Calmness in November

So looking at my other blog posts from the month of November, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it was a month of “slumps.” In saying so, I mean that nothing super exciting happened during that time. The only think remotely exciting was the deadline for the Seniors to turn in their 2-year research papers. Man, they went pretty crazy! They played music and danced around the school for the entire school day. Not a single one went to class… Well, that’s not true, but those who did — I guarantee you — didn’t learn a single thing.

Oh. One big thing that happened, which all of you who are considering to study abroad as a Senior should consider, was my turning in of the COMMON APPLICATION. DUN DUN DUNNNN! It was pretty stressful, I can tell you that. Actually, that was probably the reason why I had so little to talk about in November. Because the majority of my time was spent writing, re-writing, and re-re-writing my essays. If I wasn’t writing an essay, I was filling out my application, then checking, and re-checking it, over and over again.

I was lucky in the fact that I already had a pretty good idea of which schools I wanted to apply to. Before I took off for Germany, my family took me around college visiting for a week. Since I am really picky about the kind of school environment I want to be in for college, it really helped me narrow down my options, and saved me from writing at least 5 more essays than I needed to.

My exchange organization, , recommended us to speak with family back home a maximum of once every two weeks or so. That didn’t happen in November, because I was basically on Skype with my Mom at least 3 times a week, working on essays and everything. So, don’t expect to follow that rule, but I think one month out of the 12 months (Or however long you are abroad), is okay to spare.

Since I’m already talking about college stuff abroad, I’d also like to point out that it is more difficult to get interviews and apply for scholarships when you are abroad. I have missed quite a few scholarship opportunities because of the required interview that I would not be able to attend. I have also had a few of my prospective colleges deny me an interview because they didn’t want to do it over the phone or through Skype. But don’t ever hesitate to ask! Right when I am given my interviewer’s contact information, I emailed them right away, explaining my situation, and asked if they would be able to do my interview over the phone or Skype. I even offered to pay the international fee for the call. But most of them are nice enough to do it anyways. So the ones I have had so far were all pretty great.

Plus, being an exchange student is a great ice breaker / bonus-point for most universities (;

Sorry, I’ve Been Busy Wiesnin’….

Ahem. This post should have happened in October. I am terribly sorry for such delays on this blog. And to think the start of my blog before was also an apology for how long I haven’t posted… Tsk tsk, Elaine!

Sorry for not posting for so long! I honestly haven’t been on the internet that much lately… So many things have just been going on that keeps occupying my time! Oktoberfest started. People around here call it the Wiesn. It started on Saturday, and I happened to go out on Saturday morning to… wait for it… SEE MY DADDY! ❤ Yup, he had a business trip in Amsterdam, had some extra time, and decided to take the 10 hour train ride down to Munich to see me (: I love him so much.  Anyways, back to my Saturday morning journey. So I caught the bus to the train station, and waited for my train to come. All around me, people were dressed up. The women were in Dirndls: And the men were in Lederhosen:

So yup, every one looked pretty darn amazing, and it made me so happy! People in my school even wear these outfits to school now. It’s apparently back in style to look sooo good. Most of the guys call pull off the leather pants. And the ladies, they are pretty as always. (:

The Oktoberfest, otherwise known as “Wies’n,” is probably THE most celebrated time of the year for Bavarians. This is the one time where we are no longer seen up as the stuck up part of Germany, but are suddenly viewed as those who throw the best party ever. For me, it was tons of fun, if not a bit expensive. But hey, I ended up going four times! In any case, I definitely, definitely think it is worth it to visit Munich during the time of the Oktoberfest at least once in a person’s life. If not twice, thrice, or many many more 🙂

If you want to learn more about my times at the Oktoberfest (Of course, some things are censored), check out my daily / weekly post, with pictures, at

Desserts in Germany aren’t as sweet? You’ve obviously never had an apple strudel here…

Hi friends. It’s been a while, has it not? Well, I’ve been in Italy for the past two weeks, which is why I have not been posting on my daily blog nor on here at all… The wi-fi at my apartment/resort place was too slow for me to cope with. Wow, I’m just now realizing how utterly fail-tastic I am at writing blogs. I really don’t know what to say..

I guess you’re all wondering about what I’ve been doing I guess. Well, on August 20th, I bid farewell to the Herzogs, hopped on a 6 hour train, and headed down to Munich. Two days later, I found myself in a car for another 6 hours, driving to Italy. Yep. My Munich family is great. They delayed their yearly summer trip until I was there so they could take me with them (: Two weeks later, I’m now back in Munich. I think I’m tanner than I have ever been before — I guess that’s only logical since I was on the beach every day. During those two weeks, I experienced a lot of firsts. First time being in Italy, first time riding an overnight ferry, first time swimming in the Mediterranean, first time riding a horse through the mountains, first time being in Austria… so on and so forth. I had a splendid time. Being here in Europe opens up so many doors for me to travel and experience cultures a lot more than I could in the US.

