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4 posts categorized "Jared Freed"

Leaves Fall Faster When Time Flies By

(Originally written on Dec. 16th, 2016)


    Though it seems slow at times, I can tell that my integration into German society is really coming along! When looking at where I started, which was generally no German language at all, seeing that I can now continue conversations for longer than 20 or 30 minutes without switching to English means that fluency may be a possible goal. This proves that the fastest way to learn a language really is by immersion!

    For those curious souls who were wondering what I meant by assisting a few surgeries, that was no joke. This is a perfect time to explain how Germany established a process of work-study weeks for high school students. Many 10th-grade and 11th-grade students will be able to become an apprentice for two weeks in either a practical or social work environment. Unfortunately, due to my earlier leave from Germany, I wouldn’t be able to participate at the same time. Fortunately, I am able to find my own times to do similar feats during vacations or other breaks with the help of knowing certain individuals that I could ‘shadow’. In this case, I was lucky enough to have a host father who practices Neurosurgery! My host father gave me the option pretty early on in my study to watch in on one of his days in the OR. I accepted his offer graciously and participated during my fall break.

    After taking up that amazing opportunity, I had a clear view of what a day in the field could potentially hold. That alone had boosted my interest in a very broad and fascinating line of work and even led me to decide on different colleges. Due to the opportunities that Germany had been able to offer, I could change more than just my view about a culture, but also my own future endeavors.

    The day right after that life-changing adventure, I had set off on a completely new one; it was still Autumn Break. I took the train to Munich and spent three days with people from the program that I am in the hands of while over here. While in Munich, I enjoyed tours of extremely neat historical places, including Neuschwanstein, which was the castle that Walt Disney had based Cinderella’s Castle from. I had a great time exploring the city as well, as it was different to see how the different areas of Germany have totally diverse cultural traditions. We had come to Bavaria only a few weeks after Oktoberfest, leaving an interesting break to see the real culture of Southern Germany before the city would swell with people once more when the Christmas Markets would set up. It was great to see some of the people from my program as well so we could touch base and see how everything had proceeded while living in our host communities. After enjoying the wonderful sights of a large city, I was picked up by my host family and headed for the Alps. It only took a couple hours to end up right in the middle of the hills, and they were most definitely alive!


(The view from within Neuschwanstein Castle)

    We ended up staying in the center of the mountain lines in a valley town called Großarl and was easily one of the prettiest places I had ever stayed. We stayed at a hotel that was in the central area of town, allowing us to drive to many different hiking trails. Just choosing which ones to hike seemed like an impossible decision! The day we arrived, we took a short hike on a mountainside that ended up reaching a playground that was on the edge of the mountainside and looked over the vast and mystical terrain that surrounded us.


(My host father wanted to be a little bit courageous and hiked down to the edge to get a better view)


    The next day, we took one of the coolest hikes I think I had ever been on. We set out for a trail called Himmelsleiter, which translates as the “Ladder to Heaven”. Here are some of the sights we feasted our eyes upon:




We spent one last day in the Alps with a trip to a cavern and a wonderful evening walk by some more natural Austrian scenery.




    After our stay in the Alps, we drove across the country to Vienna to enjoy the history, recreation, and lavish architecture that came with it.   We even ended up riding one of the oldest working Ferris Wheels in the world!


 (Park in Vienna with the best depiction of Autumn I have ever witnessed)


    After our short stay in Vienna, we drove up to Prague, which was our last stop of the trip. I have heard many recommendations to go to this wonderful Czech city, and it surely does not disappoint! The culture is a fantastic brew of street artists, traditional Czech food, and medieval buildings and bridges. We enjoyed walking around the city and taking in the final view of the wondrous Prague skyline before spending the last night and enduring our eight-hour drive back home the next day.


    After the trip, things just reverted to how it was before the vacation. Whether it was finishing college applications, trying to learn more German vocabulary, or continuing my local club activities, I always had something to keep me busy. However, one thing has become very clear within the month of November – this is not a vacation anymore. I am not here to soak up the joy and wonder that Germany can give me without having a positive contribution back towards my community. So, the most logical thing to do was to join even more activities! Joining the local orchestra and local volleyball group could help me get more involved with team-building and could allow me to integrate more as a member of the community. Switching a few of my courses in school allowed me to form more connections with kids within my age group. It also made it so I could enjoy lessons that were easier to take part in, rather than sitting and staring without providing any feedback during the lessons.

