Hallo! My name is Lila. I’m seventeen years old, and live outside of a town in South Carolina. In less than a week, I will be on my way to Germany, leaving behind my parents and hometown. You might ask “What would possess someone to uproot themselves like this and miss their senior year?” Well, there isn’t really a simple way to answer that question.
For as long as I can remember I have been interested in other cultures. I loved reading about traditions in other countries and yearned for friendships and connections beyond my town. In eighth grade I had the opportunity to begin taking German in school. I won’t lie and say that it was love at first sight-the grammar component of the language was a total challenge for me. However, I did enjoy learning about the history and culture of Germany, which motivated me to keep trying at the language.
When I found out about CBYX it seemed like a perfect fit. Not only would I be able to immerse myself in the German culture, I would also get to hear the language daily. However, a few months after I got the great news that I was finalist during the 2020 application cycle, I learned that due to the Coronavirus pandemic, travel to Germany would not be possible. While this was a disappointment, it opened up the opportunity to partake in the virtual program. Throughout the program, I was able to make friends (both from Germany and the United States), was exposed to concepts in-depth such as civilian diplomacy, and had the opportunity to improve my German. I loved the virtual program, and while I had mostly partaken in those activities from my living room table, they furthered the mission and values of CBYX. The opportunity to participate in these activities made me feel well-prepared for further endeavors which involved civilian diplomacy but left me hoping for the chance to experience the program in person. Very soon, that journey will begin!
Whenever I share with people the exciting news about my upcoming year, one of the first things they ask about is my living situation. Where I will be, who I will be with, and questions of that sort. Thankfully, I was already assigned a host family last year (before the 2020-21 program was terminated), and they are opening their home up to me again this year. I will be staying in a small village in North Rhine-Westphalia and have been getting to know my host parents and host sister during the past year. My host mother has sent me pictures of my future home and village, and I’m very excited to experience it for myself.
My summer has been spent doing things I love, like reading and biking, but I also had to take two summer courses in order to graduate before departure. I have also been saying goodbyes to many of my friends and family members and working on my German language skills.
I know it will be a big change. The culture shock, adjusting to life with a host sibling, and learning the German language will challenge me in ways I cannot yet imagine. I have a lot of anticipation about the coming year, and the past few weeks have been very bittersweet as I slowly say goodbye to my home. However, I am trying to look to the coming months with hope and keep an adventurous attitude. This may be easier said than done, but I think I will try to take it day by day and see what happens. I hope you will continue to follow my journey through the year.