Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Part 2: homesickness, learning the language, and being an exchange student

The purpose of this post is mostly for future exchange students (afs has links to exchange students blogs so that if someone wants to go on an exchange they can read about what it is like), but also for anyone who is curious about what I am feeling :)

Homesickness: I have not been homesick at all except for brief moments of it when something reminds me of home, like petting my host family's dog for the first time made me homesick for my dog. That doesn't happen much now, although I have had a lot of dreams about home\ people from home, which is kind of weird, especially when i wake up and realize that i'm actually not at home and am in a foreign country.

Learning the language: When I first came I couldn't understand any German that was'nt slow and basic. Now about 12 days in, I can understand much more. Sometimes I still understand absolutely nothing someone says to me and sometimes I understand all of it without concious translation (which by the way is a really cool feeling). I have a notebook book where I write down word I don't understand or want to know and the translation. So through that I have been able to somewhat keep track of how many new words I've learned so far, which is around 65-75 new words. It is a bit weird to count how many new words I've learned, but learning a new language can be quite frusterating (it requires a lot of effort and energy ALL the time) and when I feel like I don't know any German, I remind myself of how many words I've learned and that helps. Last week I even understood a complex explantion about bio fuel made from fermented corn, which made me really happy.

Being an exchange student: It has it's ups and downs. The first five days or so I was having lots of ups and downs in each day. I would wake up happy and excited to be in Gemany and then in the afternoon not find it exciting at all and being a little impatient with the slowness of learning a language. Now that has gone away and I am very happy. It was also hard at first because I felt kind of lost in the new language, culture, and family. Family can be especially hard because you don't know their routines like you know your natural family's, how to fit your routine into their's, and it takes a while to figure out how to be part of the family. It was confusing, awkward, and fun at first, and now it feels more normal and isn't confusing anymore.
I'm also tired a lot because living in a foreign place takes so much energy that it not only exhausts your mental energy supply but also your physical energy supply.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Part one

Hallo! I've now been living in Habighorst for about a week. Habigorst is a very beautiful, little village with lots of farms and traditional German houses. My host family is very nice and I like them a lot. I went to my host sister's vaulting lesson (on horses), which was really cool. All of the little kids there were really curious about me and asked my host sister who I was. She explained to them that I was her family's exchange student and that I am American so I don't understand very much German and when you speak to me you have to talk very slowly. I found that quite amusing. Then they all came over to me and began asking what various objects were in English and then teaching me the German word. With my other host sister, I go for bike rides with her and we've been watching Der Herr der Ringe (lord of the rings) in German with English subtitles everyday after school and homework. My host mother is very nice and we have a lot in common. She recently published her first book which is a fantasy, romance novel that takes place during medieval times, which I think is super cool. My host father is also very nice and is very patient with my often slow German and explaining words I don't understand.

I have language school in the nearby city of Celle mon. thru Fri. 9 to 12. I've been learning a little bit in my class, but a lot of it is things that I already learned from Rosetta Stone (by the way if you really want to learn a language, I recommend Rosetta Stone because I did it about everyday for three months and my German is just as good as a girl in my class who had been taking German for three years in school). I've noticed that there are some cultural differences in how the class is run. For example, our german teacher gets upset when we ask a lot of questions that are off topic and she'll say All of that is later, now we are learning this. or she'll completely ignore the question and keep going with her lesson plan. After school I usually hang around Celle for an hour or two with some of the other exchange students. Everyday we go to a German bakery that we recently discovered and enjoy the cheap and absolutely heavenly joys of German pastries. Then we wonder around, find new places, and have fun. I've had quite a few stupid American moments in Celle, but I'll only tell you about the most amusing one because it would take too much time to write about them all. So, one day I went into a store called the New Yorker (an ironic place for a stupid american moment) and I was looking for a warm jacket or sweater and finding none that I liked I attempted to exit through a door. An alarm went off, so I quickly shut the door and realized I had tried to go through the emergency exit door, which was clearly stated in big bold red letters on the glass door, but I hadn't seen it. So with the composure of a clueless American I ask a sales clerk Wo ist die Tür für drausen?. She gives me directions with a straight face, which i am sure was hard to do and i successfully leave the store without setting off an alarm. Anyway i found that quite amusing. After hanging out in Celle I take a bus home (which I can now do all by myself!), do homework, read children's books (and looking up lots of words) and watching lord of the rings.
Part two will be posted later

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Six more days!!

Six more days until I go to D.C. and ten more days until I'm in Germany! I've said good-bye to all of my immediate extended family. Yesterday I had my last riding lesson, which was very sad because the owner of the farm is moving to Florida, so many of the horses I will never see again. So, there are lots of goodbyes, but so far I'm okay with it even though it's hard because as long as I look forward and not dwell on goodbye, I find I am able to just be excited for what I am about to do.
I have found out more about my host family since my last post. I'm going to live in Habighorst for the first month so that I can attend language classes everyday in the nearby city of Celle. Then in October I will go to the Müller family, where I will have two sisters that are 13 and 16 and also a dog! I have been emailing both of my sisters and I am very excited to meet them. I will be going to a school with them in Rostock that is a new kind of German school called a workshop school, which means that I would take workshops as well as normal high school classes. It sounds interesting and I think I will have a lot of fun there.