Olivia Ghorai arrives in Germany

I arrived in Hamburg on a Sunday afternoon. I’d been awake and hadn’t eaten for over 24 hours, and my grip on reality was fading. That afternoon my exchange, Isi, showed me around her lovely neighborhood and we took a walk on the river’s edge. I felt incredibly laid back and wondered if most of my exchange would be this relaxed.

We drove to Louisenlund later that day. Just seeing the school made all those nervous feelings I’d been trying to suppress come right back up. Looking around and hearing people rapidly speaking a language I didn’t understand was overwhelming. Just being in a different country with only one person I knew was overwhelming, which is what brings me to mention an effective piece of advice I was given before leaving: take a shower the night you get to your exchange school/house. It gives you time to yourself to reflect on the beginning of your exchange, and it feels good to be clean after a long plane ride.

The first school day was a bit hectic for me, but I expected that. I’m not in the same program as my exchange, as her classes are in German, so she brought me to a group of girls who are in the IB [International Baccalaurate] program like me. They were incredibly kind and inclusive, and one of them skipped their German class to give me a tour of the school. The rest of the day I was tossed around like a ball to multiple people who showed me different things and took me different places. It was intense, but I was glad my first day had gone how it did.

The time my exchange was scheduled for was a bit weird, as school is only going on for three out of the six weeks I’m there and exams are happening while I’m in school. Most of the days I’m told by other students that I shouldn’t waste my time by showing up to class, as it’s just a study period. This was a bit disappointing at first, as not having class left me with more free time than I know what to do with, but I’ve found that there is always something to do if you go looking for it. At one point, there were five other exchanges at Lund with me. They came from Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, and Colombia. All of them are in the IB program as well, so we’ve all had a lot of free time. As a group, we’ve gone to Lübeck, Flensburg, and Kiel to sightsee and explore for a day.

The second week I was at Louisenlund, we had a long weekend that started on Thursday. Isi’s family took me to Berlin to sightsee and I got to know her family better. Her parents and older sister both speak English very well and her younger brother is learning it incredibly fast. They’re super generous and kind. I feel really lucky to have them as my host family.

So far, my exchange has proved to be nothing like I expected, but I’m really glad I’m in Germany having this experience.