From Anne who spent the year in Germany
I think back on the person I was when I arrived in this country and, well, I don’t cringe, but I do feel like that girl is a different person than the person who I know myself to be today. And then I reflect: what is it about being exchange students that changes us? The uncomfortable situations that we somehow have to deal with, the tendency to forget our mother languages, the distance from our friends and family, or the way our eyes are really opened up to the world in this year?? I still have no idea. But I know that I am now more mature, more open, smarter, less serious, less naive, a little bit crazier, and without a doubt a better person due to this experience.
When I arrived in Germany I expected to have a year filled with intensive German learning, a brutal workload at school, and travelling stuffed into the spare slots. I took it all rather seriously. I think I probably scared the first people I met. But whenever you are forced into a situation where you can either a) take initiative, be proactive, be approachable, make friends, and have a blast or b) be shy and alone, you are likely to suck up your pride, put a smile onto your face (although that smile may feel fake at first), and choose choice a. In such a “do or die” situation, (not to be dramatic at all) you will probably take the chance of making a fool of yourself in hopes that someone will see the sincerity behind it, appreciate it, and smile back. Every exchange student finds him/herself in this situation at one point or another.
I don’t think any Rotary exchange student would describe their exchange year as “the year I got the best grades”, “the year I mastered calculus”, or “the year in which I read the most books.” But EVERY exchange student can without a doubt call their exchange year “the year I learned the most.” Some other titles for an exchange year that might also be possible include: “the year I had the most fun”, “the year in which I spent the largest amount of time confused,” and “the year I learned how to curse in the most languages.” For those of you who have never been exchange students, the experience is indescribable. You will just have to trust those of us who have and know that it is awesome, and that bridges really are built through this program.
This experience has meant everything to me. Rotary Youth Exchange does not only change the exchange students themselves but the world. Connections are made, friendships are created, and I am confident that the people I have met this year will stay in my heart for the rest of my life! Thank you, thank you!!!!