- WELTBÜRGER-Stifter: MAP
- Programm: Schüleraustausch
- Land: USA
- Dauer: 10 Monate
- Name: Melanie
It is unbelievable how fast the time is passing by and I call Florida my home for 6 months already. During these months I learned very much for life, collected many experiences I want to share with my family and friends and impressions I won’t forget for a life time.
High School classes
The American High School life is one of those impressions. I guess, school becomes boring everywhere in a while but here it’s mostly the school system that makes it monotonously. There are every day the same classes. Fortunately, there are next to the academic subjects the electives, which bring a diversity into your schedule, what I really enjoy. And the electives are very nice here in America! You won’t believe how many different interests you can cover up with the offered subjects.
E.g. you’re sure about a military career after school, so you can collect experiences in the subject “Reserve Officers’ Training Corps” where the army officers teach everything you have to know for getting into your military career. Or we have opportunities to experience the medical field. There are veterinarian classes for which teachers and students bring their pets to school to work with them in the school’s veterinarian practice.
We have different art classes which include painting, sculpturing or learning to sew in the fashion class. There are many interests to cover and you can discover your talents, interests or maybe disinterests. But as I said, when something gets common the daily life makes things a little bit boring. But the American school life is okay so far. I am just glad we have the diversity of the elective subjects, in which you cover interests while you have fun with your friends.
But the best way to enjoy time with your friends are the clubs or sports after school. Like the running sport Cross Country I did in the season from August to October. We had many competitions at many different schools and at the end of the season we were running for titles. After winning the District championship, we went to the regional competition.
My team did so well, that we qualified for the state tournament in Florida’s capital Tallahassee. A five hour drive can be boring but I had lots of fun with my team. We stayed at a hotel all together, preparing for the big race coming up on the next day. Getting up early in the morning we ran our last race of the season in the hilly Tallahassee course.
Nobody really cared how bad or good we would do or were doing, it was just an honor to be able running there, experience the greatness of American athletics all together in the team, doing the best we could and achieved our goal we set at the beginning of the season. Summarized, it was a wonderful running season with a great team and I could collect many nice memories from it.
Not to forget: in October was the homecoming week! A typical American high school event that I was able to experience. It’s the week full of fun and dressing up crazy for school. On Friday was the big homecoming football game, what the week is mostly all about: team spirit and cheering for your football team.
But most exciting is the homecoming dance on Saturday night. Everybody is dressing up nicely and is going to the school with their date or friends. Honestly, it’s nothing really big but a nice fun event to experience. You enjoy the night dancing with your friends among all the other students from your school.
The first athletic season ended and I wanted to keep on doing sports. From all the offered winter season sports (from basketball over soccer to weightlifting), I chose to do wrestling. Mostly because of the combat experiences I have from doing judo back in Germany. And I have to admit: I made a good decision. As hard as the practice sometimes is, you’re going through it with the knowledge of being stronger afterwards.
You get prepared for the upcoming tournaments and those are hard but fun. My team is going every weekend to different schools, we travel far to other cities to face different wrestling teams and I like to get to see all of Florida, being in my awesome team and face my opponents in the willingness to get better every time. I enjoy these athletic times and have much fun with meeting new people and having fun with team members who have become friends.
Thanksgiving & Christmas
I am able to experience the American culture, which includes all the holidays. The next upcoming holiday was Thanksgiving in November. We had a big meal and not to forget: a big delicious turkey. Relatives came over and we ate together so much food after praying thankfully for the given meal. It is really a nice holiday to spend together with family and friends and have a good time.
Although this holiday was over too soon I was very excited for the upcoming Christmas vacations. Despite all the tournaments I have on the weekends, I found a day for shopping Christmas presents for my host family. And it’s kind of horrible how packed the stores are during Christmas time! However, I made it through the filled stores and was so happy when the vacations finally started.
Christmas is huge in the US. The houses get decorated with many lights and lightning up figures standing in the front yard. All the presents were already under the decorated tree since the beginning of December. On Christmas eve, December 24th, we went to a friend’s house and had a big meal, enjoying the time together and already exchanging some presents. Then there was the big day, everybody was waiting for: Christmas day, December 25th! Early in the morning my family gathered together at the Christmas tree and opened the mountain of presents with excitement. After these 2 hours, relatives came over and we exchanged more presents and had another big meal all together.
