Has Language Camp Prepared Me for My Year Ahead?

Authored by:
Olivia L.

Olivia L.

Life in the language camp is always busy. Whether we are in language or cultural classes to meals or city visits I found these past weeks flying by me and now today is the last day here in Hedersleben. WE had many fun activities like the romantische abend, an orchestra, talentshow, werewold fame, trivia night and movie night, all of which had a level of german language or culture incorporated into them which made learning actually fun. Classes incorporated daily school work that I wil have to do later this year such as researching Brexit and making a presentation or reading poetry and interpreting the meaning. We also had regular every day conversations and read fairytales aloud to check listening comprehension. This helped me learn how to understand discussions without knowing every single word.

Language camp, as cliche' as it might sound, helped me gain unique friendships. We have been in close proximety sharing the same mixed emotions of homesichness, nervousness, and excitement which will continue into this year as we navigate settling into the German culture. We will be able to text each other throughout this year with thoughts or feelings that people, who haven't gone through this exchange, simply will not understand. It is a unique situation because we have only known each other in between our American and German lives, for four weeks nonetheless, and yet I feel very close with them. These friendships are truly one-of-a-kind relaionships. 

While I have very much enjoyed my time here in Hedersleben, I am extatic to truly begin my year abroad here in Germany with my host family. In this language camp setting, you are still very much surrounded by the American culture. It can be hard telling what is German from what is American acting as German. Yet, it helped me find that there is a separation between individuality and culture by showing me the broad range America has itself. There are many wonderful things about this camp, but I am also looking forward to gaining some independence. Up until this point, everything has been carefully planned and laid out for us, from meals in the morning to planning trips outside of town, there is a melodic system that one can easily fall into. It can be easy to not listen to the question being asked and respond with what the person ahead of you had said. This system will be there until I step onto my first train connection tomorrow (7 September) for my host family. In that moment, there will be an added level of responsibility and individualism rather than using the crutch of blindly following the crowd towards the next scheduled activity.

This camp, as strange as it may be, prepared me by also showing me that there is no way you can be 100% prepared for your experiences. There are simply too many variables and unknowns about this experience to fully get a grasp of what you are supposed to do and say in every scenario. For me, with my type-A personality, this was a hard lesson to learn as I will work day and night to ensure I am capable of handling what will come next. This was especially hard for me when it came to speaking the language. I have taken two years of German in school and had a very good teacher (thanks Mr. S), but even with that there are a lot of things that I didn't know. I studied over the summer by going through the teacher's books and reading German novels (again, thanks!), but, coming here, it was blatantly obvious that I was not fluent. There were days where I didn't understand most of what was going on in class, and then there were times when I understood the entirety of the news. Progress isn't something you notice right away when it happens, it is the continual learning until you realize you understood so much more than the week before. CBYX is phenominal in the way they allow students without any study of the German language to be a part of such an incredible learning experience. It was hard to realize in the beginning, but this program is not about how much you understand; it's about the process of resetting your brain to learn and look at things in a different way.

So, tomorrow, I will step onto that train excitedly, having more, not all, language ability, cultural politeness, people skills, and perspective than I had when I stepped into the Frankfurt airport. So, yes, I would say that language camp has prepared me for this year ahead.

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