What am I doing here?
This was the question running through my mind as I sat in the airplane, flying high above the mesas, arroyos, and mountains I had called home for the past eighteen years. It was the question echoing in my head as I looked around the empty hotel room in DC that contained the entirety of my belongings in one corner. And as I lay wide awake in bed, that question was in a permanent loop in my thoughts, and showed no sign of subsiding.
I tried my best to answer the question - I had applied to CBYX as a gap year program, not feeling quite ready to go straight to college, and hoping to learn more about another culture before doing so. Even in my state of panic, I could recognize this as a logical answer, however it did not account for my lack of German or general life experience I believed was required for such an extreme life change. Furthermore, it could not explain how I could even fathom leaving my family, home, and everything else I have ever known. The question felt unanswerable, and thus terrifying.
What am I doing here?
A week later I found this question echoing in my mind again. However, rather than making its presence while I was homesick, terrified, and alone, the question popped up during one of our language camp activities. We laughed at shared jokes as we walk back to a centuries old monastery on a path nestled between a gentle stream and a sweeping meadow, my hands were stained with wild blackberry juice and my hands full of a yellow plum, Mirabelle, that tasted unlike any fruit I had before. The afternoon felt like it was taken straight out of a fairytale, and the nature surrounding the town a mystic utopia. What am I doing here? How did I get so lucky to have this magical opportunity in this wonderful place ?
If I am being completely honest, it has taken me so long to write this first blog post because I genuinely thought I would not be able to “survive” my exchange year. But as I reflect on the past week that already feels like a lifetime, I cannot help but be happy here in Germany. And while I won’t over-glamourize the experience by saying everything has been perfect (hello having no running water for an entire Sunday because a pipe broke), I can say that certain moments have felt pretty close to it. Furthermore, both CIEE and PI staff have done a wonderful job helping with getting over those first few hurdles of leaving home - something I am incredibly grateful for. And while the challenges of this year (ie. not knowing German) haven’t magically disappeared, they now feel conquerable.
I can’t wait to write more blog posts about my experiences here in Language Camp, as well as Germany in general. But for now, let me start by introducing myself:
Ich bin Elizabeth, I am 18 and from a small town in Northern New Mexico. I applied to CBYX knowing absolutely no German (but very excited to learn it!) and will be spending my exchange as a gap year before attending Columbia University in New York City. I enjoy learning about history and feel very passionately about bread, both things I hope to explore more this year in Germany, as well as share through this blog.
Until next time, tschüss!