CBYX alum Tony V., hosted in Barsinghausen, shares about his identity and how it impacted his time in Germany.
Some people say that college was the best years of their life. Although I am enjoying my college experience, I believe that I will say that my CBYX experience was the best time of my life. Through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship, I was afforded the opportunity to live with a German host family for a year and experience life to the fullest. My German family and friends made me feel at home and never discriminated against any parts of my identity (such as being black or gay). I truly appreciated their unconditional love and support because had I not had either, my experience would not have been phenomenal – I would have been too worried about what people thought instead of living in the moment.
Some key moments come to mind when I reminisce on my year abroad. The first being performing with my host siblings for the entire family on Christmas day. One of my host sisters choreographed a dance to a playlist of songs that she composed. We practiced for at least two weeks and felt like our practice payed off when our family clapped for us as we danced to the music. As our feet moved to the beat of Starships by Nicki Minaj and Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish, I smiled because we were in sync. We were one. We were a family.
Another key moment happened more than once: going on walks with my host mom, siblings, and the cute family dog. We would talk about topics ranging from politics in the United States and Germany to cartoons that my host mom grew up watching. I cherished each conversation because we learned more about each other’s culture and perspectives – we embraced them. Only through dialogue and communication can differences be understood and appreciated.
On that note, I would like to encourage everyone who wants to travel abroad to be open to learning about others and leave judgments at the door. If you are LGBTQ+, BIPOC/POC, a woman, or anyone else from a too often overlooked group, please make the decision to experience another country if you really want to. I promise you will find people who will love and support you! There may be a few less than favorable characters; however, you will come across people who respect you way more frequently (that I can guarantee). Good luck with your decision and thank you CBYX for offering such a life-changing opportunity.