            Though November truly allotted more time to adjust, it also allowed me to prepare for the more important stuff… the holidays! Thanksgiving was right around the corner, yet I had no specific history of making full Thanksgiving meals, and we didn’t have a kitchen or refrigerator large enough to hold the loads of food that would typically amass from such a feast. Luckily, I was invited by another current CBYX student to celebrate it with his family! He lives in an area around Cologne, so we met in the center of the city to peruse the Christmas Markets (as they just begun popping up), and enjoy the livelihood around the area. The next day, we enjoyed a delicious meal with his host family. I did the honors of carving the turkey, and we had all the essentials (minus a pumpkin pie) that would complete a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.



    There are a few traditions in Germany that are very specific to the region, and cannot be found in America or other countries around the globe. One of these is the celebration of Adventszeit. This is celebrated in the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas and is usually distinguished by calendars with gifts counting down to Christmas Eve, Christmas Markets decorating every town across the country, and bounties of food to indulge in. After receiving my very own Advents Calendar (thanks to my loving host family), and performing Klezmer music at the Christmas Market in my town, I was feeling more and more festive as the month went on. Enjoying these festivities in one of Germany's many historic castles can make the experience even more magical! This past weekend, we enjoyed going to a huge market located at Schloss Dyck, which was in the area around Düsseldorf.

     For the holidays, my mother sent me a package with a plentiful of goodies to share with my friends and family filled with brownie mixes, pie ingredients, and a whole lot more. Right after, I made my signature Key Lime Pie to celebrate the season and to bring a small hint of Florida back into my life.


(A beer glass fell from the refrigerator door onto the pie, and I had to improvise…)


    Though the holidays are usually something that would be missed back at home, I am really thankful to celebrate them in a totally different culture and to experience even more things that I would have never thought to see back in America.


Bis zum nächsten Mal, (Until next time,)

Jared Freed

A Castle, a Carnival, and a Choir

    I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I have done more to change my views about life in one month than I had in my prior three months of High School. Okay, I must admit, it wasn’t the schools here that changed my views either, but the possibilities outside of school that I have been presented with have completely made me rethink my future endeavors. Before I start talking about my “life-changing” experiences, I would like to introduce you to what my normal daily life includes.

    In the little residential town of Haan, there are many resemblances to the town that I came from in America: A little shopping and food district, many signs of nature around it, many community events, and everything being within walking distance. As I did in America, I joined many after school activities related to what I am interested in, so that my school days are not the only thing filling my schedule. In that search, I came across two types of musical groups within the city. One was the local church choir, which does more performance pieces rather than the daily hymns for a Sunday service. The other was quite unexpected; a Klezmer Quintet. For those of you who do not know of the Klezmer genre, it is simply Jewish folk music from Eastern Europe. Coming from a Jewish background, I found this to be a perfect place to represent the culture that I grew up with. Though these events are what I anticipate during the week, the majority of my days are in school, that of which seems completely different from American high schools. One major difference is the separation of different schools.

    In Germany, students will separate into 4 main types of schools after elementary school. There is the Hauptschule, which is a school for those who are not academically involved or wish to start working and training in a specific field sooner than their college-bound counterparts. They will usually end school at around 9th grade and may go to a separate training school from there. The next school higher has a similar system but prepares students to take jobs that require a little more knowledge than physical tasks, which is called the Realschule. These students are more likely to continue in a technical school for the field that they wish, and they usually graduate in 10th grade. The highest tier in the system is called the Gymnasium, and no, it is not just a giant sports and recreation area. The school, ending in either 12th or 13th grade, will prepare students for University by guiding them towards succeeding in their main test called the Abitur. This test score determines their ability to learn in school, so colleges that look for higher-achieving students would look for higher scores (Which is Best to Worst as 1.0 to 6.0, rather than the opposite for the American GPA from 4.0 to 0.0). The last school type is called a Gesamtschule, which is more like an American school which has all the levels of learning in the same building. This school has 13 grades and can finish any of the ways that the above three can as well.

