Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Week in Germany

It's been a little more than a week since I've been in Germany. This first week has been well-great-nerve wracking-full of firsts-that about sums it up. School in Germany is a lot different than in the US. I'm taking a lot of the same classes as in the US. I have bio/chemistry/physics, trigonometry, English, Spanish, German, politics, art and philosophy. I would have taken similar classes in the US. For the most part I understand what the teachers are saying. German classes is the hardest class for me. It's a literature based classes and there's lots of text reading. Physics is also hard but I probably wouldn't understand the subject in English either.

I'm really glad that I've learned German prior to coming here. I've been studying it intensely since 7th grade and taking private lessons since 8th grade and I can speak it really well. I'd be totally lost without that previous study.

It's really fun to speak German here. Sometimes I can trick people into thinking I'm German. Someone in my math class thought I was a transfer student from Germany. It's really unusual for Americans here to speak German let alone fluently. I can' wait till I'm really fluent.

My classmates and teachers have been really nice to me. They've explained words I don't understand, given extra help, let me look on their text books, lent me things and included me in group work. It's been a great first week in Germany!

Monday, September 12, 2011

First day of German school

I was woken up by my host brother around 7. I got my things together and we made sandwhiches to bring to school. Then we ate cereal for breakfast and headed out the door. My host dad drove us but normally we take the bus. I was really nervous at first. The school is really big, slightly bigger than my school in America. My host brother showed me my classroom. My first class is Spanish. It's beginner's Spanish. I actually know more than the class which helps given the fact that I'm learning to foreign languages at the same time in the same class. Then I had Chemistry which is hard. I probably wouldn't understand the subject in English either. Luckily they're learning about valence electrons which I learned Freshman year in Physical Science. Then we had History class but it's a lot different than American history class. There's lots of discussion and not much lecturing. That was my first day. I got out around 1. All of the classes are 2 hours long. Every day you have different classes. My host brother's friend drove us to downtown Osnabrück and I bought a bus pass for the month that'll I'll use to get to school. We got home and just hung out for a while. Basically we just hung out at home the rest of the day.

Getting to Germany

We were woken up around 8 and we all ate breakfast. Around 1 we all boarded the buses to Dulles DC airport. As a group we checked in all our luggages at the United airlines desk, all 91 students going to Germany. As you can imagine, quite a lot of luggage. It took us about an hour to check all of our luggage in. Then we proceeded to security which took about another hour for all of us. We then had to take the airport tram to our gate. By the time we got to our gate it was 4:00 and the plane boarded at 4:38. I called my family and bought a frosty from Wendy's, my last purchase in America for a while.

I sat next to Claire on my left and Kati on my right across the aisle. We talked a lot and I spent most of the ride awake and only slept an hour. When we arrived in Frankfurt I was freaking out and totally excited. We arrived in Germany at 7:20am so basically we all had to stay awake for a day with no sleep. All the AFS students were brought into the same room where we waited as more AFS students from all over the world arrived. There were Bolivians, Danes, Brzilians, Italians, Ecuadorians, Vietnamese, Belgians and most excitingly, Japanese people! I was so happy to get to speak Japanese. I even got to interpet between the Americans and the Japanese. Most of the exchange students didn't know English or very much German. I look forward to the time at the end of the year when we meet again all can speak German and communicate with each other. Once all the exchange students arrived we were divided into groups and put on trains with the other students heading in our general area. We left around 3. I was on the train bound for Bremen and there were about 10 other AFS students. Once we arrived at Osnabrück 3 of us disembarked. An Italian girl, an American girl from Connecticut and myself. I didn't know how I was getting picked up. It was dark. I was in across the world in a city where I knew nobody. I'm surprised I wasn't scared but I suppose I was so jetlagged that I wasn't. My host family met me on the platform and it wasn't so awkward. We walked out to the car outside the train station and drove to my new home. My host family showed me around the house. I unpacked my things and passed out. I woke up the next day around 10. My host mom told me I slept 11 hours. I guess I needed it. I was still titred the next day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day of Orientation

We had non stop culture workshops today. Americans who have gone to Germany gave us lectures on what to expect.

This was my last day full day in America. It's insane. I've been waiting for this day for almost a year. It doesn't seem real. I can't believe this really is happening. Good night and goodbye America! I'll see you in a year. Next blog post will be from Germany.

A Day in DC

We all received a 6:30 wake up call, picked up bagged lunches at the front and boarded buses. We took a bus to the Department of State to meet with the Educational branch which funds our scholarship. We had the head of the Europe desk at the state department speak to us as well as a foreign service and a civil service officer.

We left the Department of State around 12:30 and boarded the bus again to Union Station where we hung out and ate lunch. We would have done a walking tour of the National Mall however, due to the rain we were forced to remain in Union Station.

At 5 we took the bus to the German American Heritage Museum. The curator, a real German spoke to us about German Americans and their influence on the US. Then we had a woman from the German embassy come and speak to us at the museum. She worked for the German embassy here in DC. She was an American and actually a n alumna of the same program we're doing now. She went to a town not to far from where I'm going either!

At 7 we loaded the buses and went to Café Mozart, an authentic German restaurant in DC. I got Chicken Schnitzl with potatoe salad which was really good! Maybe even better in Germany. We got home around 10 and I collapsed and fell asleep nearly on the spot.

Leaving Philadelphia (8/6)

My mom and I left Philadelphia around 10 and arrived at DC around 2. We ate lunch ate a very somber lunch at Bertuccis and finished up before 3 and checked in at the desk at the Crowne Plaza hotel where our orientation was being held. The ladies at registration told us that I couldn't register till I said goodbye to my mother. We stepped back from the desk and bid each other a teary goodbye. With puffy eyes I checked in, got my room key, moved my luggage to my room. I hung out for a half hour or so in my room and waited for the redness around my eyes to go away. I was full of regret, sadness, uncertainty. I wasn't sure I had ever wanted to go on this exchange. I left my room and started talking to other AFS students and felt better and better. We had a light night as other students arrived from different parts of the country and I got to make some friends.