Last week, the PI group of exchange students in Germany from America came together for a Mid-year orientation in Cologne. It was a wonderful time of reflection. We were be able to speak with other American students about the experiences they've have had so far in host families and schools. This week was full of seminars, presentations, and group work related to our program year. Such as how we could improve, how we changed, and what we could do better. Together with these friends, we were able to brainstom solutions to problems as well as simply ask questions to one another about specific language confusions or to compare cultural differences we had noticed. It made me realize the variety of traditions or cultural differences that differed between our communities here in Germany. One seminar that was particularily helpful, was for us to share the smaller, more frustrating parts of this exchange, and it was a relief to hear that others were going through the same struggles I was (even if the complaint was simply that we missed spicey Texas food). It's true that not every aspect of an exchange year is easy, and it was a relief to be able to talk about it in a setting specifically designed for students like us in our situation.
This week also gave me the time to reflect on this last half year and see how I had been changed by it. I knew coming into this exchange that I would leave differently, and it was an odd sensation to look back and already be able to point out small differences in myself which I would like to hold onto after the exchange. We then asked ourselves what we would like to do in this next half a year, and wrote a letter to a future exchange student that included what we would've liked to hear going into this exchange. It was fun being able to brainstorm with everyone so that we were able to come up with ideas we may not have thought of on our own. By the end of the week, I was filled with new ideas and motivation to go back into my host community so that I could make this second half of a year be that much better!
We not only had meetings and reflections throughout the week, but also trips to Cologne and Bonn, toured museums, and were able to ask questions to local politicians! We even went to the Cologne Cathedral and were able to go in small groups around the town! The next day we were able to go to Bonn and ask the mayor questions as well as a politician from the Gruen party. Another CBYXer and I even answered a short interview with the local paper about what it was like to be an American exchange student in Germany. (Aaannddd we also had the best and weirdest dance battle and talent show that Germany has ever seen.) These parts were probably some of my favorite parts about the trip. It was a little sad to be leaving these friends whom I have come to think of as close, but I'm also excited to be back home with my little German family. Thank you last 5 months for the memories, experiences, and lessons! Here's to making these next months even more spectacular!!