Hitting the March 11 date was a slap in the face reminder that I have (now) less than three months here. My time here is ending, but on the daily basis, I have never had so much down time. I fulfill this experience with entertaining and deep conversations with my host family, grabbing food with my friends, taking day trips to nearby cities (and countries), going to discos, and just overall spending time with my family and friends. My other activities include tennis, badminton, German lessons, and working out at the gym.
The first weekend of February, my friend and I visited Münster, a city about four hours north of us. We took the train there and stayed overnight at her grandma's house. It was so much fun to walk around the city and spend the weekend together.
I'm really impressed by how much freedom my friends here have compared to my friends back home. People my age travel to other countries or regions in Germany with each other (no parents!) during school holidays or breaks. It'd more uncommon in my city in California if a group of sixteen-year-old girls went without parents to another city or country for a few days. This is however possible in Germany due to a
number of factors: the close proximity of countries in Europe, reliable and safe public transportation, affordable youth hostels, and the general freedom German teenagers are granted.
I was also in Weimar for one week with my exchange program. Here I visited a concentration camp and the house of both Goethe and Schiller, learned about Bauhaus style and architecture, and reconnected with all the other Americans, most of whom I haven't seen since the beginning of September.
I remember how I always envisioned castles to be so romantic and fairy-tale-like. I had only visited a few castles previously in Europe. There's so many castles and palaces in Germany though. I've probably seen over twenty in the last few months. The views still impress me each time.
Probably one of the most exciting weeks of my exchange thus far has been KARNEVAL. This is a week long public celebration of parties, parades, and dressing up before Lent, which is a fasting period that lasts until Easter. For one week, I had no school and instead went out nightly with friends to dress up, dance, and sing to Karneval music. It was so much fun!
Language Updates: I feel quite comfortable in the language. In the beginning, I spoke with the friends who had taken me under their wings mostly in English, but as my German improved, I branched out more and formed friendships more on my own. I've never even heard the majority of my friends speak English. Of course, at the beginning it was difficult because I couldn't understand anything that was going on in class or what people were talking about with each other. I would just sit there quietly as I tried to follow along by picking out out words I understood. It helped that everyone was extremely patient and understanding of my limited language abilities. Now I can articulate myself in class, understand and make jokes, and carry out the social interactions to the similar degree I do in English. My host family also is so encouraging and they were the first people I started only speaking German with, around December. Of course, there's so much more I want to and need to learn to speak German like it's my mother tongue, but I'm getting there.