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4 posts categorized "Virginia Sun"

A Minute and a Half, a Reflection

  1. A wild boar (prevalent in my small forested town) ate my laptop.
  2. I've been too busy eating döner and Berlin currywurst.
  3. I can no longer English.

Only the last statement is true. These are all the possible excuses I thought of to explain the embarrassing lack of blog activity from October to May to my reader(s) (hi mom!). There's been a persistent little voice in the back of my head that's been cheering me on: "Blog! Blog! Blog! Just write something down. I loved all of your posts so far, all 1 of them." Ok, maybe this voice is just that of Beth Siegling, my dear dear friend and fellow CBYX-er who is amazingly and frustratingly consistent with her blog.

It's been a minute and a half, friends.

And I only have a second left. In a month, the constant forward-pulsing momentum of this year will come to a crashing halt. This year, a year of building woodblock skyscrapers with Alex, my seven-year-old host brother, of heart to hearts with my incredible host mom Gabi, of laughing and crying and dancing and doing all of it in German, will soon be done.

As I look back on this beautiful crazy mountain of a year, I end up coming back to where I started in August. In some ways I am the same and my goals are the same. Take every opportunity to challenge yourself. Be kind to others. Completely immerse yourself in German (that means no English since day one). Learn a whole freaking lot. Above all, there was a goal that's shaped every moment here: Say yes to everything!

When I came here, I wanted to get as much out of everything as possible. Try every cake and ice cream flavor. (Update: still going strong. Two days ago I ate sand buckthorn ice cream at Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle 9 in Kreuzberg, Berlin. What a sand buckthorn is I still have no idea, but my friend tells me that it is mildly poisonous for humans and horses.) Make a ton of friends at my school and host community and everywhere. Have a lot of 'firsts'.

I have been so privileged this year to have experienced so many new things. I rode a horse for the first time, traveled with my awesome friend Bria to London to bask in the momentous architecture and mourn the end of Great Britain's EU thing, went clubbing for the first time, and spent many moments in awed, jaw-dropped appreciation of street art and museum art and all kinds of art.

New experiences are shiny and exhilarating and fun. But then, they are over.

Life is a series of trade-offs. When there are a million different coinciding and conflicting opportunities calling my name, balance is the golden counterweight. As I rushed head-first into my life in Germany, I thought I was winning in my personal game of collecting experiences and digging for meaning. Instead, I missed out on the essential.

For every time I rushed out after school to seek adventure in Berlin, I missed out on a comfortable evening watching the cult-favorite Germany's Next Top Model (where Heidi Klum decides the fates and fortunes of poor hopeful girls), eating cheese, and bonding with my wonderful host family.

For every school break I spent flitting around like a butterfly among my different friends, I missed out on the consistency and trust of being deeply integrated into one friend group.

For every time I refused to spend a single second in my room for fear of "missing out" on an experience, I passed over an opportunity to read, journal, blog (haha), play ukulele, knit, answer my messages, and recharge like a normal human being.

For the first half of my exchange year, I chose novelty time and time again. In doing that, I missed out on many small, important opportunities to seep deeper into German culture and learn more about myself. The most rewarding parts of exchange (and life) are built upon a solid foundation. Progress, whether in my German, character, or relationships, stems seldom from fun, excitement, or going clubbing. A foundation is built from unexciting albeit essential bricks: time spent alone in one's thoughts, frustrating plateaus and sometimes even regression, and a lot of pure hard work.

Three months into living with my host family, Gabi sat me down. "Flatterhaft" is the German word for what you are, she gently and firmly explained. Flighty, in English. I am easily drawn to new possibilities, but am unlikely to follow through when it gets boring or difficult. Like a butterfly, I flutter from flower to flower, friend to friend, hobby to hobby, never really landing.

Especially in a culture that strongly values reliability and dependency, being a butterfly hindered me from establishing my roots. It doesn't help that Americans, with their many friends and few confidants, their megawatt smiles to strangers on the street for no reason, are perceived as superficial in Germany.

