As I settle in to being back home, I am deeply saddened to have left such an incredible place like Germany. Going on exchange was nothing like I imagined—it was so much greater. I had huge expectations for exchange and, shockingly, it was even better than my own dreams could have come up with. Everyone and everything there impacted the way my exchange journey went. The people and friends I met were some of the greatest friends I will ever have and I will never forget them. (Special shout out to Stella Bella.)
When I first arrived in Hinterzarten on April 12, I was not as excited as I wanted to be. The school was in the middle of a village with nothing but a few cafes and some hotels. I remember telling my dad how lucky he was to go back to California the next day. I now regret that sentence very much. People in Germany were so welcoming to me. At the end of my trip they told me I was the most legendary exchange student to ever attend their school because I really tried to get to know everyone and hang out with everyone outside of classes. They told me they all grew attached to me in such a short amount of time and that leaving was going to be hard for them because they would miss me. It all meant so much to me.
Exchange taught me so many important lessons starting with independence and responsibility. Being in a foreign country alone seemed terrifying at first, until I got the hang of things and could figure my way around bigger cities such as Zurich and Freiburg. I learned to step out of my comfort zone and not just stick to two friends the entire time I was there. I really tried to apply myself to everything the school offered as well as meet every single student there. (It is a small school.) If I could have extended my exchange, I would have stayed for another year. Leaving was terribly hard for me and I hope to visit soon. Thank you Germany for the most incredible six weeks of my entire life. You will not be forgotten.
Nadia arrives in Germany
I arrived in Germany three weeks ago and time has flown by so fast. I am attending Schule Birklehof Boarding School and I absolutely love it here. Here in Germany, so much is different from Athenian and America in general.
Everyday, I have one to three classes, which gives me a lot of free time to explore the village—Hinterzarten—and the school surroundings. Since I don’t really speak any German, I am primarily taking English-only classes. I am in year 11 here and I generally have more freedom than the grades beneath me.
I wake up anytime between 7:00 to 10:00 in the mornings, depending on what my schedule looks like for the day. I board at the school and share a room with a girl also named Nadia. I’ve been getting along with her really well. Our room is beautiful with an incredible view of the Black Forest.
Lunch is at 1:15 every day and, as a surprise to me, it is an extremely formal affair. Everybody must attend and there is arranged seating. Once in the dining hall, you must stand behind your chair until someone rings the bell, wishing you a good appetite. The meals always consist of three courses—appetizers, main course and dessert. You are only able to leave the dining hall if you have been dismissed by another bell ringing following announcements.
After lunch, I almost rarely have any classes so it gives me free time to hang out with the many friends I’ve made here. Contrary to my large fear of going on exchange and not making any friends, everybody here is so extremely friendly. Upon arriving my first day at Birklehof, students were also arriving back from Easter break. I met Lena an hour after I settled in and she introduced me to so many people that night. I felt truly welcomed into this community and I am so grateful for all the amazing friends I’ve made here. I have been lucky enough to not be experiencing any homesickness or large culture shock. Being in Germany honestly feels like home to me, and it’s truly incredible here.
Freiburg is a large city, close to Hinterzarten and is about a 30-minute train ride. I normally go there on the weekends with my friends. We walk around the beautiful parks and we shop. Freiburg is south of Hinterzarten and is beautiful in its own way. It does not look anything like San Francisco but looks old and charming with its own unique style.
My love for Germany and Birklehof seems infinite and I never want to leave.