Making Connections and Leaving Impressions

CBYX participant, Delphine J., reflects on her CBYX experience and how minor interactions can leave lasting impressions.

The people I’ve met in Germany have left such a positive impression on me, and I hope to do the same to them. As an exchange student, I am representing the country I come from everywhere I go, and with every one of my actions. It is therefore very important to leave good impressions on the people I meet. I can remember one particularly funny time that I succeeded in leaving a good impression. On my first day of school, I spent some time in the English class of the eighth grade. They were learning about the United States, and were excited to meet a native. I spent two hours talking about my home, my family, and my country. I spoke not only to the class as a whole but to individual students, as well. I think everyone left that day feeling warm inside: me because I got to talk about my home; and the German students because they met someone new, from a country that is exciting and unfamiliar to them. I think some left feeling even better than others, because when I got home, I found that a student had sent me a message on social media, saying that she thought I was really nice and friendly. She looked up to me, and that made me ecstatic. It’s impressions like that that I hope to leave everywhere, so as to break stereotypes about American people, and to positively represent where I come from. I kept that message, and others, and reread them from time to time to remind myself what kind of impact I want to leave on others during my time here.

It’s also important, however, that I impact myself during this program. That I continue to grow as a person, a friend, a sister, and a world traveler. And I think that all the minor victories one accumulates as an exchange student help create that change. I can recall one particular instance that left me feeling strong, and confident: I was sitting by myself on the train one early Saturday morning, losing myself in my own thoughts, when the man across the aisle from me leaned over, and introduced himself with a quiet, “Entschuldigung,” or “excuse me.”

I looked over to see that he was fully dressed in a German military uniform. I have immense respect for anyone who serves his or her country, and therefore hoped I could help him in whatever way he needed. At the same time, I felt flattered that he did not immediately take me for a foreigner. He asked for the time that the train would arrive at our destination, entirely in German. I understood, which gave me confidence, and answered him, immediately giving myself away as a foreigner with my accent. He did not so much as give me a weird look, and simply replied, with a huge smile, “Perfekt.”

I spent the rest of the train ride soaking in the experience. I stepped back, and looked at the greater image of my life. I’m in Germany, at fifteen years old, living and studying. I’m growing. I’m learning. I’m representing the United States. And, I’m helping others, even by doing something as small as helping someone with the train schedule.

It is my hope that my year continues with the same amount of success that I’ve already experienced. Without the support the CBYX program, none of this success would have been possible, so I thank you sincerely.