The U.S. Department of State and German Bundestag are pleased to announce Tineke Kleinert as the February Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) German Participant of the Month! Tineke, a CBYX High School participant, was placed by AFS at Whitney M. Young Magnet High SChool and hosted by the Palkoner family in Chicago, Illinois.
Tineke and her host mother have found an exciting and culturally immersive way to bond in the form of weekly “German nights.” These wunderbar evenings feature all things German, including cooking German favorites such as Kloss mit Soss; Knödel with chese, spinach, or ham; cheesy Spätzle; or basically anything with sauerkraut. These meals are followed by German board games, movies, or activities, a family favorite being the card came SkipBo. Tineke’s host mother, Jill, really enjoyed watching the German movie Goodbye, Lenin!, which takes place during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Recently, Tineke and her host mother have extended their German night to include close friends and extended family. Tineke believes these intimate gatherings continue to transpire into enriching conversations, reflecting “Creating an understanding between cultures doesn’t have to be through giving presentations and talking in front of big groups” it can also come from authentic conversations centered in mutual understanding. All in all, these weekly exchanges of German traditions continue to be a meaningful way for Tineke and her host mother to create lasting memories.
Tineke has fostered new friendships through the Best Budies chapter at her high school, an organization that aims to give students an opportunity to connect, get to know each other, and become friends. “I really enjoy spending time with and getting to know my buddy Mahki and many others by doing arts and crafts, playing games, eating snacks, or just walking around and talking at some of our Best Buddies events.” Through this outlet, Tineke and her friends have taken part in various holiday festivities, including both a Halloween party and a Christmas party.
Although an exchange year can consist of many ebbs and flows, Tineke believes every challenge has also been a learning opportunity. She shares that although it was initially challenging starting the school year not knowing anyone, having her fellow exchange students by her side made her feel supported and encouraged. Tineke has established close friendships with fellow exchange students, who serve as a support system and encourage each other to be outgoing and meet new people.
Halfway through the program, Tineke believes applying for the CBYX program and having the opportunity to come to the United States continues to be one of the best decisions she has made: “It has allowed for me to meet so many amazing people, learn so much more and overall have a great experience… I highly encourage anyone who is thinking about going abroad to do it!” Tineke loks forward to the culturally immersive experiences that lie ahead in the coming months.