Dear Rotarians of 6450,
It has been 6 months since I packed up my life for a new one in Germany. While it has had its difficulty and unbearable days, it has also been full of good surprises,people, and culture shocks.
I would just like to make it clear,especially to future exchange students this is NOT a vacation or a long trip to another country. I won't lie, I thought that too. Finally, I won't have a mother that can tell me what to do or no homework. No, the truth is you will miss people one way or another and you might be expected to do homework in your host country.
Exchange is eating food you have no idea what it's made out of,saying the complete wrong thing in German,embarrassing yourself, but you learn from those experiences. Exchange is pushing yourself in uncomfortable situations and being the first to approach people (exchange students can be intimidating for natives to talk to as well). For me the most wonderful part of being involved with RYE is the many types of other exchange students you will meet. Those are truly your support system because you're missing home? They understand. Have no money? They understand.
Exchange is not for everyone and that's not to scare off those who are considering, it's the truth. It's not easy to be in a place where you don't know anyone, don't have a friend, and don't speak the language. Expect nothing of the host country. When I first got to Germany, I can't say I wasn't disappointed because I was. I went from living in a big town to a village of no more than 200 surrounded by a field of corn and wood. I was just thinking, I can't show this off. I did get to visit a really big city, Hamburg. I thought this was where I should have been placed. The thing is Hamburg may have been super beautiful, but it has some dangerous parts. Now I'm grateful because I would rather live in a safe place in a land I don't know than have to be a little scared. Trust Rotary and where you are placed. My year got better once I learned to love what I got, rather than what I don't.
For the first 2 months here, my Rotary club only had me and that brought me down because I was often alone while everyone else lived far. Until another exchange student changed her club to mine. FINALLY! Someone I can talk to on the daily. It didn't go that way and we were two completely different person. Our personalities totally collided and we don't really speak unless necessary. Not everything this year has been great nor will it be perfect. You will have your lonely days and fear, but rely on the people you have there. For me fortunately I have amazing rotarians here (and back home). My counselor and YEO has helped me so much. I had a teacher in school that just did not like me whatsoever ever solely because of being from the US. And he has given me some hard times. That was culture shock on its own because in West Aurora, I was an honor student with no Problematic record. I couldn't believe that a teacher didn't want me -the perfect kind of student, not to brag. I was livid but after talking to Sue, I realized you can't please everyone. I am just an exchange student not an activist in firing my host teachers.
This year has had its trial, but I wouldn't change a thing. I can't believe that I've been given such an amazing opportunity. This exchange has so many personal meanings to me because never did I grow up and think a girl like me could be so lucky. I couldn't dream of getting to go outside and explore my interests. Being involved with rotary has not only allowed me to appreciate other cultures, but it brought me closer to mine. I never really learned to have pride in being from Myanmar since everyone I knew was born in Aurora. Being different and not necessarily liking it stole a lot of the years I could spend loving it for the beauty the culture really is. There is a German phrase it goes, "Die Welt is ein Dorf" (the world is a village) and if I could sum up my exchange in a few words it would be that. Because that's what rotary does it bring people from all over close. Being here, it reminds me that the world truly is a small place and it doesn't matter where you're from, culture background because in the end what matters is that we are all human beings. We should praise our differences and respect everyone regardless of religious difference, culture, etc.
I would like to thank my outbound coordinator, Sue DeBolt for always responding to my emails with helpful advise. Chris Olson for all the patience of getting me here and not just letting me go when the first try of coming to Germany didn't work out. It took two years but here we are. Cheri Vana, she has a pretty hard job dealing with a bunch of kids from different countries (put them together and that's impossible to control). And lastly Thank you to my sponsor club, Aurora Sunrise and the District of 6450 for believing in me and what I can do.
(Die Autostadt, I got to the city called Wolfsburg which is known for its Volkswagens. Die Autostadt has seasonal activities to do and a car Museum)
(My best friends from California and Canada)
(Attending German class every Tuesday and Thursday)
(Hamburg -has amazing buildings)
(Germany is famous for its fabulous Christmas markets -taken in Braunschweig: Brunswick)
(Rühen, the village of my first host family)
(My school, Ratsgymnasium Wolfsburg)
(The exchange students of my host district, 1800 -taken in Celle on a weekend together)
(Friends from Taiwan, US, and South Korea -Celle,Germany)
(Trying new food, Potatoes of course)
(The lovely bus stop -I've taken the bus more in 6 months than my life time)
(You learn to sleep anywhere when you don't have a permanent home)
(My first test in English class)
(Being push to do crazy stunt)
(In Hannover with Friends from Australia, Taiwan, Venezuela, and US)
(Cultural parade in the city)