Reflecting on a Year

CBYX participant Chloe W. of Massachusetts, hosted in Sinsheim, Germany, reflects on the growth she has experienced during her exchange.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the people I’ve met here, the surroundings I’ve familiarized myself with, and even the language, are less than a year old to me. I can remember my first day in Germany: getting picked up by my host family from the airport, having no clue what the signs on the highway meant or what the radio was saying. Then school started just two days later. Everyone was greeting each other with hugs and smiles, but I didn’t even know how to say more than “hallo.” One week into the exchange, my host mom asked me if I wanted to join the swim team that my four other host sisters were on. Although I’d never swam one lap in my entire life, I said “yes!” One month into my journey, while walking to the bus station, I discovered a music school. I decided to go in, and using the broken yet improving German I had, I managed to ask if they had a cello teacher. One week later I was signed up for lessons.

Now it’s half a year later and reflecting on where I was in the beginning to where I am now is unbelievable. I catch myself thinking and sometimes dreaming in German. I’m able to join in and have conversations, ask and give directions, and mostly understand the movies I watch with my friends and family. I even gave an interview for the local newspapers in German! In school, I’ve gone from being the person who only asked questions, to raising my hand and giving answers. I’ve gone from swimming in a lane with seven-year-olds, to earning a gold badge and swimming with local peers my own age. The members of my swim team have also become some of my closest friends here. We went on a ski trip together, play soccer every Saturday, bake, go camping, ice skating, and just hang out. With my cello, I’ve auditioned and gotten into a cello ensemble in addition to my weekly lessons. We’ve had three concerts so far, and next month I have a solo performance. Through the lessons, my cello teacher has become a person I can go to for advice or just a laugh.

I’m so proud of the person I’ve become and am becoming, and I’m so thankful to the U.S. State Department and German Bundestag for the opportunity! I’m making new friends and strengthening friendships.The self-confidence I’ve gained on this exchange has taken me far and continues to bring me so further. I have explained and discussed American culture and Massachusetts with countless people in my host community, and in four months my host sister is embarking on an exchange year of her own. She told me that part of the reason she decided to do it, is me. I love knowing that I’ve been able to impact others who’ve helped me so much along the way. I am confident that this exchange program will continue to affect my life in so many positive ways, and I’m looking forward to it!