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.

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