    Sorry for the long explanation, but I think it can help get an idea of how the structure of learning here is much different than in America. I currently attend a Gymnasium, where I have nine classes that alternate in a similar way that a college schedule would be organized. There is no specific order, but it allows you to learn more subjects than a typical seven-period cycle that repeats every day. Though I am already graduated from high school in America, I still try and participate in the classes. Regardless of my lack of German knowledge, I tend to understand more and more daily.


Now, onto the more interesting stuff…

    The holidays and weekends have become a haven for me to learn more about not only myself but about other cultures as well. The first weekend after my last blog post, I took a road trip to Heidelberg with my host family. Being that my host parents were both alumni of the University there, they knew the area quite well and were able to show me around the great destinations within the city. After a nice walk around the city, I was able to meet with a great friend from my program, one who was my roommate in Washington D.C. and at Language Camp as well. This trip taught me a lot about another region of Germany, as well as the differences in the culture from different areas of the country.


    The next weekend was something that I have only heard word of, and did not anticipate in regards to size or grandeur. Many of my friends from school began to commence chatter about the “Haaner Kirmes.”  I only continued to hear what rides they wanted to go on, what food they wanted to eat, and so on. I heard it was a festival, but I wasn’t sure how big it would be. Haan was quite small for a city, so I was curious to see if it was more of a fun festival with stands and music like they did back in Florida, or if it was going to have more than that. It only took one bike ride the day before it started to realize exactly what was in store. As I was on my way to practice with my Klezmer group, we decided to go through the center of town. To my left and right, I saw stands for cotton candy, bratwurst, carnival games, and large amusement rides. I understood immediately then that it was a Fair. Not only was it complete with all things a fair should have, but it was quite large in size! They closed off a good portion of the main road in the city. I made plans with a few groups of friends to go, and it ended up being one of the most fun weekends that I’ve had! It also happened to be a very cool way to experience a how Germany rejoices in fun events. See how the town center looks like normally and during Kirmes:



    On the Monday of the fair, it was another day for me to practice with the local choir. It was only going to be my second practice with them, but I had already learned their repertoire from the prior week. My host mother comes to me explaining how the choir will be traveling to France that weekend to sing with their partner city’s church group. I thought that would be a great trip, but I didn’t think I would be able to sing with them there without permission from my family and my program. Miraculously, I happened to make it on the bus on Saturday and situated everything with the permissions I needed. In less than five days, I had decided to travel to another country with a group of people that I had only just met, and going to a land that speaks a language that I do not know. I was situated with a host family for my time there, so I had only hoped to find a way to communicate, or that somebody was able to speak either German or English. After the eight-hour bus ride that took us through Belgium into France, we ended up in the coastal city of Le Tréport and the historic sister city of Haan called Eu. I had not learned too much about the specifics of the trip, so I did not anticipate getting directly off the bus and into the hands of my host family. I was staying with a grandmother who was singing in the choir with me, as well as her two granddaughters. I was lucky enough to know that one of the sisters could speak a small amount of English. It was just enough to have conversations and to ask questions about France and the culture.


    After being picked up, we went on a drive along the coast and took a stroll beside the cliffs of the wonderful Normandy coast. After the walk, I went to dinner and enjoyed the rest of the evening with my host family before we headed back to my host grandmother’s home. The home was a lovely ride through the farmland and countryside before coming to a rustic town, which is where she lived. The next morning, after a traditional French breakfast of croissants, bread, and cheeses, we departed to head back to the coast, where we met back with my German choir to take a trip down to the beach area of the city. In order to get down to the water, we had to take a tram that was a bit like a diagonal elevator. Once we got down, we got to see the wondrous beauty of the cliffs.


    After touring around the market district near the docks, we headed back up to have lunch with our host families once more. After lunch and more time to relax, we went to the church where we will be performing. The church itself was built in the 11th and 12th century and was right across the lot from what used to be the King of France’s holiday palace.


    The performance was lovely, with separate songs with the German and French choirs, and one last song that we performed together. The acoustics of the church were overwhelming, and the atmosphere was quite fantastical. After the performance, we had a delicious banquet dinner with the two choirs (and the Mayor of Eu), and ended the night by singing many folk songs that were sung in both German and French. The next morning, we had to leave to head back to Germany, but the entire experience not only changed the way that I saw France but also left an impression of how strongly bonds could form between people who come as guests to an area and those who try to introduce them to the different ideas and cultures. It changed my opinion of tourism completely.

