Erfahrungsbericht USA: Caroline 2011-2012
My Exchange Year 2011-2012
My journey began on the 13th August 2011 in Hamburg, Germany where I live. Well, actually it started in spring when I started planning my exchange year. So I will start at the very beginning.
My friends and I when we were younger we used to talk about how cool it would be to go to a different country and live there. We talked about all the countries and their culture, we googled pictures and just dreamed to do an exchange. We got older and our dreams came true. Friends left for their exchange and one year later they came back, some were totally different but others were the same. One year is a long time, but friends will be friends no matter what. In spring 2011 my parents and me started looking at websites to find out information about the foreign exchange. We talked a long time about the pros and cons of going away for such a long time, both of my parents supported everything I said but both of them hesitated a little. I always wanted to go to Australia or to my family in Malaysia but my final decision fell on America. My Dad didn't want that I go that far away from home in case something bad happens to me, we all argued but in the end everybody agreed to America. I got excited. I picked my organisation and had my first interviews. They asked me question about my life, my expectations and just about my character, if I’m able to do an exchange like that. I filled in papers with my interests and also the information about me.
I had to do lots of paperwork. The only thing I didn't know at this point was where I’m
going to live, state or family.
My family and me were in Spain for summer holidays when I got the first e-mail with a host family. I was so excited and didn't know what to think about. Later I found out that this family can’t host me anymore so my organization had to look for another host family what isn’t easy. Two weeks before my flight to America they gave me a new address, a new host family, and then I started emailing them and get to know them at least a little bit before I live with them for ten month. I was excited.
12th August 2011, I was standing at the airport, saying goodbye to my crying parents, my little sister and my friends. Saying goodbye is never easy but this time I didn't realize that I am not going to see them for ten month so I was pretty relaxed. One last wave and their faces vanish in the crowd of people. 2 hours later I arrived in Frankfurt, another big city in Germany, where I met some friends from my organization. We all flew together to Chicago where we met a guy from our organization. He brought us into a hotel and there we met some Brazilian foreign exchange students. Our organization showed us Chicago and introduced us to the program. At the dinner table Larissa, a Brazilian girl, and I first met and we were both freaking out when we found out that we are going to live in the same town and going to go to the same school. From this moment on I knew that Larissa and I are going to be friends forever! And we will! From Chicago we flew together to Milwaukee but we didn't talk that much, we both were so scared and we just wanted to go back to our home countries because this feeling was horrible. Sitting in this plane, knowing that you are going to meet your new family for a whole year, not knowing anybody and being without anyone who speaks German.
I was so scared and when we arrived at the airport my heart was beating so hard. I met my host family and they were really nice! I couldn't understand anything because they were talking so fast so I got really scared that I will never understand Americans and that I will never learn to speak English. The first days I was really uncomfortable because I didn't know how to react to stuff and I didn't feel like I’m home. I started playing volleyball in the school team and I got to know some girls from Ozaukee, my high school. I didn't know anyone besides Jenny, my host sister, but she didn't play volleyball. We didn't have school yet so it was really relaxing and we had a lot of time to get to know each other. School finally started and I was so excited to see everybody and just go to an American high school the first time in my life. People were friendly but most of them were really shy and didn't say anything to me, same as me because I wasn't comfortable with my English yet.
My first school day was funny because I saw everybody the first time and I was so excited. Week after week I got to know more people and I was getting more comfortable. I talked to my friends and my parents a lot! Homecoming week was a funny experience! I was super excited for the actual dance on the last day because we do not have school dances like that in Germany. It was so creative and spiritual when mostly everybody dressed up every day to the same freaky topic. We had a twin day, neon day, crazy hair day and school spirit day. Friday night was the football game which was awesome because I just loved the football games. I never watched football in my life so it is cool to learn new cultural things of America. The dance on Saturday was so much fun! That day was the first time in my life that I got a flower from my date because that is also not common in Germany. The funny thing was that my date and me both forgot our flower for each other, so it took us awhile to give them to each other. It was cute and at the dance we all had lots of fun and enjoyed the night.
After my first three month in America I switched my host family. I was sad but it just did not work out the way we all wanted it to. I was scared how things are going to turn out. I lived at Devin, Larissas host sister, and Larissas house for like three weeks and that was the time when I really got to know Larissa and we started doing everything together but I also did a lot with Devin and Brianna, Devins best friend. It was so good to have them there! My organization supported me too and when they told me that I am going to live with Brianna I was so happy! We did not really know each other but since she invited me to her birthday party I thought she is a pretty nice girl. We got along well pretty soon and we have a lot in common that’s probably why we are perfect sisters for each other. My new host family was really interested in me since the first day I met them. It was a little bit weird because I did not know that all but we got to know each other pretty soon.
