The stress about leaving for a year did not hit me until the day before my flight to the pre-departure orientation in DC. This was mostly due to the fact that packing everything you will ever need in 50 pound checked bag is borderline impossible. On the morning of August 2nd, I would say my final goodbyes and wave hello to my adventure. Although I made really good friends at the interview, I was really excited to meet the CBYXers that I have yet to have met. In DC I’d do just that, meeting many amazing German exchange students and the other American exchangers at the other interview location. One of my fondest memories in the DC would have to be when both German and American exchange students on our last day used our spare time and all went to the hotel’s indoor pool even though we both had long days of traveling ahead of us. Opportunities like this are 100% worth sacrificing something as valuable as sleep. In these few days, you will make good friends with German students and bond over the feeling of uncertainty on the future, which every exchange student can relate too.
These first few days despite being slightly exhausting, will also be some of the most exhilarating. The day after this pool adventure, I still remember pacing around with new friends around the airport talking, trying to let out all of our anxious energy. Once boarded upon the plane I was seated beside an Italian exchange student spending her summer in the United States. It was here that I noticed that no matter what country you’re are from or go to, the unfamiliarity and not knowing what to expect is something universal in the exchange student experience. Due to this I was able to become her friend as we support each other’s journeys and truly proves that throughout exchange you make friends from all over the world.
After finally arriving to Frankfurt came the next stage on our exchange: language camp. This meant that we, while waiting for our transportation at the Schloss, would have to choose our roommates for the month. Despite not knowing my roommates too well previously, I am glad to have roomed with them and create such fun memories.
As one of my goals for my exchange year I wanted to find out who I am with no one’s expectations from back home. In these few weeks alone I feel like I have made progress to my goal. The people here are non-judgmental and is a safe place to live authentically one’s self. It is also a place to grow. Being in a prestigious scholarship such as CBYX you get to meet some of the top, like minded individuals of the US. My friend Pooja taught me the importance of being politically involved at a young age; Justin taught me, through his work with refugees, to research you can be involved with your community; Carmen taught me that despite all your achievements who you are is portrayed by how you treat others and what you value most in life. In this past few weeks I have learned so much from my new friends that it would be hard to summarize it.
While first arriving to Bad Laasphe and the castle everything will seem so foreign and the week will seem long, but by the second week you will begin to establish routines and time will fly. If I could advise anything it would be to limit contact back home to once a week and try to valuable your time at Language camo and with the other CBYXers as much as possible.
Upon our first outing to the city we were lucky enough to go to a music festival. Once we had arrived all the German locals were in a semi-circle around the stage, observing from a distance. Many CBYXers were afraid to let go and dance because of their fear of embarrassing themselves. I was not one of these people. In my point of view, no one in Bad Laasphe knows you therefore you should have no fear of their judgments and be okay with looking a bit silly. Because of my fearlessness to dance I had a super great time in front row. Wanting to share this feeling of adrenaline and excitement I tried my best to convince others to come and dance with me to the cool music. My greatest accomplishment of the night was not convincing my CBYX friends to dance, but convincing some German children. Later that night the whole stage would be full of both, Germans and Americans, and all had a great time together.
Although only two weeks have passed, I am excited to see how the relationships and unforgettable memories I have made will further shape my character and my ways of thinking.