The unity of the family let me experience a great, blessed, American holiday time. I felt honored to spend Christmas with this family and lots of Americans asked me whether I am sad because I don’t celebrate Christmas with my German family this year but actually I didn’t want to be anywhere else than where I was for this holiday.
A trip to Orlando
We had 2 weeks of vacation. So, I used the free time to visit a show full of ice sculptures in Orlando. It was very beautiful but freezing minus 16 degrees Celsius in the halls. As much as I enjoyed watching the pretty sculptures, I was glad to be back again outside in Florida’s heat.
Also, as usual, I went to Walt Disney World. Meanwhile I visited all of Disney’s theme parks and I just love to be in a totally different world full of childhood dreams. The parks were overloaded during the holidays but it was nice nevertheless. Everything just took way longer than usual because of very long lines.
My New Year’s Eve I spent at Sea World. They still had many Christmas shows going on and it was so nice to watch them. The story of Christ’s birth was played as a musical with real animals on the stage or there was a beautiful ice skating performance before the countdown for New Year’s Day went off. Fireworks got shot up into the air and it was a wonderful start into the year 2018.
On New Year’s Day I had to get up early in the morning because we went to a college football game. The University of Notre Dame was playing against the Louisiana State University. It was just fun going into that big stadium in Orlando, sitting down in the bleachers and enjoy watching the game. It was even more fun because my host family is a huge Notre Dame fan, so we had all the equipment for cheering for the right team.
First football was a little bit confusing for me but as the game went on, I really got into it and it was great when Notre Dame achieved their winning touchdown in the very end. As cold, rainy and windy as it got during the day, the weather didn’t matter anymore when our team won this awesome game!
My experience so far
While the weather got colder during the holidays, I went fishing with some friends on a warmer day. I caught two big fish and I am still very proud of my catches. It was very nice sitting in the boat with my friends out on the lake, trying to catch some fish. I totally enjoy these moments.
When the holidays were over I wasn’t ready to go back to school at all. The first time of my high school year I didn’t want to go back to Germany. Now, I am pretty much okay with the feeling of going back to my home country. I miss every time a little bit more of Germany. My family, friends and the good German food as well.
During theses 6 months I learned to appreciate more the little things in life. I experience the American culture and lifestyle and discovered many new things. The US-Americans have a more relaxed attitude. I appreciate all the time I can spend here with my US American family and friends.
This high school year abroad is the perfect opportunity for children to grow up, which means learning to take responsibility, how to solve problems on their own and learning to appreciate things even more. I learned so much during the last six months, that I won’t forget and I am excited to share all my experiences with my family and friends back in Germany. I might be another person when I will be back, but in a positive way.
‘’Home is where your heart is”
I appreciate all the time I can spend with my host family and American friends, experiencing another life style and culture, a wonderful time and just feeling blessed with the people giving me the feeling that I found a second home. I am looking forward for the upcoming time I still have in Florida, in the knowledge that there is even more to discover and learn.
During the last four months in the U.S. I did pretty much everything you can do in Florida. We drove to Miami, which was a great experience to see this party city, but most exciting was the Everglades National Park. I saw some huge Alligators and will never forget how it feels to stand next to these big creatures. The U.S. is so versatile, which is what I love about it. It is one huge country and it could satisfy you with anything you want. But the U.S. National Parks are the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.
Proudly, I can count me as a member of this gorgeous country, who lived there.
It is unbelievable how fast the time goes by. Now I am already back in Germany and it feels so normal. I had a great time in Florida and I am proud to say that it became my second home. I have a second family and wonderful American friends.
The last few months were full of experiences. I am so glad that I could live my dream and get to know the American culture and life. Therefore, I really enjoyed the one-week vacation called “spring break”. We spent it at the Atlantic coast in a time-share close to the beach. It was so much fun. The most memorized moments about it were watching the sun rise and set over the ocean.
Discovering more and more of my new home state
One weekend we went to visit the Kennedy Space Center. I was so overwhelmed when I was standing right next to these gigantic rockets and space ships that actually went into space. There was a lot to learn about the history and technical equipment to see. The Space Center is located on Merrit Island since 1962. The equipment is unbelievably modern and effective. I sat in some Space capsules and saw an actual spacesuit, touched a stone from the moon, but mostly I was impressed by the original space ship “Atlantis”.
Funny thing is that the Kennedy Space Center sent some capsules into space during my exchange year. The NASA always goes live on TV with all the starts and facts when this happens. My host family called me every time and we went out on the porch to see the capsules or satellites going up into space. We were just standing there in our yard, miles away from the coast and the base of the Kennedy Space Center, and could still watch the NASA electronics far up in the sky. Again, I will never forget these moments.
