2 Months und es geht mir super

An incredible amount has happened since the last time that I wrote (including the degradation of my English speaking skills) but here’s what I have been up to:

I have been in Germany now for about 3 months and at my new home and school for 2 months. I must say, I am having simply the most amazing time here. This opportunity to live and study in Germany is something that I am thankful for everyday. There have been so many moments, where I look around and realize how happy I am in my day to day life and how much I love Germany.

As I was biking home from school one day this month, it began to rain. Really hard. Rain droplets were dribbling off of my helmet and I, as well as all of my stuff, was quickly drenched. Oddly, I was anything but unhappy with this situation. I looked around at the beautiful colors of the forrest I was riding through, realizing how lovely my town is and it registered with me that I was entirely content to be biking in the rain and perfectly fine that I was soaking wet. Why?  Because I was already wet;there was nothing I could do to change that, and when I would arrive home, I would be dry again, and it wouldn’t really matter that it had rained. The same applies in my life here and especially in school: biking through the rain is much like navigating my way through German. Making mistakes or perhaps saying something embarrassing due to misunderstanding is something that is inevitable and something that I am unable to change. But, rather than being uncomfortable with participating in school or saying something incorrect, I can choose to not be troubled by this perception and simply continue biking on, enjoying the way. Having realized that eventually I will be able to “dry off” (i.e. feel at home with the language), I have seen incredible growth in my German and a complete happiness with my life here. Of course full participation in another language is a process that takes time. But with my two months here, I am proud to say that I have written essays, read countless difficult texts, took part in tests, answered a couple times in class, worked hours on homework, and even wrote a politics exam. I am definitely looking forward to see where my progress is in a few months!

Perhaps some of this contemplation was spurred by the wonderful vacation that I took with my host family during Herbst Ferien (fall break) this month. Our first stop on this trip was something that I will never forget: Oktoberfest in München. Oktoberfest is truly something to experience-it’s filled with festive music, Lederhosen and Dirndl wearing visitors, warm sugar coated nuts, vast and ornate tents where thousands of people eat classic Bavarian roasted chickens and drink from Steins (and sometimes dance on the benches of the tables), and of course general gute Laune (good mood). After a great night at Oktoberfest, we headed to our vacation house, tucked in the hills of Tuscany. Every morning, the light fog would crest the hills that overlooked our house and we would all enjoy a nice large spread of breads, meats, and cheeses for breakfast as we simultaneously enjoyed the beauty of the property. We made many small excursions, where we discovered lovely little towns, hiked many a tower, visited a winery, and accidentally bought an ice-cream for 10 Euros in Florence. In Tuscany, I also discovered how nice it is to simply be with my lovely host family. We played Badminton, Volleyball, Phase 10, Poker and just took the time to really relax. Our vacation can be summed up with the descriptors: Pasta (of course), Pecorino (the most delicious cheese in existence), Truffles, and general relaxation.

Basically, my life here is great and therefore, I haven’t written in awhile. I have really funny, sweet friends, an amazing host family, and a thousand things to experience every day (too much to all write about in fact). I am truly having the time of my life here. Here’s to more great times ahead!

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My daily ride to school
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Oktoberfest!
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Oktoberfest!
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Small town which I cannot remember the name of
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Florence
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Vacation House in Tuscany

 

 

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One and a half Month Update

Hello from Germany!

I can not believe that I have been in Germany for a month and a half now. Time seems to speed by here-which certainly makes me wish I could grasp onto it and slow it down a little.  I am having so much fun! There are so many things to write about or tell, but this post is going to be some interesting things I have noticed here:

Politics:

The Bundestag election is coming up very quickly in Germany (September 24), so I have had the wonderful opportunity to take part in a fair deal of politics since I have been here. To my surprise, the center of my political discussions with friends/family etc. have been issues key to Germany (Education, Digitalization, Refugee Politics, Climate, EU politics, Security Measures etc.) and actually not about what is occurring in America/our president. I even had the amazing opportunity to attend a podium discussion that had representatives from the Linke Party(leftish), Green Party (left), SPD (more conservative-comparatively but less conservative than CDU), FDP (leftish middle), CDU (current majority party-Angela Merkel’s party), and even AfD (Germany’s newly formed right nationalist party), where these topics were heavily debated. Through these conversations and these podium evening, I have observed that many Germans, (especially the youth around voting age) are interested in politics and the issues currently effecting them. Additionally, contrary to what many in America may think,  some people actually would like change in Germany. Not everyone (some people are happy supporters though) believes that Angela Merkel is not leading the country in the right direction in regards to domestic politics. I was absolutely thrilled to find out how politically active young people and how willing people are to discuss varying ideas. Additionally, I couldn’t help but be excited to take part in the political climate and learn something more about German politics. Can’t wait to see what the result of this election is (new coalitions perhaps?!)

