CBYX 2015 – 2016 participant, Pauline M., reflects on the bonds she has built during her initial months in Germany with the CBYX program.
One month ago, I got off of the plane in Germany and was full of expectations for my year. I had goals in mind, milestones to hit, and firsts I was eager to cross off my list. With a few weeks under my belt, I have not been disappointed; I am evolving, and am glad to see that progress is being made. I am finally able to buy my own bus ticket, find all of my classes at school without whipping out a map, and can occasionally struggle through a grammatically acceptable phrase or two over dinner. This type of seemingly inconsequential quotidian success can feel like the grandest of accomplishments when one still struggles to learn all of the prepositions auf Deutsch [in German].
Similarly, I feel like a small victory has been won whenever I am able to break down an American stereotype; I dutifully either dispel or confirm rumors as needed, concerning topics ranging from the prevalence of fast food restaurants and yellow school buses in my hometown to fielding more controversial questions about the American political system. In this respect, it has been fascinating to get a peek into an outsider’s perspective on my own culture, which I’m only now realizing I’d never properly examined prior to moving across the Atlantic. I could write pages about feeling more resilient with every passing day, a form of personal growth which I now believe to be unavoidable within any exchange student.
Yet, out of all of these moments of expectations both met and challenged, the one element of exchange I couldn’t have anticipated was the closeness I feel with my host family after not even two months. We are in a constant state of learning, extending both ways, whether it be while playing a card game or singing a family song for my fantastic Oma [grandma] and Opa [grandpa] at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Language is an undeniably useful tool, and experiencing personal growth is exciting, but making somewhere foreign feel like home with a second family by my side is proving invaluable.