From Mia who spent a year in Germany
“Things aren’t better or worse, they are just different.” This sentence affected me the most during my exchange year.
This year changed the way I think about myself, and my comparison to others. I learned a lot about myself. In my letter about myself, I essentially said I enjoyed being loud and having fun with my friends, played sports all the time, I enjoyed spending time with others more than being alone and that I wasn’t a shy person. If you met me now, after reading my letter, you would think I a) lied through most of the letter or b) am a completely different person than the one who actually wrote it. The Mia in that letter is who I thought I was. After this exchange, I feel like I have a much better picture of myself. I am shy, and furthermore, I enjoy the quietness of being alone ; I just always thought it was “uncool” so I never wanted it. I enjoy sports, but learned it was the competition that I loved, not the actual sport. I don’t have a million friends, but I really enjoy the fantastic best friends I have and the accompaniment of others I know. I also realized I am brave and self-confident and willing to go first and try new things, regardless if it is jumping from a 24.5 feet diving board into a cold pool or eating “traditional German food” day after day.
This knowledge made it easier to accept others, to form friendships and to keep these friendships going. I didn’t compare myself to them; I just appreciated us for who we are. We also had a much deeper relationship much faster, maybe this is because we needed a replacement best friend when we were all so far away from ours, but emotionally we were closer. We understood each other and helped each other through extreme personal changes, strange host families and random bouts of homesickness.
At the beginning of my year in Germany, I didn’t trust myself enough to take a leadership role; I didn’t want to make a bad impression when something went wrong. After a few months I had grown in “Selbstvertraun” which in German means “self confidence” but literally translated it is “trusting one’s self” which is principally self confidence, but I think it is something more. To be confident is to know you are capable of achieving something, but trusting yourself at the same time is an entire step higher. When I came on this exchange I knew I could make it through, I would accomplish my year in a foreign country, but I didn’t trust myself to make it alone. I relied a lot on others to help me and I am thankful they were there to do so. As the year went on, I began to trust myself more, I grew to be more independent and am now capable of things I don’t think I could ever have done last August.
The changes that I have gone through finally hit me a few days ago when my mom sent me an email that at the end said “but I don’t know how much you have changed this year, so this suggestion might not be necessary”. This email marked the biggest change in me yet: I agreed with my mother, 100%, no arguing, no resentment, nothing. My biggest change still hasn’t happened yet—returning home, living with one family, my family again. And right now I am looking forward to it.