To be an exchange student, you need to be independent. Taking trains alone is often a part of this independence. After my train mishap on Halloween night I was a little bit anxious about having to switch trains not once, but twice. I went from Bedburg to Köln, Köln to Mainz, and Mainz to Wiesbaden. I had some extra time between my trains in Köln so I stepped outside to see the famous Kölner Dom again. The only problem I had was with my last train from Mainz to Wiesbaden. For some reason it was cancelled, so I ended up waiting 20 minutes for the next one. From there I met up with some other exchange students so I didn't have to navigate more public transportation by myself.
At this seminar, most of the exchange students from our arrival orientation came together one last time for a weekend of learning and catching up. Six countries were represented; The U.S., Italy, Brazil, Hungary, Mexico, and Ecuador. It was so cool to see how everyone communicated with each other after two months apart. For example, the Brazilians spoke English to talk to Americans, but the Italians would talk to the Brazilians in German. Living here has made me realize that being fluent in more than one language is really important. Lots of the exchange students in Wiesbaden knew 3-4 languages. They start learning earlier than us and they learn more than one additional language.
Will Wünderbar! (Hi Will!)
On Friday night we were allowed to walk down to Wiesbaden's city center to hang out for an hour and a half. All of us Americans flocked to a restaurant advertising "American food" that served steak, burgers, and fries. After two months of eating bread and potatoes, we needed a break. We ordered steaks, nachos, and fries. I also had this expensive homemade lemonade.
My €4.50 lemonade.
It felt great to be able to speak English again after two months of speaking mostly German. Towards the end of the meal, we realized that we had misunderstood where we were supposed to meet at 5:30. Instead of meeting back in the town center that was only a two minute walk from where we ate, we were supposed to meet at back at the hostel that was 20 minutes away. This was a challenge for us because we only realized this at about 5:24. To encourage everyone to be on time, the seminar "teamers" had a rule that if you're late, you have to stand in front of everyone and sing a song. We had to either decide what song to sing while walking back or sprint through Wiesbaden in the dark and only be a few minutes late. Lucky for us, we passed two groups of Italians as we ran, so we weren't the only late ones.
There's just something about being surrounded by teenagers from other countries that brings out our patriotism. When you're outnumbered 6/20 by Italians, it's essential to recite the pledge and sing the national anthem while waving the flag. However, this weekend was largely centered around putting aside your preconceived notions of normal and adopting a wider world view. Through several chants, games, and a talent show, we got to share our cultures with each other and learn more about German culture. We also had little groups where we could talk about more serious topics like homesickness and any other problems.
5/6 of Team America.
One of my most favorite things about Germany is its age. There are many many buildings still standing today that are older than the United States of America. I'm talking 800 year old schools and thousand year old churches. To be truthful, I don't know anything about this church; its name, how old it is, or where it is in Wiesbaden. I just thought that it was pretty and it made me happy to see it as we walked to the train station Sunday afternoon. This long weekend reminded me that I am never alone in my feelings. We all go through the same emotions and have the same thoughts. I have such a strong support system and so many opportunities to stay in touch because of this amazing organization. It breaks my heart to know that many of us will never meet in person again, but I know that we will all remember Wiesbaden.