So I’ve technically only been in Munich for five days now, and what have I already done? I’ve visited the Englischer Garten (Soo pretty), I have purchased a dirndl (I’ll post a picture on my daily blog soon), I have eaten a Döner (Look it up, it’s super yummy), and have met a few kids who go to the same Gymnasium that I will be attending. So yup, I have been keeping pretty busy. I also know which bus to take to the subway station and so on. The only problem is, my little part of Munich is so darn confusing! I would undoubtedly get lost if I didn’t constantly have one of my family members walking around with me. I cannot even tell where my little area called Ottobrunn (Affectionately dubbed as the “Otto-bronx” by local teens) starts and where it ends! But for now, that’s okay with me. I have a whole year to figure that out.

School starts on Tuesday. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m scared. The answer is: not really. I love being the new kid at school, so this upcoming Tuesday is so exciting for me! My only problem is that even though my German listening comprehension has really improved (I can understand most of what the kids I know say, as long as they don’t use any outrageous slang), my German-speaking skills are still just… not there. I think I’m mentally too afraid to speak and try. So I just keep silent. It’s so bad. For example, last night my host brother had his friends over and we were having a Horror Film Movie night. Back at home, when we would have these sort of nights, my group of friends and I would point out the crazy or dumb things that pop up in the absurd movies. Such comments constantly were in my head while watching the movies last night, and the kids were making the comments in German, but I just couldn’t find the words to add in my own witty quips. That upsets me. People as me questions. I answer, but my speaking vocabulary isn’t fast or strong enough for me to keep the conversation going. Everything just ends up.. dying when I speak. Hopefully once school starts, it’ll get a lot better. I can’t wait to meet the kids in my grade. Every one I’ve met so far is in the grade above me. It’ll be great to know those kids when the school breaks come up, but I still want to make my own set of friends in my own grade and such instead of gluing myself to my host-brother’s group of friends. Even though the friends I will make will probably all be a year younger than me. But that’s okay, because from my experiences so far, German kids are a lot more mature. … ish.

Oh. One last thing before I end this long, rambling mess that I have created. Stereotypes that I had heard about Germans/Europeans before I came are completely false. For example, non-sweet desserts. While yes, I have found that the yogurt here is a lot less sugary, that is about it. Every other dessert they have here is about ten times sweeter than what I was used to in America. Donuts. I had a donut here once. Never again. It is so sweet! Another example: Apple strudel. They basically drown it in this already-too-sweet vanilla sauce too. Even the ice cream is sweeter here! Not that I’m complaining though. German Eis is sooo good. But yeah. The rest of their desserts? Sweet. Sugary. So much so that I felt a bit sick after that Apple strudel. And to think that I once thought of myself as a sweet-aholic. Pfft.

Well, that’s all for now. I start school on Tuesday, so I guess I’ll be posting a German School system sort of post sooner or later. Wish me luck! Bis später, ciao! ❤

My oh my, how the time here flies…

Okay. Think about it. I’ve been here for over two weeks now… what? This past Friday marked the two week anniversary for all YFU-USA kids currently in Germany. That, to me, is crazy. I was spending time with the other girls in my language camp on Friday night when we all basically came to such a revelation at the same time. MANN, none of us could believe it. In less than two more weeks, we will have “graduated” from our OSK, will leave our wonderful temporary host families, and again hop on different trains. I feel as if this will finally be the moment that I realize “Wow… My real adventure starts now.” I feel as if I’m still holding on too much to everything that I have available to me right now: A full six hours where I am guaranteed to speak at least SOME English with fellow Americans who understand me, a host family who just wants me to feel welcome in their country. Everything that YFU is still facilitating to me right now is my life-line. I am still very much connected to my life in America. I Skype with my friends too much (not that I find it a bad thing… I love you all very much), and I still peruse Facebook far too often. In fact, it’s up on another tab right this second — Definitely still have to work on that.