    Currently, I am writing this blog on a train to Munich, where I will begin, once again, another adventure. Many things have continued to enlighten me about the world, and I have no idea what the future could bring me. Heck, now I am traveling to foreign lands in record time and performing in groups with interesting genres, so what will I do next? Neurosurgery? Don’t worry, I was just kidding…


I already assisted four surgeries yesterday. Though that’s another story, I suppose.


Bis nächster Monat, (Until next month,)

Jared Freed

Racing Time in Bad Laasphe

Woah. I swear that I only wrote that last blog post a few days ago… but somehow it has been over a month! One feeling that was very strong leading up to my departure from Florida was the sense of time eternally slowing down, and then suddenly speeding up to a point beyond belief after my departure. Now, sitting in my new host family’s house in the town of Haan, I cannot comprehend where the time has gone or how I even ended up here. Though, I do know that I got here somehow, so let’s indulge in the stories and emotions that led me to my new home.


    Rewind to August 11th

I was checking my bags at the airport and saying my final goodbyes to my mother before leaving on a short flight to our country’s capital. As much of an emotion rush it was leaving the place I grew up in, it was also a rush of excitement. As soon as I got off the plane, I rushed to the baggage claim and got my bags before heading to a nearby hotel. That hotel would contain the 49 other wonderful exchange students who will be going with me to Germany. Little would I know then; those 49 people would end up being some of the closest friends that I’ve ever had. The three-day orientation included the ability to meet some of the exchange students from Germany, who were doing the same thing as us except for the small fact that the next day, they would be with their new families. For us, that would be over three weeks later! However, we enjoyed a fantastic tour of Washington D.C., which included a tour of the White House and a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. That night would be the last one in America for quite some time.


    Finally, on August 14th

It’s departure day. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a whole group of people go from intense excitement to unbearable exhaustion as quickly as I did that day. The flight was a quick seven-hour trip, and it went by quite quickly. Besides the fact that nobody rested well (if not at all), there was a nice wave of relief that came to us as soon as we landed in Germany. The first major roadblock was to walk a mile with our luggage to the bus pickup area. After the two-hour bus ride into the foothills of central Germany, we arrived in the quite-traditional town of Bad Laasphe. Considering that we arrived in the morning with little to no sleep, to last the day was a struggle on its own. Thankfully once the day had ended, we were able to acclimate to the new surroundings quite quickly. The first morning was a relaxing one, and told me everything I needed to know; I wasn’t going back, but I am ready for the adventure. My first sight of a sunrise from the German hills gave me the courage to explore my new home.



From then on, our days mainly followed a similar flow: Breakfast, German classes, Lunch, Large group activities, Organized free time, Dinner, Small group activities, and finally bedtime. Every day’s activities were different and each one was exciting in a different way. The fun usually heightened around Friday because of the events that happened in town at night. While we were free to go throughout town during any longer break, we especially liked going to town on Friday nights to partake in the festival in the town center where there was live music playing. Our first Friday afternoon, however, was a bit different than the other days. There was a game that we participated in called Eiertausch, or Egg Exchange. This game’s goal was to trade an egg for an item of greater value with the people who lived in the town, and then trade that item for something better, and so on. The ways to win were either by getting the most interesting item by the time we had to get back, or by trading the most amount of times. So, in a small group, we headed down to the town. Our first trade was the egg for a mostly-melted candle. After that, we were able to trade that for a multitude of random items, such as a candelabra, some postcards, a bag, some duck-shaped holders, and other miscellaneous gifts. From there on out, none of the people we went up to would accept an item back, rather they would just hand us random things that they had no more use for! So, we were able to obtain a garden gnome, some sheep figurines, and a humorous mug that had a bell on it to call for beer. Just when we thought that we had enough things, we walked by a church and were invited in. There stood three Syrian-Iraqi refugees and a priest. They were currently learning how to speak German, and we were able to hear their stories. After a lovely half-hour session of singing songs and talking with the refugees, we headed back to the castle. The experience of speaking with the refugees was such an interesting ‘exchange’, that it allowed us to win the game in that category! After dinner, we head down to town and enjoyed a night of dancing.