In this last second of this year of many wonderful seconds, I'm prioritizing. I've already fulfilled my goals from the beginning of the year. I've challenged myself, embraced German, and learned a whole freaking lot.

But now my goals have shifted. They centralize on building a foundation of things that will last. What will I be taking away from this year? What and who will still be in my life in 10 years? My goals are to learn flawless German (still far from it but I still have a month!), to spend time with my blessing of a host family, and to focus on the lifelong friendships I've made.

Of course, I will still enjoy my time and have fun. I'm looking forward to Kirchentag in Berlin, a celebration of the 500 years anniversary of Martin Luther's epic posting of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door (where OBAMA will be coming to speak!), of an international Model United Nations conference in the Netherlands, and of seeing Heidi finally put the tragically beautiful aspiring models out of their misery and just finally choose one as Germany's next top model.

Most of all, I'm looking forward to the boring, slow, challenging, unexciting, not shiny experiences that are essential to me making the most out of my time here. Maybe they'll even help me to blog more often.

Until the next minute and a half, Virginia

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Applicants: Take the Leap!

You might be taking your third year of German and want to test those tongue twisters on real Germans. You might want to see if the bratwurst you tried at your German culture club is authentic.

Or you might not know a single word of German, or habe keine Ahnung (no idea) about the intricacies of German culture. You might have never stepped foot in Europe before! OK, I'll stop talking about myself and move on to what's important.


From those wonderful exchange magicians who made my dream of cultural exchange come true themselves:

As a Congress-Bundestag scholar, your exchange year will include:

  • Placement with a carefully selected German host family
  • Admission to a German high school
  • Pre-departure training in the United States and orientation programs in Germany
  • Meetings with government officials
  • Cultural excursions to the German Bundestag and select German cities
  • Supplementary language lessons upon arrival in your host community

My dear high school friends, get started on your application (due sometime in December or January)! The deadline varies by where you live in the US, so make sure you apply through your regional organization.

If you want to hear about how unbelievably great this program is from someone more official than an American teenager just livin' life and running her bike into trees in Berlin, take the leap and click here!

ALSO, check out what our current presidential candidate had to say about CBYX before she was our current presidential candidate:

"A testament to our relationship with Germany, and our mutual commitment to public diplomacy... CBYX has been so successful that we chose it as a model for other youth exchange programs." Former Secretary Clinton called exchanges like CBYX "an important tool of U.S. diplomacy. Few other experiences can substitute for seeing another country first-hand, learning more about its culture, meeting people face-to-face."

Cool, oder?

If you skimmed this and just want to watch a nice video about everything I said, I get that! Enjoy!

Check out my personal blog here:

