Oliver via email at firstname.lastname@example.org)