Diya’s Collection of Experiences

Share an experience. One single experience. Three months ago, this would have
seemed like a straightforward enough task. After all, an experience is exactly what I
considered this opportunity to be. The thing is, though, since then I’ve realized that an
exchange is so much more than that. It’s not a single experience, but a whole collection
of experiences that help mold you into a more authentic version of Yourself.
I learned how to make myself heard by attending the Fridays for Future
demonstration. Walking from school to the S-Bahn station, I laughed with my
classmates as they stuck stickers promoting the demonstration on any and every surface
they could find. I ran with them along the U-Bahn trying to find a space we could squish
into in at least one of the subway cars. We weaved through crowds of demonstrators,
and I couldn’t help getting giddy with excitement as the music got louder and more and
more people propped up protest signs. It was as we marched, though, chanting
something in German I had only just learned the meaning of did I feel a sudden sense of
belonging. Because despite having met only a handful of the tens of thousands around
me, and that too just five days prior, seeing how we all took a stand together for
something we genuinely believe in is an experience I’ll never forget.
I learned how easy it is to connect with others so long as you put yourself out
there. Having been invited to my first party in Germany, it was inevitable that feelings
like fear and dread plagued the initial excitement I had felt. But, learning that only one
of my new friends would be attending created an entirely new sense of worry. I
approached the building my friend stood in front of, waving excitedly. Together, we
climbed up the stairs, immediately being greeted by a crowd that seemed to spill out the
apartment door. We walked in, and I warily followed her around. She introduced me to
an overwhelming amount of people, having conversations with them I could barely
follow, much less participate in. My friend suddenly announced she had to go out,
leaving me alone in a roomful of people I had only just met. So, I decided to move over
to the makeshift dance floor, and before long had found myself dancing with a group of
people like we had known one another for years. The amount of fun I had in that
moment as we all danced together, somehow connecting without the need for words in
any language, is an experience I’ll never forget.
I learned that a family is so much more than blood, but who you allow it to be.
For autumn vacation, I joined my host family on a trip to Austria and Italy; the five of us
squished together in the car for the hours-long drive. We spent a day hiking up the
Austrian Alps. We explored the town we were staying in, racing to see who would find all
the landmarks first. In the basement of our vacation house, we played countless games
of pool together. We spent hours swimming at the Italian beaches, teasing whoever was
the first to get out of the water. In Pisa, we took cheesy tourist pictures with the leaning
tower, determined to line up the photos just right. It was in Venice, though, as the five of
us were walking through the streets, my host sisters and I laughing about one of the
many inside jokes that had come out of this trip, did I realize that they were just as
much a family to me as the one back home and the love I felt for them right then is an
experience I’ll never forget.
I learned that it doesn’t have to take years to make friends you know are going to
be for life. I stood in front of the pickup counter with two other exchange students living
in Berlin from Denmark and France, waiting for our orders of curly fries and McFlurrys.
Eating our fries, we spent the next hours talking about all the things no one else could
understand, things like host families and homesickness. We talked about all the
embarrassing things that have happened to us as we navigated Berlin’s public
transportation to get to a museum. We laughed at the sculptures in the museum
together, spending far too much time drawing at the children’s play station. Having
decided to go to a market, I ran after my friends as they raced to catch our bus, only to
realize we had gotten on the wrong one. Giggling, we got off at the next stop, sprinting
again to the right bus this time. Out of breath, we fell into our seats, barely able to
contain our laughter. We strolled through the streets, disappointed to find the market
was closed. Instead, we settled on eating crêpes and waffles, discussing differences
between our countries we hadn’t noticed before. Making our way back to the train
station, we came across a photo booth and immediately agreed we had to take a picture.
Sitting there, squished in that photo booth, making silly faces with my friends, it was so
obvious that I had had just as much fun with them as I did my friends back home and I
truly hope that I will get to see them again after all of this because that is an experience
I’ll never forget.
I never want to forget any of the experiences I have had this year! Good or bad,
difficult or easy, big or small, just in these last three months, I feel I’ve grown in so many
ways I hadn’t even considered. I’ve been challenged to become more confident, not to
fear mistakes, to make the most out of any situation no matter how bad it may appear.
I’ve formed countless new relationships and met people I can’t believe I’ve lived so long
without. Every moment genuinely has unveiled itself to be an experience, worthy of
being enjoyed to the fullest in and the present, no matter how insignificant it may seem.