Language Camp: Running in the Rain

21 Realizations for 21 Days of Friendship, Bonding, and Discovery

  1. My language camp friends sometimes roasted me (@Luke & Lucas), but there can also be moments late at night where we lie together on the grass under the glimmer of stars. We will go around the circle and give genuine, meaningful compliments to each other: about how America has indomitable work ethic, how Alexis really, truly listened to me talk about my Japan program, and how Sabrina played poker with rocks with me and meeting her was a turning point when I was feeling weird the first few days. That's a honey roast, and they are so, so sweet.
  2. Berries. berries.jpg
  3. You just always assumed everything in America is global market price. But there's good cheap chocolate here! And Haribo is like 50% more inexpensive. You just never questioned the prices. On the other hand, you went to the "America store" and Reese's are 15 euros, so I guess it balances out. Purchasing power parity is true as a general concept, but that doesn't mean all prices are the same
  4. Spiral staircases. I am pretty sure they are for construction or something but I still stop and take a picture at every one.
  5. Someone besides your mother will love you enough to hand-wash all your underwear and socks and dry them in the room and then buy chocolate and aforementioned berries while you are out having fun in town and you will come home and realize you just called your dorm in Schloß Wittgenstein "home". (I LOVE YOU SEAL AND SAV, YOU MADE IT HOME)!
  6. Language learning is for sure what you want to do for the rest of your life
  7. If you play music and yell words of encouragement when climbing through the woods from Bad Laaphse to the Schloss, it is more fun. Also, your step & stairs count on your fitness tracker will be so lit14369999_1182117898496525_2547614432790816006_n
  8. Running in rain that is pouring so hard you can't see anything with people you love so hard you want to stay out in it forever
  9. Döner kebab
  10. The supermarkets are different. You don't actually notice how, you are too blinded by the fact that you are in Germany and everything is in German, and all the people are (likely) German
  11. You can eat ice cream that looks like spaghetti or pizza and why did Americans never think of this?
  12. Ice cream flavors you never thought about before14329889_1182115178496797_6106741373139748046_n
  13. Sparkling water makes you feel alive, even though you thought it tasted gross in the US
  14. Stained glass windows
  15. Why are there no other youth in church except for the ones who need to get credit for confirmation?
  16. There's a city with Grimm's Brothers' Fairy Tales references14368657_1182115765163405_5882566805151770036_n
  17. A cool, chic second-hand bookstore will also have an old underground cave that you explore and which makes you whisper, "How lucky I am to be alive right now!" and your friends will understand the Hamilton reference 14333574_1182117605163221_1673205478720396255_n
  18. There's a reason people in town are confused when you say "Hallo!" to everyone you see. They didn't mean it literally when they say Germans always greet each other
  19. You thought you were an introvert, but now when you have free time you go look for other people to hang out with. Your Myers Briggs has changed from extroverted to introverted to back to extroverted oder...?
  20. You can go out into a new town in a new country accompanied only by the fearless Sav, who also speaks no German and not only survive, but have tons of fun
  21. You can be friends-best friends even-with people who are different from you. You will leave language camp yourself, but more, and with a fabulous, thrifted corduroy jacket from Luke, a teddy bear from Seal, Schultüten from Alexis and Sabrina with Sabrina's favorite Maomi candies, an origami heart from Nini, and overflowing handfuls of handwritten, heartfelt notes of friendship and love that you will put up in your room next month when you miss the people you ran in the rain with

Check out my personal blog here:

New Oceans: An Introduction


“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Andre Gide

There’s something both scary and beautiful about leaving everything and everyone you know to start a new life in a new country. In a few days, I will start the journey of a lifetime. To say I am excited is an understatement; my dream of integrating into a new community, learning a new language, and trying new things (from döner to speaking German) is coming true. For that, I am eternally grateful to the State Department and all my family and friends who have supported me on my quest for cross-cultural bridge building.

As a recent graduate, CBYX is my gap year between high school and university. Even though I joke that 4 years of high school wasn’t enough, I’m actually incredibly excited to start my life as a German high school student. I love learning, and I’ll have a chance to learn entirely for fun and take risks within the classroom. I’m excited to grow from making (and laughing at) my mistakes as I navigate my new life in Oranienburg, Germany, which is near Berlin.

In search for new oceans, I’m leaving behind a loving family, a beautiful community in Northern Virginia (near D.C.), and wonderful friends from a mix of high school, summer programs, church, and serendipitous friendships just meant to happen. Back home, I enjoy rollerblading, playing Settlers of Catan, reading, piano, language-learning, baking, and a lot more! However, I’m excited to start new activities; Hopefully I’ll come back from Germany with some cool knitting or ukelele skills.

Before I leave, I’m writing a letter to myself to remind myself of my goals when times are tough. I know this program is exactly what I want to be doing with my life (basically a dream come true), but I also recognize that at some point culture shock will hit me, which means I’ll experience feelings of isolation and dysphoria (I just learned this phrase today; It means dissatisfaction and disillusionment).

Here are some of my goals!

  1. Take risks
  2. Be vulnerable
  3. Say yes to everything

The next time I write I’ll be at language camp, making friends with people I have yet to meet and eating food in a continent I have never visited before. Wish me luck and the courage to leave the only shore I’ve ever known. Bis später!




Caption: I couldn’t resist befriending this globe statue in D.C, which is near my hometown!