Christmas is totally different from what I am used to. We woke up in the morning and opened gifts, in Germany we do that at night. We had an awesome breakfast and after that we skyped with my whole family, it was nighttime and they were about to open gifts, and because they all wanted to talk to me and see how I am doing. That was really nice to see my family and also the parts of the family I usually do not skype with, like my grandparents. Later we had family and friends over and had some snacks and drinks. It was different than what I am used to but it was different in a positive way. I got to know a lot of wonderful people here and I love to hang with every single one of them. We hang out together and just do fun stuff and experience new things.
Sleepovers are so typical American here and it is a lot of fun. One night at Natalie’s, a good friend of mine, birthday party we were watching a scary movie and the guys kept on yelling and laughing. Larissa and I were super scared so in the middle of the third scary movie we went into Natalie’s room because the guys kept on scaring us. They just kept on freaking us out until I finally started crying because I absolutely hate scary movies, or scary stuff in general. I could not fall asleep all night so I layed shocked on the floor and I was just so glad when everybody started to wake up.
In April, during spring break, we spent our vacation in Florida. It was awesome! We left on the last day of school and spent 24 hours in the car. That was the longest time I ever stayed in a car. We drove through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia and our long ride ended in Florida. We arrived at Brianna’s aunts and uncles house and I met their family. They have a little girl called Sheila, a younger boy who is called Trey and his older brother who is in college, his name is Antonio. We had a nice dinner and we told us lots of stories and had a nice time together. The weather was so warm at night so we went for a nice walk. Later we all watched a nice movie together. In the morning we had some really good breakfast and later on we went to the beach with another family. I love the beach and the ocean so I was so happy! We went swimming but it was cold because of the wind. We ordered some pizza for dinner and had a nice night. Next day we went shopping and Brianna and I tried to find some dresses for prom but we could find any. We spend some money on clothes and other stuff. The rest of the day we spend next to or in the pool and just chilled in the sun. We also went to Universal, a huge roller coaster park, where we spend a whole day. It was super hot but the weather was perfect for the park. We rode in some pretty cool rides, took pictures, ate bubble ice cream, relaxed in the sun, and just enjoyed everything else in the park.
Later at home I was exhausted from all the running around, but all in all it was a great experience and a lot of fun. After another day at the pool we went to a huge water park, called Wet ‘n’ wild, and spend the whole next day there. It was so cool because I never went to a big water park like that. It had a lot of pools and huge water slides and the sun was just burning and made the day so much brighter. You just ran around in your bikini or your swimsuit and enjoyed the water slides. We totally enjoyed that and we laughed so much in the rides, it was just awesome. After these couple of days we had to say goodbye to the family because we wanted to go to another beach. It was sad because I like them so much, they were so nice to me and we had so much fun together! I hope I am going to see them again someday!
We left and we were in the car for another 3 hours till we arrived in Clearwater. We checked into at a hotel close to the beach and spend the last hours of the day at the beach. At the next day we were at the beach all day long and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I love the beach! We went swimming, got some tan, took a lot of pictures, bought some stuff for our friends, went out for dinner and had an awesome time at the beach. I got picked to participate in a show at the beach by two older hip hop dancer and they just entertained the crowd with some dances. They picked me and some other girls and jumped over us. That was sketchy but so funny! I could not stop laughing. The next day was another awesome day! We went for a boat ride and we were supposed to see dolphins, we did not on the boat ride, just later after we left the boat. The funny thing was that on the boat were Germans and they were freaking out about the beach and the weather, I do not think they knew that I am German, that was the funny thing because I could not stop laughing about what they said. After some nice days at the beach, Clearwater, we left Florida. It was so sad to leave because I love places like that. On our way back we drove through North Carolina, I always wanted to go there someday. We drove through the Smoky Mountains, which were really cool to look at. We stopped in Tennessee in Gatlinburg, where we rested for the night because my host parents did not wanted to drive through the night. In the hotel room we actually started the fire place, it was that cold in our room, it made me mad though right after the nice weather we had in Florida. In the morning we drove home. It felt good to be home again but all of us missed the family and Florida. I had an awesome time there and I would go back any time.
I am here for nine month now and I have only one month left. It’s so sad to think about leaving but I am really excited to see my family and my friends again. A lot of things changed and I probably changed too. I learned a lot about myself but I also learned a lot about the American culture. I know how to act in serious situations, I am really independent and I experienced so much. I am going to miss all my friends and my host family so much! I made friends for life and got to know so many new people, different in their own way, some of them really important in my life and I am not going to forget one single person or face. I had so much fun in my exchange year but I am glad that it is not over yet! I am going to make the best out of my last four weeks here and I am going to enjoy every single minute of it. I will never forget anything that happened here, negative and positive happenings, but this year helped me a lot to find myself and learn more about life. Being a foreign exchange student is never easy but I experienced a lot that not everybody will experience in his/her life.
I love America and it is my second home. I will never forget this year. I will never regret it. NEVER.