Im closing my eyes. Flashbacks start. One minute I’m in the airport crying and not having a clue in the world. Parents and friends hug me. I look at my big suitcase.I don’t know if I’m shaking from excitement or I’m simply mortified.
Another blink. I’m running from a one terminal to another because I have a stopover and my plane was late. I’m alone. I feel scared.
Blink. I’m in the train. I took the wrong train. God help me.
Another blink. Im in the classroom. Its my first day of school and everyone is mumbling this weird language that i don’t understand. What are they saying? I look around and see only happy and welcoming faces. Some girl asks me to sit next to her and I choke of emotion trying to thank her. The teacher comes. That grumpy old kind of teacher heads towards me. Its the english class. My luck. “Who are you?”, he asks. I look at him rather grateful because I finally understand a word. “I’m an exchange student” I say.
Another blink. Im eating something weird looking but it tastes good. It’s kind of an orange soup with sausages and potatoes in it. Traditionally food? Yes, yes indeed.
Reader, can you keep up or should we go slower? Are you curios yet? Where am I?
Another blink. I walk the corridors through the music class. I think I fell asleep and woke up in Hogwarts or this school is a true replica. The music teacher says I got some voice over there. I still need translation by the way. I make my way into the chorus and start to feel less like a stranger.
Blink. We’re reading a play in german about a lady and her little dog. Why in german? because I’m Germany, that’s why. How did I end up here anyway? Oh, I remember. I was fifteen when those volunteers came and told us about an exchange year in a country we would like to see so, obviously, from all the crazy people around there I said “ Well, what could possibly happen?”. Next thing you know I’m at this interview which I passed, obviously and then I found myself with 21 other lost high school students from around the country in the airport. And from there you know what happened.
Blink. “Moin Moin” I hear. It’s kind of a “Hello” around here in the north of Germany, close to the Denmark boarder where we speak “Plat Deutsch”. It sounds funny like the boing boing sound the ping pong balls make. It’s cold. Too cold for me. I wear two pairs of socks with a jacket and a hat. They only wear a T-Shirt. And they look at me like I’m the crazy one.
Blink. I’m in the cafeteria with my friends. That’s right. I managed to make some friends. They’re really nice and they’re helping me to feel like home. They said we have this party Saturday and we meet up to someone’s place to drink something and then we’re going to the club. I said ok. Blink. I drank to much and I’m a little bit dizzy but I’m having fun. The world doesn’t seem so big right now.
Another blink. It’s my ninth horseback riding lesson. I started when I came here. I’m getting really good at it and I learned how to take care of the horse before and after the lessons. It makes me feel warm and safe. I feel I get along with the horses and I understand them better than the people. I like Rony. He’s a special one. I think he likes me. He always listens to me.
Another blink. Half of the semester is over. Teachers are encouraging me. I’m starting to get the hang of it. German is not that bad after all.
Blink. I’m in Berlin for two weeks with my friends and some other exchange students. We go to the Berlin Philharmonic and have front row seats. It feels magical. Someone pinch me. Blink. It’s 2 am and we’re walking the streets of Berlin singing in the subway for some money. People stare. My german got better. I’m not overthinking it anymore, I just let the words flow. It feels better. Easier.
Blink. Tears. I’m back from the seminar, packing my stuff. I’m moving out to another family. I’m not getting along too well with this one. We fight a lot. Well, they fight, I listen because I can’t reply that fast. I’m disappointed and I feel a little bit down. I don’t miss home but I wish things were normal again.
Blink. I’m at the dinner with my new family and all their relatives. My best friend from my classroom offered me a place in her home. She’s my anchor in this one year journey. I feel welcomed. Everybody sees the joy on my face. They’re interested in my culture, my parents, my everything. I’m happy now.
Blink. It’s Saturday. We’re going on a trip with the boat around my little yet lovely town, Schleswig. My home for the year. In the evening we go to the cinema and eat sweet popcorn. I make an effort and try to understand the whole movie. My host mother is proud of me and makes me feel proud. I’m making progress.
