I’ve always wanted to be an exchange student and after four years of saving money and searching for an organization to help me fulfill my biggest dream, I stepped on a plane to the United States on 7th August 2012. After I had had my first experience of the American way of life in the beautiful city of New York City and parts of New Jersey I was finally about to meet my host family.
After my arrival at the airport of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the three of them welcomed me with open arms and were as excited as I was, about what would await us during the upcoming year. The first few weeks in my new home, Cumberland (Wisconsin), flew by. In these first weeks I joined the volleyball team of my high school and through that got to know many of my future classmates as well as other exchange students that were placed in Cumberland, too.
On my first day of high school I was really excited to see what school life there would be like compared to the one in Germany. The first difference were fun classes we could attend like Early Child Care or different cooking classes as well as Marching Band. The schedule was identical every day of the week and after our normal classes we had volleyball for three hours each day. Sport is very important in a US high school and it is the easiest way to get to know people. During “Homecoming” or “Spirit Week” you could really see what the famous team spirit looked like as we all dressed up in football jerseys and supported “our boys”. Apparently we were very successful doing so as we won the championship. And my school was very triumphant not only in football but also with the Marching Band (that I had joined) since we won the state championship.
The school year went on and we tried out new classes and, in the winter months, I joined the girls’ basketball team. The practices were even harder but I have never been in better shape and still say that basketball is my favorite sport.
Aside from the school curriculum I also took trips with my host family and friends, for example to Chicago to visit one of my three host brothers or to the Mall of America in Minneapolis (biggest shopping center in America), which even has a theme park inside. Typical for the American family life is the celebration of annual holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We celebrated them in church (as my host father is a pastor) and with family in Minnesota or Wisconsin. I especially enjoyed “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving when you could buy everything so marked down that it was practically free, and yes, “Black Friday” is a national holiday.
When the harsh winter was slowly coming to an end I decided to join my next and last sport: softball.
Many of the other exchange students decided that they wanted to try it out, too, instead of joining track and field. It was a really successful and fun time, until I tore my ACL and had a rupture of my knee.
In the spring time “Prom” is also just right around the corner. “Prom” is like a German “Abschlussball” but way more expensive, especially for the girls because they have to buy dresses for “at least” $300. Every year there is also the coronation of a “queen” and a “king” (usually juniors of the 11th grade).
After prom and graduation, I realized that only a few weeks of my exchange year remained. We exchange students planned our Goodbye-Parties and started to pack our bags, which were at least twice as heavy as the ones we brought to the US.
Saying Goodbye to my American life and friends was one of the hardest things I have done in my life so far, but I have never regretted the decision to go abroad for a year. I fully recommend travelling when you are that age and dare to have an adventure. Apart from all the fun and new friendships the exchange year offers to you, you learn to live more independently from your parents.
Surely, this article doesn’t sum up all the aspects of my journey, but, if you are interested in applying for an exchange year, I’m happy to help you with any questions you might still have.
Ida Wächter, Q12, Schuljahr 2014/15