Growing Comfortable in Germany

CBYX participant David W., hosted in Papenburg, Germany, reflects on all he has learned in Germany so far.

This experience in Germany has truly been one of the most incredible learning opportunities in my life. But it isn’t a traditional one. I’m not learning about math, science, or history. I’m learning about myself. And no, I never left home in the hopes of “finding myself” in Europe– I’ve always had a clear idea of who I am. Instead, I left with the intention of challenging myself in the most remarkable way I could imagine, and intended to take advantage of every opportunity I could possibly find. And because of this experience, I have already grown as a person.

During our pre-departure preparations, we talk about the “little victories” of being an exchange student, but I think this name can be a bit misleading to outsiders. Yes, many of my accomplishments so far have been “minor,” but they have been really meaningful to me. Here’s an example: The other day, I woke up, made breakfast and lunch, packed my school supplies, and then biked to school; I then went to my first class and participated in a discussion; after, I went to my second class, and so on; after school, I biked back home to spend time with my host siblings. Huge triumph, right?

I know how ridiculous it sounds that I would see this as a huge victory (and believe me, I won’t be writing about it on any college applications), but I left out some important details. First, this all took place far away from my home, and everything I’ve come to know in the U.S. Second, all of my discussions with classmates and teachers were held in a language I could barely speak a month ago. I see this as an enormous “little victory”, and I understand why the concept is emphasized as something to be proud of.

While my story is just about me acting like a normal student in Germany, I am extremely proud of myself for what I’ve achieved so far. The feeling of being completely clueless, completely without context, completely foreign is difficult to overcome, and the challenge sometimes makes you want to give up. But on that day, I didn’t give up. I struggled to understand and I fought not to be so foreign, and just for a second it was almost as if I was a normal student in Germany, which is more than a “little” victory to me.