The German Bundestag and U.S. Department of State are pleased to announce Lillian Woodward as the November Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) U.S. Participant of the Month! Lillian, a CBYX High School program participant from Ringoes, New Jersey and recruited by AFS, is hosted by the Palmy family in Butzbach, Hesse.
Lillian, whose maternal side of the family is from Germany, applied to CBYX to learn more about her German heritage and to be able to communicate with her family in Germany better. She is also considering studying international relations and thought CBYX was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in the subject. She explains, “You can study other cultures and go on short exchanges, but living in a different country for a whole year lets you really immerse yourself in a different culture.” The program is also helping her to take more initiative – whether that means taking the first step when meeting new people, figuring out how to use public transportation, or being an advocate for herself.
Lillian is very open with her host family and seeks conversations about the differences and similarities between German and U.S. customs. While some things are different, her experiences on program have reinforced her belief that it’s important to respect the traditions and values of other cultures. She adds, “The differences aren’t a bad thing- it’s just how people are. While I thought I was a pretty open-minded person, my time in Germany has helped me realize even more that I need to view things in a more non-judgmental way.”
Lillian is getting along great with her host family. She often goes on walks with her host mother and neighbor, and she enjoys going on small trips and watching movies with her host sister. One of her favorite memories of her exchange year so far is baking with her host mother during fall break. They made lots of German cakes including Quittenkuchen, or quince cake. Lillian has shared some of her favorite U.S. food such as grilled cheese and her father’s recipe for buttermilk pancakes. She is even considering making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving with the pumpkins her host mother grows in her garden.
Lillian’s family in New Jersey is also experiencing the benefits of CBYX as they are hosting this month’s German Participant of the Month, Lena Rehder. The two met while Lillian was at language camp, and they helped prepare each other for the differences they were about to encounter. Lillian was also able to tell Lena about her town and school and even put her in contact with some of her friends in New Jersey. They keep in touch, and Lillian says, “It’s nice that we can bond over the fact that we’re both experiencing culture shock from different perspectives.”