Packing was a somewhat stressful situation for me. Don’t get me wrong, I planned ahead and packed all my bags about a week in advance before leaving. However, what I didn’t account for was weighing my large, checked bag the night before leaving and finding out that it was 5 pounds over the 50-pound weight limit (yes, I did weigh my bag after my mom helped me pack everything a week in advance; no, I didn’t weigh it after I went back and added things to my bag that my mom told me to not bring).
Needless to say, this revelation at 10 pm the night before I flew to Washington D.C. was less than perfect. Eventually, after my parents rapidly helped me rearrange my luggage, my checked bag was back under the 50-pound weight limit and I was able to go to sleep.
I think the main thing I learned from this whole situation is that you don’t need to pack your entire life for a year. I can almost guarantee you any clothing you leave behind at home you can probably buy in Germany just as easily as you could in the US. Now I’m not saying that you should leave something behind you really cherish and love, I’m just saying that maybe bringing 10 t-shirts is a bit overkill.
Saying Goodbye & Pre-Departure Orientation
Finally, it was time for me to say goodbye to my family. I was so excited to start my exchange, but at the same time, I was so scared to say bye to my family for an entire year. I didn’t really start crying until my mom and my sister lead me to the security line in the airport. I had already said goodbye to my dad and my cats, but the emotions didn’t really hit me until I realized as soon as I stepped into that security line, I would be on my own. I hugged my mom and sister tight as we all said some teary-eyed goodbyes and then I walked through security. When I turned around to look for my mom and sister one last time, I saw my mom crying and hugging my sister. It was hard for me to continue walking through the airport, but I managed (of course I was crying the entire time, but they were happy and sad tears).
My flight to Washington D.C. went smoothly and so did checking in at the hotel. I wasn’t really prepared for how many kids there would be though. There were 50 Americans as well as around 80 Germans. Meeting the German exchange students spending their year in America was really interesting. All of them spoke really great English, so it was easy for us to talk to each other about our lives and what we were the most excited for.
The second day of PDO was really busy, but also really fun. We started the day with a visit to the State Department where we listened to some advice about our next year and heard a bit about the importance of the CBYX program and the United State’s relationship with Germany. After that, we toured the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the National Museum of American History. We made friends with a lot of the German students, many of who attempted to try and teach me some simple German words and phrases. After dinner at the Hard Rock Café, we all went back to the hotel and had a pool party to celebrate the American students’ last day in the US and the German students’ last day before going to their host families. Meeting and talking with the German exchange students was definitely one of my favorite things about PDO. It was definitely a great way to start our exchange year!