The United States are so versatile and because of the beautiful nature, they have many national parks to secure the beauty of nature they still have. The big National Park in Florida is the Everglades National Park. Again, I have been very lucky to go there and experience the swamps of Florida. The great landscapes of grass and water are full of alligators, snakes, fish, birds, turtles and insects. I have learned a lot about the habitat there and had breath-taking moments when the big alligators swam directly next to me.
Classically, we rode an air boat through the Everglades and could see a lot, like the alligators directly next to us. Goosebump moments guaranteed. More, not only did we ride through the gigantic habitat on a boat, we also walked through the National Park on a long walkway with Alligators next to you on each side. It was just amazing.
In addition to watching nature and its animals, we also learned a lot from the park rangers. The Everglades are the natural home of more than 400 different kinds of birds, 50 different kinds of reptiles, many fish and turtles. Moreover, it was really interesting to learn that this National Park is the only place on earth where Alligators and Crocodiles live side-by-side.
While we already were in the Everglades, we took the chance to go to Miami as well. It is such a big city, full of skyscrapers and a beautiful beach. However, it is more a city for rich people and for going to parties. We went shopping to an outdoor mall at Miami´s Bayside. It was very pretty. We stayed until it got dark and we could watch the gigantic, luxurious yacht boats coming in and leaving the bay.
The end of the year: Prom, saying goodbyes and going home
Following these memorizing moments, I was waiting for the summer vacations. Of course, not alone. My friends and me spent a lot of time together, going out to the lake of my little home town, going out to eat, or visiting Disney World together. And of course, coming towards the end of the school year, there was the big High School party “prom”.
It is just like homecoming, but only the 11th and 12th graders are allowed to go there. Actually, you could describe it as the “Abitur-Feier” in Germany. It was fun to dress up very fancy, meet all your friends at the location and to eat and dance to the DJ´s music on the big dance floor.
The last few weeks of high school life were full of testing. We had to sit the “end of the year exams” and got all last grades. I haven´t got my report card yet, because we will only get it at the end of the summer. The reason for that are the testing grades, that are going to be on there and it takes a while to correct all the exams.
Looking back on my year, I had a wonderful time. I have learned a lot about life, personalities and situations. What I really like about the American High School system are the elective subjects. These classes let you specialize in your interests. I had two art classes and it´s great to draw and paint every day and see how much progress there actually is done.
I enjoyed this and that´s where I met my best friends. Throughout the year we got so close and had so much fun together, especially towards the end of the year. We enjoyed the last time together at the lake or driving around and eating at the many fast food restaurants the US has. It was just a fun time and I already miss them a lot.
When the day arrived to go back in Germany, all my emotions were so mixed up. It was the hardest goodbye I had to say to my host parents. I was crying so badly and probably the steward doesn´t even know how much he helped me when he came up to me with a box of tissue and said: “I know, leaving is always hard”.
Welcome back, old home
Now, back in Germany, I realize more the beauty of my home country than I ever did before. I am so proud that I grew up here, in this family in all the circumstances. It was such a great moment to be back at the airport, what felt like I just have been there one day ago, and see your family standing there, waiting for you.
I was asking myself: “Ten months?” It felt so unreal. I was so glad to hug my family under tears and felt just on top of the world. I am so glad to have them and that they are supporting me in every situation, that they fulfilled my dream of a year abroad and gave me all these chances.
After two days, I already got back into the German language again. Often I think in English, or while speaking fast I put some English words in my German sentences. However, all that is no problem. During the past few weeks I have been very busy in visiting my friends. I just love to tell everybody about all the experiences I made. I still cannot realize that I really did this year abroad.
Now, everything feels unreal like I had another life in the United States of America. Here in Germany, I have the feeling nothing has changed, while I have changed during the “short” ten months abroad. But it feels good that I grew up, confident and independent.
It has been a pleasure for me to represent Germany in the United States. I have learned to appreciate all the things that I have at home. It is just great to go through my hometown and see it in a way I never did before. I am so glad to be back and to tell everybody what I have experienced.
The year abroad let me realize that there is nothing you cannot do in this world. Everything is open for you, there is nothing we have to have fear for, everything awaits to be explored by all the curiosity we bring. My journey is definitely not over. There is more to come because the journey has only begun.
With the best greetings from Germany,