School: 

School is simultaneously scary and incredibly fun. I will not lie, school is very difficult for me-both due to the language difference and the actual methodology of teaching. Teaching in Germany is fundamentally different from teaching in America, and I must say that I really appreciate this methodology used here. For most classes, the teacher is more the “director”, who asks overarching questions and has students answer, discuss, build off one another, and explain a graph or a quote or the ways of doing something, instead of giving notes or a presentation. Nearly everyone is active in discussion and essentially “teaching” their peers because they are also being graded on their participation in class. I find this methodology of teaching really interesting and effective because it increases self efficacy, independent thinking and general participation. Nearly everyday, I am amazed by how intelligent and well spoken my classmates are. For me, I am still scared to take part in the discussion at the cost of being wrong or saying something that sounds funny because of my German. But, I know that is something I will get over soon, as I get more confident. Also I love my classes- I get to do cool sports like soccer and inline skating in Sport class, have incredible political discussions and ethics discussions in my politics class, and discuss what it means to be a person in philosophy (as well as many more interesting classes.) Additionally, nearly everyone I have met at my school has been so friendly and welcoming to me and I couldn’t be more thankful for that!

Food: 

I could honestly write a whole post about food, but I will just say that the food here is both delicious and healthy! There is easy access to “Bio” food (food that is under certain specific controls and ethics standards) in nearly every supermarket. I was shocked to see that because of these stringent controls, eggs here do not necessarily need to be refrigerated (and most aren’t). It feels really good to be eating good, delicious food that is not doused in chemicals and better ethically controlled. Also so much bread is consumed here (and I can easily understand why-they have so many delicious sorts). Shortly said, Erdnussflips, Bread, Fruit, candy, sausage, meat in general, and cheese here are honestly the bomb.

German Language:

Full German immersion was and is a lot harder than I could have ever imagined. Although I have had four years under my belt, I still struggle with certain words and concepts. I was definitely surprised with myself though that I was able to have many discussions with friends and my family-I have been able to express my opinions, thoughts, and emotions, which are complex topics. I have learned that learning to become fluent in a language involves sometimes having to be waaaayyy more specific or waaaaaaayyyy more general than you may wish to be (ie. I referred to leather as the skin of a cow). It also means having to really think about the meanings of words and their connotations. I have really enjoyed this new challenge and can’t wait to see where I am in a few months!

Family Life:

I absolutely love my host family. They are the sweetest people on the planet. From cooking me the most delicious dairy free/gluten free food (and giving me my own shelf of df/gf food!!) to taking an hour to help me understand my homework, to checking up on me, and always being there to talk with, there is really nothing else more that I can say other than how thankful I am for everything they do for me.

I am having a truly wonderful time here and can’t wait for all of the new adventures ahead of me!

 

 

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Three Weeks

I only have three weeks left until I leave and I could not be more excited to begin this exchange year in Germany.

Retrospectively, it is truly funny how certain small connections can collide and alter the course of one’s life. In November of 2016, I heard from a German exchange student that there was another German exchange student, in California, that was in need of a new host family. Through a wild connection of neighbors in Germany, who knew a couple in my town, who happened to know our family friends, as well as a split decision to host, we were brought in contact with the most lovely German family. After a lot of paperwork and processing, my family came to host this exchange student. Having studied German, and done a short summer exchange there, hosting a German exchange student was really a dream come true. My family had one of the most amazing years hosting, and stayed in regular contact with him and his family. Although it was very hard to say goodbye after such a wonderful time together, we knew that we would visit again soon. Only, I didn’t realize that “visiting again soon” would actually be so soon. As it turns out, this lovely family will be hosting me for this upcoming exchange year.  I am so excited to be staying with such a compassionate and incredibly humorous family; I can not even begin to fathom how lucky I am.

I am so excited for this year ahead of me. A gap year was never an option that I considered, but I am more than happy that I am taking a year to do something adventurous, challenging, and rewarding. Furthermore, I am honored that I get to take part in the Congress-Bundestag Program, and venture for increased diplomatic, cultural, and political understanding. As aforementioned, small connections tend to create a much larger impact. With ever increasing global connectedness, programs such as CBYX hold a remarkable importance. Every small connection that is made-through friends, host family, and even strangers- acts to promote better understanding and open up new opportunities. I am very thankful for this vital program and that I will get to actively take part in diplomacy.

Continue reading “Three Weeks”

Willkommen!

Hello and welcome to my blog, “Naia nach Deutschland”. In four short months, I will be departing to spend a year in Germany as a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship recipient. I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity and am excited about the prospects of this upcoming year. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.