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The consecutive weeks were equally fun and interesting, and it seemed as though each week was faster than the last. Finally, after what felt like no time at all, it was the last day of language camp. We finished our last German class outside and started to pack away our things once more, getting ready to spread out to the far reaches of the country. We also had a talent show to prepare for that night. Everybody in the camp had to participate in one way or another, so there were many different types of acts that took place. By the time that night fell on the castle, everybody gathered in the large ballroom where the stage was. As everybody did their songs, dances, kazoo battles, and origami presentations, we finally came to the end of Language Camp.


            Somehow it was September 3rd

Time slowed down for a bit. Everybody was leaving, and we were cleaning up our rooms for the last time. Finally, I was able to meet my wonderful new host mother, and after a quick last lunch at the castle, we headed to Haan, the place that I am now able to call home. That day was quite interesting, as I had been put into a new town, a new family, and was beginning to start a new life. The oncoming week was a bit tedious, as I was introduced to everyone and everything at a pace that I had not previously experienced. School was a rush. Some have warned me that it would not be sudden to immediately find friends, but I got a bit lucky. After being shown around for the week, I got introduced to many different friend groups and became acquainted with a good portion of the 11th grade. By Friday, I had a good idea of what I would like to learn and was able to create my entire schedule as I wished. I ended up choosing English and European History as the two main courses to focus on, which are called Leistungskors. Even after one week, I could see that my German abilities were slowly getting better. During the week, I had visited both Düsseldorf and Wuppertal and was able to adapt and settle into the nearby cities. Both cities have their charms; Düsseldorf with its amazing modern architecture and city life, and Wuppertal with its historic feel and wondrous Schwebebahn, or suspended railway. There will be many more opportunities to share those areas in the blog, so I think I will end it on a subtle note.

            Today, on September 14th

It has been one month since I had arrived here in Germany. I am looking back on all that I have done, and what has already drastically changed. There is so much to do, so much to see. I would tell you all everything right now, but that would be a tad boring. I think there will be a lot to talk about soon, so I guess there’s no time to waste!


Bis dann, (Until then,)

Jared Freed

A New Culture and New Adventure

Hello there, curious readers! My name is Jared Freed, and I would like to welcome you to my first blog which by the end, I hope, will be an inspiring collection of new cultures and adventure.



As a 17-year-old from Clearwater, Florida, I have no idea what to expect for this upcoming year as far as how much I will learn or change. What I do know is that I will be beginning a new life with new friends in this upcoming year as a CBYX youth ambassador in the exciting land of Germany. Coming from an area of Florida where small oceanfront towns and beaches prevail, I will be making a nice 180-degree spin on how I have lived for the entirety of my childhood. I will be leaving my hometown of Safety Harbor on August 11th, where I will be meeting with my new friends in the program for an orientation in Washington D.C. just a couple days before we depart for Germany. We will be arriving in the country on August 14th, which will begin our long-awaited adventure. We will all be attending a Language Camp after our arrival in Frankfurt, which will be in the lovely town of Bad Laasphe. The camp will be in a Boarding School that was formerly used as a castle, which I am extremely excited to see! Of course, I will be urging to learn more about the German culture, which includes the extent of learning the language. Not having a German course available in the area where I grew up may make this harder than I think to learn it.  

When the language camp has concluded, I will be off to my new host family! I will be living in a small town called Haan, which is located halfway in between Dusseldorf and Wuppertal. I have been talking with my family for the past month or so, and I can’t wait to meet them all. I will have three host siblings, which may take some time getting used to considering that I am an only child… so we will see how that goes. Living in Germany with a new family and a new environment and culture may shock me for quite a while, so I am trying to prepare as much as I can for the drastic changes. For now, I suppose all I can do is spend the rest of the summer increasing my excitement by the day!

For the duration of the summer, I have been on a month-long road trip around the United States learning about the wonders that I can share with my German peers once I am there. I am almost back home from the trip, which would only leave me with a couple more weeks to get ready for the big adventure. I am a little bit scared, but my anticipation of the new experiences is overcoming my fears. The next time you should hear from me, I should be ready to expand on one of the most wondrous learning experiences that I will encounter, and my new story will start to unfold.

Until then,

Jared Freed