I’m back home now, in a suburb of Boston where I will be a high school senior in the fall. When I see friends or bump into neighbors, they smile and ask “how was Germany?” I reply with some variation of “It was great! I had an amazing time!” And I did. But how can I summarize the transformational experiences of ten months in just a few moments of chit-chat? I can’t. Fragments of memories flit through my mind at unexpected times, and I realize how lucky I have been to have spent the year in Berlin.
My last weeks in Berlin were incredible. The academic year finished in early June, and then my class went on a trip to Sicily, which had been voted on in the fall. We went for six days, and it was incredible. Sicily was beautiful, very hot, and a lot of fun. We had a few group activities planned, but also had a lot of unstructured time to sit on the beach, wander around, and spend time together. I had spent the entire year with these people, but our week in Sicily was special because we bonded in a way that really cemented our relationships. I had been thinking that I wished we had had this trip at the beginning of the school year because I could have gotten to know everyone so much better, but of course I didn’t speak fluent German at the beginning of the school year, so it’s just as well the trip was in June, once I had learned all the slang and could jump in to any conversation even with the fastest native speakers. My German got better on this one week trip more so than it had in the month prior. I was forced to only speak German with my peers, which was 24/7, and my language skills improved exponentially.
When we returned from Sicily, there were only a few days left before it was time to fly home. I spent time with my host family and friends to wrap up my time in the great city of Berlin. It was hard to pack up, disassembling the room I had called home for so many months. I was excited to be going back home, though, see my family and friends, pet my dog, and drive my car. After the final days filled with last-minute shopping and lots of hugs, my host family and two friends brought me to the airport. In Berlin, I had immersed myself in new experiences: I became part of a host family, I made new friends, I became completely comfortable navigating my way through a city of 3.5 million people, I celebrated a year’s worth of holidays, I successfully finished a year of school taught entirely in German, and I became fluent in the language. So, how was Germany? It was great! I had an amazing time!