The German Bundestag and U.S. Department of State as pleased to announce Aswath Jaiprakash as the December Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) U.S. Participant of the Month! Aswath, a CBYX High School program participant from Katy, Texas and recruited by CIEE, is hosted by the Zeller family in Jetzendorf, Bavaria.
Aswath has always been interested in learning about other cultures. He explains, “I have immigrant parents and grew up in a diverse area, so I appreciate the importance of understanding different cultures around you.” When a German teacher at his high school saw the application for CBYX, he suggested that Aswath apply. While Aswath didn’t think he would actually get accepted to the program, he applied because he thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about another culture and to give him some insight into his interest in international relations.
Aswath now realizes that the program is also helping him become more independent. Aswath says, “My host family is supportive, but in Germany, you’re viewed as an adult a little bit younger than in the United States, so they are letting me guide my own life.” He continues, “Being alone in a new environment is teaching me what I can do on my own and what I want to do on my own.”
Aswath has a close relationship with his host family and looks up to his host father, who is a volunteer firefighter. Seeing how dedicated his host father is to the local community led Aswath to volunteer with the youth fire brigade. His time with the youth fire brigade is giving him some useful skills like basic medical training and is teaching him the value of relying on other people – something he plans to take back with him to the United States.
Aswath is sharing some of his favorite traditions with his host family. He mentions that he really started to feel at home in Germany when he cooked paneer masala for his host family and played his Texas family’s favorite board game, Sequence. Aswath explains, “To me, a big aspect of my life is my ethnic culture. The willingness of my host family to try something new that was really personal to me and play a game that was my childhood favorite really [moved me]. I also really treasured that night not only for the willingness of my host family and their respect to my culture, but because I felt really accepted by them. That was the first night they all hugged me and I felt as if I was home again.” Aswath also shares about holidays such as Diwali and Thanksgiving with his host family and plans on preparing some other popular Texan and South Indian dishes.
When asked what impact CBYX is having on him, Aswath responds, “[My exchange experience] affects the way I view the world. It feels as if I am viewing the world with a new set of eyes, discovering and understanding things that would not have been possible with my previous presumptions.”