Closing Thoughts

"How was Germany?"

I get this question allllll the time. From my best friends, from strangers, from classmates I run into whom I haven't seen in a year. But I mean, when I'm thinking back on living in Germany, how do I honestly answer such an open-ended question? Not even as a response to the people asking, but for myself. Like how I changed, what I learned, what I experienced. And other intangibles, like cultural differences and behavior. I thought about -- and think about -- that stuff a lot.

I usually just give people the rundown, like living with a host family and attending school. Or sometimes I explain the CBYX scholarship too, all the facts. Like how I visited over 35 cities and 7 countries (!!!!) Oh and yeah of course how I now speak German. I understood cultural nuances I wouldn't otherwise think about, like how Germans constantly open up windows to get fresh air, even when it's pouring rain outside. And no sir, I don't regret missing senior year of high school at all. I didn't go to Senior Ball or Disneyland with the senior class. Instead I was chilling along the river in Berlin drinking cider with friends and biking around Amsterdam and just eating German sausages with my host family.

The year was:

an adrenaline rush running on the ocean dock with twenty feet high waves crashing over me and my best friend in England.

soo frustrating sometimes not being able to convey my emotions to the nuanced extent I can in English.

thrilling while dancing in nightclubs with friends on weekend nights. Dancing with friends to good music is so. much. fun. and I love going out to do that.

isolating during the beginning of school when I didn't understand the conversations happening around me. It motivated me to learn as much German as I could.

humiliating when I had to repeat sentences because my grammar and pronunciation didn't make sense. But everyone was so so so respectful and patient with me.

so sweet whenever my six-year-old host sister wandered in my room and plopped herself on her bed, or rather bounced up and down, and starting chattering away. I treasure these moments.

full of family time, like eating pancakes with my host family every weekend. It was a way I shared American food traditions with them, and it brought us together.

humbling to navigate a new language and culture, and it reminded me of the journey immigrants, including my mom, brave. Experiencing this firsthand, although to a much lesser degree, made me more empathetic and tolerant.

There were also a few nights during fall when I just cried in bed, fed up with the language barrier and tired of writing college apps. But it was worth it. Exchange is where I met my serious ride-or-dies: three girls who I know will always be there for me. And lived with the most welcoming(!!!) host parents and sister. I have many flashbacks of my sister's high-pitched squeals and laughter. The exchange was seriously the most rewarding and exciting year of my life.

When I returned to California I had such a frustrating and difficult time reintegrating into life here. I was busy hanging out with friends but still missed speaking only German and the life I had carved out for myself and community I had found there. But it's easier now as I move on and get ready for college. I've understood that no one can completely understand what I went through. Even I'm still figuring it out. Instead I can focus on remembering and sharing bits of German culture and life and stories about my exchange year while continue to process it all.

So HUGE thanks to everyone who followed along my blog throughout the year. I'm starting college in one week. Wait what! The next chapter. So yes, this summer has been a transition of reflecting on Germany while preparing for Berkeley. But I'm already planning on studying in Germany again, so the study abroad adventures await...

And. Highlights of May and June include: visiting Berlin and Prague (Czech Republic), meeting my German Bundestag Parliament Representative Partner, and sweet sweet times talking and laughing with all my German friends and host family.