Back to School

Authored By:

Michael J.

The First Day

By now, I had spent a whole week with my host family. I was warmly welcomed, and I was rather comfortable living in this new environment. It was still summer, and school wouldn't start for another 4 days. I understood the general gist of my new lifestyle and was ready for the next phase of my exchange year to begin - school. But this time, I was coming back to high school- I had already graduated in America- as a 10th grader. I didn't know which grade I would be placed in until the very first day, so it was even a surprise for me. Let's embark on a first day of school adventure as I make my way through sophomore year again. 

Guten Morgen (Good Morning)

I woke up with a golden smile. The sun filtered through the window and cast my room in a soft yellow hue, beckoning me to start my day. Birdsong was serenading my ears, each note a joyous tone, and I couldn't be woken up any better way. That would be an ideal summer/spring morning for me, especially on the first day of school, but how I actually woke up was a little different. My curtains were drawn, so it was rather dark, but there was sunlight peeking from the curtain openings. No birds were singing, but my alarm woke me up adequately, so it was essentially the same. 

I sprung out of bed and began my day with a morning shower, because I'm a morning shower type of guy. The weather was slowly transitioning to autumn, but summer was continuing to hang on, so that day was relatively warm and the sun was out and about. Given the favorable weather conditions, I biked to school that day with my host sister. In America, the last time I biked to school was in elementary school, when my school was a casual 5 minutes away. My nimble 5th grade legs would've carried me to school right away at 7:30 in the morning, and I wouldn't have had a single complaint. But now we have to consider my age of 18. Give the old guy a break. The ride was actually enjoyable, and it was a genuine way to chase away my morning grogginess, except my hair was still a little wet from my shower. That's one of the disadvantages of showering in the morning, as it takes some time to dry my hair. As I was saying, my hair was in a state of moisture between wet and damp, so it wasn't completely soaked, but it also wasn't dry. And of course, knowing that safety comes first, I had to provide my head with some defense, so I put on a helmet. My semi-wet hair was clamped under my helmet, and it was honestly a strange sensation. I think the best comparison is having wet swim trunks and having to sit down in the car as you head back home from the lake or pool. Think about that scenario real quick. Right? That's no fun. So that's essentially what it was like, but it wasn't all that bad. 

Arriving at school, I was blown away by the sheer number of kids who rode their bikes to school. It was utterly amazing to see everyone pull up to the bike rack area with their bikes, lock them, and then casually walk into school. If I saw this from an aerial perspective, I would liken it to a massive, colorful beehive. Now, I assume you guys know what bike racks look like, so keep that image in your head, as you'll need it. The bike racks at my school are like those, but they can host up to 40 bikes each, so yeah, they're big. They're lined up parallel to one another and resemble a series of I's, like this- I I I I I. The bike racks would be the beehive itself, and then the students, including me, would be the worker bees. There's no queen bee in this hive. Then each day, beginning at 7:20, students would begin biking in from different directions to the bike racks. In bee world, this would compare to colorful worker bees' coloration due to the varying bike colors, hurrying to the hive (the bike rack), and gathering there. Pretty cool, huh? That comparison should seal the deal by providing a robust visual of biking culture at German schools. 

Diving Head-first 

For me, school didn't start straight away with class. I had an exchange student orientation briefing with a counselor and two other exchange students. I didn't expect to find any other exchange students here, so that was a comforting surprise. It was especially cool learning that one was from Thailand and the other from Oregon! Small world, huh? Geez, what a use of an idiom! I can't believe it. The counselor explained our schedules to us and gave us a tour of the school so that we had a general idea of where we were and where we needed to be. When the orientation ended, we headed to our classes, me alone and the other two together. By this time, I was still comprehending the fact that I was in 10th grade. I wasn't completely blown away, as I knew I would either be in 10th or 11th grade, given the typical grade placements of exchange students, but it was still a doozy. I made my way to my homeroom class and prepared myself.

*Knock knock*. The door opens, and all I can feel is everyone's eyes on me. It's the first day of school, and it's already pretty intense. I mean, if there was an exchange student in my class, I would also be curious about them, so I completely understand everyone's stares. Regardless, those were some intense stares. I walk into class and glance around at my surroundings, looking for a seat in the circular formation everyone's seated in. Once I sit down, my reality begins to settle in- from now on, you're in a German school where German is spoken, taught, and understood. I heard a lot of German that day, and most of it just jumped into one ear, swam around in my head, then jumped out the other. I didn't retain much. Furthermore, I tried catching on to what people were saying, but it eventually took a heavy toll on my brain, and I was pretty exhausted as we proceeded with first-day introductions and get-to-know-me games. There was no actual learning that day, so that helped me ease into the environment and get to know people. 

As the day draws to an end, my class heads out to a field to play some team-building games, and one of them happens to be American Chicken Rugby. I've never heard of this game, much less those three words spoken together in the same context. When my homeroom teacher announced the name of the game, American Chicken Rugby, everyone looked at me with anticipation. Apparently, they had never played this splendidly named game before either, and I was supposed to know what it was. I had to break the news and tell them that I'd never heard of that game before, and we all had to learn together. After learning how to play and proceeding to play American Chicken Rugby, I still didn't understand where the "chicken" and "American" aspects came into play. I could be missing out on something involving the rules, but I think it would still be a stretch. Maybe it's a reference to KFC, Chick-fil-A, Raising Canes, or something. I apologize to those of you who wish to play the game, but I'm going to refrain from explaining the premise of the game because I think we could all go our whole lives without playing it. Then, after playing a few rounds of ACR (American Chicken Rugby), the day was over. I had completed my first day of school in Germany. 


When I got home, I was wiped. I had an eventful first day and was ready for my midday nap. I spoke briefly with my host family about my day, as I had lots to explain. They realized that I was exhausted and let me retreat to my bed, where I once again fell into a deep sleep. Thinking about my day, I realized that I was in a completely different environment than America and that school wasn't going to be the same either. But all in all, it was an exciting day that prepared me for the days of school to come. Maybe repeating 10th grade isn't all that bad. Actually, my friends say otherwise and always have a good laugh after mentioning that fact. Hey, I get that, it is pretty funny when you give it some perspective.