a month of transition

I'm spending one month (I only have a few days left) with 49 other exchange students in Würzburg. I've had great times hanging out with friends, going on daily runs, having intense ping pong sessions, and simply chilling in the hostel. I've met a group of great friends, who are always down for a deep conversation, like about the American government's response to climate change or our family backgrounds, or a spontaneous trip to town. I'm here living at a youth hostel while taking German lessons and adjusting to a foreign culture and way of life.

I share a room with five girls. There's six bunk beds and small locker-style storage spaces. We definitely complain too much about the hostel life, honestly, but I'm really enjoying my experience in Germany so far. Huge smile on my face right now. I'm constantly reminded how beautiful life is. A five minutes walk from the hostel is both a medieval fortress and delectable €1.20 gelato ice cream waiting for me.

I'm a social butterfly who loves hanging and talking to people, but I've also grown to enjoy solitude while strolling through the city, people-watching and reflecting on what I've learned and what I've experienced. The other day I spent three hours walking through the city then sitting at a park slowly eating a delicious pastry from one of the many bakeries nearby. I slowly navigated my way past the throngs of tourists. I had set out to buy peanut M&Ms (a spontaneous very-unhealthy craving) and ended up wandering, looking, and thinking. Sometimes when I've had these moments while going on walks or runs alone I become a little emotional. I think about how exciting it is that I'm in Germany, how weird it is that I graduated early and my friends are back home in their senior year of school. It's a good feeling, though. The day before my friend and I went for a five-mile run through the city, so I was visiting some cool spots we had passed by.

What has surprised me most so far is the different ways of child raising. Germans instills responsibility and freedom in children at a young age, so by the time teenagers are 16, they're treated like adults. We exchange students have so much freedom. After just four hours of German class, I'm free to do as I wish as long as I'm back at the hostel by 10 pm and in my room by 11. In America in a similar situation, there'd likely be chaperones or greater concerns over legality issues. It's a more relaxed and independent vibe here. My German counselors explain that they trust us, since we're "adults", unless we give them a reason not to. I'm interested in learning more on how these different patterns developed. Also note that I haven't actually met my host family, as I don't go to Aachen until this Thursday, September 6, so this explanation is just from observations and cultural discussions with my German teachers.

It's a little stagnant here. I'm not yet an exchange student since I haven't gone to my host family, but I've already left America. I'm in the middle. Living here feels a little sheltered and isolated, since I haven't met any German friends or family. I'm transitioning and finding a balance between my new activities: runs/workouts, nights out with friends, college apps, and studying German. I'm so excited to finally begin my life as an exchange student on Thursday when I take the train to my host town.

Germany is so beautiful, relaxing, and serene. My favorite parts are the beautiful areas I discover on my runs. Here are some photos of my experience.