Blink. It’s Sunday and we’re all having dinner, talking about our week. They’re actually talking slower and include me in their conversation to make sure I improve. Next thing, we’re playing board games. The little brother melts my heart. He has these Lego pieces that he’s telling me about having the impression I really understand everything that he is saying. I just smile and nod and hope he won’t figure it out.
Blink. It’s 7am on a Saturday and I’m at school with my friends from the chorus. We’re going on an exciting trip. I feel blessed.
Blink. The annual concert is here and I’m exciting because the whole school is here, plus the parents. Everyone is curios about that exchange student that is going to have a solo. Is she going to fail? No she’s not.
Blink. The last month is here. Time flies so quickly, make everything so sweet, I almost don’t want to leave because I’m having so much fun these last days but truth to be told, I miss my home a little bit. I have so many friends, I get along so well with the entire family, horseback riding became my thing, I’m in the chorus, and man, what a good chorus. I even understand german and I can speak it too. The teachers like me, my grades are good, I’m not sleeping anymore in class. Why should I leave now? Doesn’t feel right.
Blink. I’m having an awesome day at one of my friends that she lives nearby. Her parents are such crazy, loving, full of life people. They’re taking me home. When I get out of the car they come with me. I suspect nothing. Then they tie a scarf around my eyes. I don’t get it. I feel a little bit stupid.
Blink. I’m in front of the barn. The doors open and 50 people are standing in front of me all singing my favorite song from Green Day “Time of your life”. As it says in the song “ It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right, I hope you had the time of your life”. I burst into tears and run to them for a really big hug. I look at the walls that are decorated with words and phrases from my language. I look at the table that is bursting with cookies and cakes and all sorts of delicious food. I’m speechless. I wish I could stop time. I wish it would never end. Another Blink. Last blink. I open my eyes.
Yes, I really had such an amazing and magical year. Lots of tears, lots of hard stuff that made me stronger and made me appreciate the little things more.
I will never forget the people from that party even though they were like 50 and I’m not kidding. Nor will I ever forget every single person that made his or her mark in my life in that exchange year and I thank to everyone of them. The most influential person for me that year, was my best friend, my host sister. She was my everything. My pillar of strength in every possible way. She made me laugh all the time, watched with me so many movies, helped me with homework, got me out of trouble every time, spent time with me even if she didn’t felt like it. She made me see things from another perspective, she taught me to give without expecting and to simply live life like there is no tomorrow and no sorrow in the world. My heart felt lighter in those months. My mind became more peaceful. And my soul was full of joy. I am a better person because of her and i could never repay her for the things she did but she will always have a place in my heart.
All in all, my exchange year was the best version for myself. Some of my friends chose to travel a lot during the year. Other changed families a lot. And some of them spent the whole year partying. I’m not saying any of these other versions was better or worse, but mine was perfect just for me and I wouldn’t change a thing.
So if you’re ever thinking of going abroad for a semester or a whole year say “ Why the hell not”. You know people talk about those 20 seconds of insane courage that it takes for you to make the right decision? Well…what are you waiting for? Scared you will miss your parents? Trust me, you will not. Scared you won’t fit in? I’m here again to assure you that will be the least of your problems. As an exchange student I found my place and my friends better than ever. Everyone treats you more kindly and friendly when you’re an exchange student so don’t be scared about that. Besides, they take you to all those great parties you wouldn’t be invited to if you weren’t and exchange student. So life is pretty awesome when you go crazy and don’t overthink “what will happen if?”. There are no ifs. just does. For God sake, I truly advise you, if you have the opportunity to do something crazy and life changing like this, do it. It will change you for life in a person you never thought you could be and you will never settle for less.
That said, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Be brave. Be fearless. Be you & sag einfach ja ! 🙂