Growing up in the United States of America, you don’t learn much about the rest of the world unless you seek it out. Coming from a not-so-diverse, growing town near Louisville, Kentucky, I didn’t know to seek it out until I read Harry Potter. The series has had an impact on so many lives, good and bad, slight and major. For me, reading about this boy going on adventures I wish I could go on, who wasn’t American, changed everything because suddenly, there was more than my little town.
Completely shocked, I did what any kid with internet access would do, I Googled. And what I found blew my naive little mind wide open. It didn’t stop at the UK, I learned about Germany and France, I learned about China and Russia, I learned and I learned and I learned. All these different places with different languages and cultures and I wanted to go to every single one of them. Seeing as there are 195 countries in the world, I doubt I can go to and learn both about and from each and every one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to try.
Then, imagine my shock when, in seventh grade, I learned that when I got older, I could go to school in one of these countries. Insane. It was beyond my wildest imagination. But, it was true. So, I Googled some more.I found tons of programs that were just a little out of reach. Either the program was too expensive or it was too short or I didn’t speak the language that it needed me to speak. I was crushed but it was okay. I would get my turn, I told myself. College has tons of study abroad programs, I told myself. I’d go then, I told myself.
I settled into my sophomore year of high school, defeated but eager to enjoy myself anyways. My school welcomed several exchange students last year and I had classes with three of them. A girl from Italy, a boy from Sweden, and a girl from Spain. I desperately wanted to be like them, so late October, 2021, I did a last effort Google search. Suddenly, the CBYX program was staring at me from my school-issued chromebook screen. Two days before the application opened, I was begging my parents to let me apply. Sure, they said, what’s the harm?
I wrote and I erased. I planned and I stressed. I told everyone. My teachers, my friends, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. It took a few months and a lot of hard work, but it’s happening. In a few weeks, I’ll be boarding the plane to Germany.
Since getting the call that I was accepted as a finalist (during which I was doing my hair in preparation for an afterschool activity and ended up sitting on the floor of my bathroom, hands covering my mouth, scaring my younger sister with my shrieks of delight, though I’m afraid I was quite awkward on the phone), preparation has been a whirlwind. I have to learn German, I have to pack up my life for only a year, I have to arrange everything heath-wise, there’s so much. And, yet, I do all of it with a proud smile on my face.
I wanted this, so I put in the work, and here I am, not only in the program but as a blogger for the CBYX program, which means I have the pleasure of sharing my experience with everyone reading this.
Now, I get to reflect that, as I’m writing this, there is a plane ticket to Germany with my name on it and I really need to learn more German. It’s funny, actually. My last name, Hesse, is originally German, but when my ancestors came to America, the pronunciation changed from Hess-eh to Hess-ee. Additionally, my first name, Rachel, uses the ‘ch’ sound, which they don’t have in the German language. Therefore, I’m preparing to have a completely different sounding name while in Germany, which has made me laugh on multiple occasions.
Seriously, though, I have never been more proud of myself than I am at this moment, typing a blog post about how I have gotten to this point in my life. Hopefully, this time next year I’ll be able to say that the pride only continued to grow.
Clearly, there’s only one thing left for me to say.
Thank you. To the CBYX program. To CIEE and all the program managers. To everyone involved in reviewing my application, I promise you made the right decision. To my mom, who’s terrified of letting me go but also knows how much I want this, my dad, who’s been keeping me on track with everything I need to do and with world news, and my step-mom, Jennifer, for giving me the inspiration and confidence to go abroad. To my siblings, Logan, Sydney, and Josie, for being there for me to rant to, cry to, and laugh with, I promise I’ll bring you all back the best presents ever. To my teachers who believed me this whole time, especially Mrs. White, who, when she heard that I got in, got me cupcakes and a card to congratulate me with, Mr. Hall, who is always in my corner when I’m pursuing my goals, and Mrs. Midkiff, who’s working with me to make sure I’m still on track to graduate when I come back for my senior year. I promise all of you that I’ll make you proud in Germany.
Signing off for now,
P.S. Hopefully, this will be the only blog post I write that has me tearing up, although it probably won’t be.