So what have I been up to lately? Has my Germany been improving? Have I felt homesick yet? I have been asked these questions so much recently. And honestly, I don’t really have any idea. Except for the first one. Hah. So I’ll answer that first:

  1. Well, my weekdays usually just consist of Language Class, then hanging out with my family until the girls go to bed. Recently, there have been quite a few barbecues that I have gotten the chance to go to. They’ve been great. I get to meet other German people, talk with them (thankfully in some very clever Denglish), and meet other people closer to my age. I especially want to shed light on these four girls I got to know pretty well: Leah, Michelle, Hannah and Marie (: I don’t particularly know why, but meeting them made my day so much better. On the weekends, I usually travel. I have now been to Aachen twice and Mönchengladbach twice. That does not really sound like much, but believe me: it is. I went shopping with some friends, got to explore a pretty interesting modern-art museum, visited with my current host Oma and Opa, and explored two really adorable cities. There really isn’t very much I could ask for.
  2. Heh. My German. Has it improved? The people around me all seem to agree it has but, I know not whether to believe them or not. I still feel pretty lost when listening to German and I most definitely still choke up and have mini panic-attacks whenever I speak German. I am so afraid of making mistakes, which is a fear I really should get over.. I have noticed something odd though. Sometimes when I am in my room and I hear my family speaking German downstairs, my mind defaults to thinking they’re speaking Chinese. Confusing, I know. The two languages are completely different. But I think my mind might just be so used to defaulting to Chinese when English is no longer my main focus… Uh-oh.. Haha.
  3. What is homesickness? Since I really don’t know the extent of what it is, I unfortunately cannot supply you with a sufficient answer. I sometimes have brief moments where I miss my friends and family. These pangs of longing only last a couple of minutes though for now. I think my mind is still in the mind-set that I’m on a month-long vacation or something. Again, it brings us back to the fact that being with my permanent host family will probably be my real “Aha!” moment.
Tomorrow my class goes on a trip to Bonn to see the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) and Köln (Cologne). I CAN’T WAIT. I’ve been waiting to see these two cities since before I even got to Germany. I see many, MANY photos being taken in my near future (: Well, das ist jetzt alles, ich hoffe Ihr habt einen schönen Tag! Bis später meine Lieben! ❤

Vierten Tag in Deutschland!

For those of you who don’t speak German… aka probably a lot of you reading this… the title says “Fourth Day in Germany!” Obviously that means that I have now been in Germany for four days… I’m so redundant when I attempt to write these things haha. I guess one of my goals is that by the end of this wonderful adventure of mine, maybe a few of you will know ein bisschen Deutsch too? The likeliness of such things happening is quite slim… but whatever, right? I can continue to live my life pretending that all you guys do is spend time reading my blog and writing down whatever German I happen to throw in here.

Well, this being my 4th day in Germany, that also means it was my second day of German Language and Culture Class. I really do love it. It is a wonderful relief to get myself away from that state of confusion that I always seem to be in nowadays while I’m at home, since I can’t understand what my host sisters are trying to say half the time. The other half, Hannah and Emma are either speaking really easy, plain sentences, or Emma and I will just end up staring at each other, smiling, then laughing a tiny bit. Such occurrences have been happening a lot.. BUT, with the help of my language class, I get to hardcore just jump into learning German grammar and vocab, without any sort of restraint. When I’m in class, I’m no longer afraid to make a silly mistake. All the other kids in my class are so amazing, and they all seem to be on a similar German level as me. Plus, we all have a hunger for learning the language as fast as we can. Sometimes that causes some tension in the room, especially when some of us are on the same page and others are not. But that’s okay. My class of six other people and I are already on the fast track to becoming really amazing friends.

We’ve already begun to make plans for the upcoming weekends, since we don’t have class and we’d like to explore as much of Hückelhoven as we can before our month is up. I personally feel as if this was the perfect town for me to be placed in for my first month. It’s a good place for me, and my family is so amazing. I am eternally grateful for the fact that they took me in, and have helped me transition from American life to German life.

Exciting piece of news: I finally fulfilled my childhood dream of walking to school. That’s right. Such little things make me so excited here, it’s borderline ridiculous. But that’s okay because I’m in Germany, and as my Cultures teacher was saying, I have the opportunity to redefine who I am. I think such words will weigh heavily on me when I end up making certain decisions while I’m here. For now, I am still stepping lightly, not really asking to go out of the house without family and such, because I don’t want to offend anyone, or jeopardize my relationship with the Herzogs. And for now, I’m okay with that.

Today in Cultures, we did an activity where there were different quotes about travel taped onto the walls and furniture, and we were to read all of them and share our interpretations. I have to say that my favorite one went as follows:

“Some people see things as they are — and ask: Why? I dream of things which have never existed — and ask: Why not?” –> George Bernard Shaw

I don’t really know why, but these words really spoke to me. I think it’s because it reminded me a lot about when I first announced to my friends that I was going away for a year. All they kept asking me was why I’d want to go to a foreign country for my senior year. Not that I’m trying to offend anyone, but I really didn’t understand the entirety of their concern. I personally think that the opportunity to see a completely new way of life and learn a new language far outweighs the importance of two senior homecomings, a couple school dances, and a prom. So what? Those things, are more momentous memories that only last for those few hours in which they occur. My experience will change my life forever. Hopefully, God willing, for the better. Well, that’s my spiel for now, I have just reminded myself of why I decided to start my other blog: I really had sitting here and typing huge blocks of text. Sometimes it’s good for me though, so I can get everything off my chest and evaluate the things I’ve done. Ciao for now! Bis später (:

Also. I miss my CBYX friends that I’m not taking classes with. Es ist sehr schade, ich vermisse euch alle! 😥

*Insert Typical “End of an Era / New Beginnings” Title Here*

Yup. Well, here we go. There’s no turning back now. Tomorrow, my mother must release her motherly grip on me, and allow me to cross that barrier into… the 4H Center? Well, I guess that’s good for now. It’s not that I want to get away from my mom. More that I just really want to go to Germany now. For goodness sake, I have been dreaming of this moment for the last 5-6 months or so! But alas, I still must do a 3 day orientation in DC before me and my 49 fellow CBYX-YFUers can all hop onto a plane and fly to the setting of our new life chapters. Theeere it is. My first cliche statement. Since this post is bound to be filled with them anyway, I might as well do it right.

… By way of song lyrics.

… Later. Because for now, I’m just too darn lazy to tackle such an endeavor, because it must be done perfectly.

Long story short, YAY, LESS THAN 20 HOURS UNTIL I’M WITH FELLOW CBYX-ERS, AND 3 DAYS UNTIL I LAND IN GERMANY! ❤

ALSO. TOMORROW IS THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF MY TUMBLR HERE: EIN BILD PRO TAG. ONE PICTURE A DAY.

 

Hoooopefully everything runs smoothly and I don’t mess up too much (:

My intro video is finally up! … And other wonderful last day shenanigans

As you can tell from the wonderfully creative title of this post, I finally succeeded in creating an intro video for the CBYX 2011-2012 Finalist’s Youtube Channel. You can check it out if you’re really interested.

In other exciting news, today was my last day in Michigan for the next year… since you couldn’t tell that from the title either…

So what have I been doing this past month of Summer break? Mainly spending time with people I wont see for a year.. and getting in shape for all the biking that I’ll be doing while in Germany. My first host family consists of avid bikers. I am slightly worried that I won’t be able to keep up. So yes, I had one official going-away party, consisting of all of my closest friends. Then, I had 2-3 other “unofficial” bon voyage celebrations afterwards. Such a thing happened due to the fact that my original party was so early… and that yet some people weren’t available due to vacations, camps, work, and the like. All of them were equally fun, and my goodness, I’m going to miss my friends so much. I kept saying goodbye to people, and then would end up seeing them again because I just couldn’t stand not seeing them one more time. It’s frightening to think that I may never see some of them again. After I return from Germany next year in “Early July,” some of my friends will be on family vacations. Others might be busy doing college preparation-y things. SO SAD. Suddenly it’s like, BAM! and I’ll be off to college on a new adventure.

This Summer is already going by so fast. One week from now, I’ll be in DC, going through my pre-departure orientation. Three days later, I’ll be landing in Frankfurt, Germany at 5:20AM their time. My golly gee almighty, time has slipped away from me.

But no, let us not talk about sad things. I shall tell you a story about my day, which will make you shake your head instead. Today, I decided to embark on a long journey around my town with a friend on my bike. Things were going well. I had stopped by and visited with a couple friends and said my last goodbyes, and I was jolly. I even rode by my old elementary school.  Tragically, my jolly bike ride ended abruptly when I was traveling down a slope on a pathway, and ran into a curb on an island at the entrance of a rich-neighborhood sector. I proceeded to soar through the air like a dying pigeon, crash-landed into the hard asphalt, bounced, and skidded to a halt. *I bet you’re shaking your head right about now. Don’t worry, there’s more.* Skin was broken. Blood was shed. In fact, about 2.5 hours later, blood is STILL shedding… (there are so many cuts and bruises, that I guess my immune system gave up coagulation..). Luckily, there was a nifty Harding’s right down the road, so my friend Jenny and I quickly hopped back on our bikes, marched into the store, bought some medical supplies, and bandaged me up pretty nicely. If you’d like to admire our handy-dandy medical work, you can check out my Tumblr for photographic evidence of the end result. We did a pretty nice job, if I do say so myself.

We then proceeded to call our mutual friend Dylan, and asked if he could pick us up and drive us to our original final destination, which was to Ritter’s Frozen Yogurt. *Head shake number two.* I got the chocolate ice cream version of dirt in a cup. Soooo goooood.

Long story short, I love my friends. The end ❤

I have succumbed to internal pressure…

So, I have made a Tumblr account. Hopefully the mere fact that I even mentioned a different blogging site’s name on here isn’t going to get me charged for blogging treason or anything. No worries WordPress, I will still be using you.. just less often.

After pondering my future blogging adventures for a few weeks, I have decided that I don’t want to be hassled with the task of writing blog posts ever few weeks or once a month, so on and so forth. Such a concrete agenda isn’t how I normally do things, and it’ll just cause me extra stress… especially when I begin the online college application process (See, Mom? I’m not forgetting my responsibilities!).

So, I was trying to figure out a way for me to still document everything that went on during my time in Germany without me having to sit down and just.. write, especially in English, when my main goal for the first few months will be learning the German language. Therefore, I developed a new concept of posting a daily picture that sums up the highlights (… or lowlights) of my day, accompanied with a short and sweet 1-2 sentence caption underneath. I explored WordPress for an easy way for me to do so, but it just wasn’t as elegant as I’d like. So I did some more research for a sight that would give me a more graceful way to display my pictures, and I think I found it.

Long story short, if you’d like a day-to-day update on what is happening in my life, I now direct you to my Tumblr with a familiar-sounding URL: sixhourdifference.tumblr.com.

If maybe a monthly or less-often account of my life is more of what you desire, you are welcome to just stay on board with my WordPress 🙂

Host Families!

For the exchange program that I’m going through, Youth For Understanding, each foreign exchange student has a total of two host families. One is a “temporary” one that they stay with for their first month in Germany, while going through  Language Courses and Culture Immersion. The second host family they have is a “permanent” one, which they stay with for the remaining duration of their stay. Well, I’ve actually had information on both of my families for a while now, but I haven’t gotten around to writing about them until now, since it’s officially a week into summer break for me, and I have finally settled down enough to sit down in front of a computer and just… write.

So, my first family is the Herzogs. They consist of a mother (Anja), a father (Klaus), and two little sisters Hannah (1o) and Emma (7). I have been emailing back and forth with them recently, and they seem like the perfect family for me to spend my first month in Germany with. They love going to the theatre, going on biking trips, and the girls are both in love with ballet. The fact that they have 3 cats and a dog, a trampoline in their backyard, and a beautiful home is just a wonderfully added bonus :] By just reading about them and communicating with them through email, I already know that we are going to have a  blast together.

My permanent family, the Ellerbrocks, live in Munich, Bavaria, Germany! The family consists of a mother (Claudia), a father (Lex), a little sister Chiara (15), and a big / my age brother Fabian (17). I met Fabi at a camp in California last summer, and his family graciously welcomed me into their home as a direct-placement, which I love them for :] I am really excited to be getting both little sisters and a “big” brother, since I only have a little brother here at home. I am very eagerly awaiting this upcoming year to Germany. Before, it all seemed surreal, but now that I have host families and I’ve talked to both of them, it’s really starting to sink in. One month and 5 days until I land in Germany! =D

tomorrow, I’m officially a senior, but not really

As the last week of exams starts coming to a close, a few things have been going through my mind. Some of my closest friends are graduating. By the end of tomorrow, I’m officially considered a senior. Writing in my friends’ yearbooks, reliving the moments of laughter, sadness and everything in between that we have gone through this past year has made me think of all the momentous events that I will indeed be leaving behind during by time abroad. Its not the obvious things that I will be missing. I do not really mind that I’m going to miss out on my Senior Homecoming, school dances, Senior Prom, or even walking at Graduation. Those things are trivial and do not really matter to me. What matters are those times in between. Weekend nights at a friend’s house, watching scary movies and just hanging out. Laughing until our stomachs hurt during a supposed “study session,” going to trips on the beach, or jumping into a friend’s pool with all our clothes on. Those are the things that I think I’ll miss the most. And although they are memories that I won’t be there for, I know I have the chance of a lifetime to make my own special memories with the amazing people that I meet on my journey in Germany.

Ahhh, I’m currently listening to “For Good” from one of the greatest musicals of all time: Wicked. It basically sums up all of my feelings I have about this upcoming year abroad, and leaving the comfortable life I have here at home. I know that no matter what I do, and where I go, amazing things are in store for me. I know I’ll definitely miss my friends and everything I have here; I also know that Germany has so much to offer for me, that I have to take this chance.