Hello, my name is Annabell Dzeik and I am going to the Remstal Gymnasium. I am from Germany and my home town is called Weinstadt Endersbach. I have been living there since I was born, but right now, I am on an exchange year in the United States in the state Kansas. Many different factors like vacations with my family and short trips with my school made me interested in different cultures. Learning English since the first grade gave me many different views on the culture of America, its language, and school system. Yellow school buses, extracurricular activities, and the fact that you can choose most of your classes by yourself made me curious to experience all those different things in real life. After a long process of documents, finding a sponsor and preparing myself for the upcoming year, I let my dream come true.
Getting all the information about my host family happened two weeks before I went to the airport to fly over to the United States. Even if it was hard to leave all my friends and my family, leaving with a “see you later” makes it much easier than a good bye. Out of all the states of America, I flew to the state Kansas, which is in the Middle West on a map. Cowboy boots and horses aren’t even that untypical for my region.
Wanting to live a life like an American teenager also means going to school, doing homework and participating in tests. My High School is called Halstead High School and over 500 students visit those buildings daily. The school is definitely different than in Germany. Let’s just begin with the building, because mostly all the classes take place at a one-story building where every single student gets their own locker. Moreover, every teacher has their own classroom which is why every room looks individual and inviting to the students. Flowers, Christmas lights, posters and decoration for the different seasons make you feel more welcome and put you in a better mood over the day. Teachers aren’t that strict compared to German schools and also joke around a lot. Having a conversation with a teacher I like is the same as speaking with a friend. Papers and school books are not really common anymore, because normally we get our assignments in an online classroom which we visit over a chrome book. The only classes where you really still need a pencil, paper and a school book are the math classes, because writing all those different equations on a document would make everything very complicated.
The school system between our two countries has many differences. One of those would be the different classes. Students need a specific amount of the main classes over their High school year. Deciding on their own school schedule makes it very easy to have a good overview which required classes you still need. Classes I needed to take as an exchange student, were math, English, government (Politics), US History and a Science class (Chemistry, Physics or Biology). To make your school day more fun you can choose two or three fun classes every semester. I decided to take the photo imaging class where I learn more about using the fundamentals of photography and decide how to choose the right settings. I really liked learning which lighting is best for the different angles and how to get different effects in pictures. The weight class and my culinary arts class makes my school day more fun. Cooking different types of meals and also learning more about the kitchen supplies and how to use them helps me to prepare myself for my future.
The American people mostly speak really fast and have kind of slang. Those factors are commonly those why foreign exchange students have to struggle with the language at the beginning. I didn’t really struggle a lot with my vocabulary as I expected, even if I didn’t know some important words. The knowledge of describing words and telling what you want helps to express your opinion. After almost more than half a year, my English improved a lot. I realize that every day new words pop up which I have never learned at school before. Being around people speaking their native language helps me to pick up new words really fast.
America is really popular for its food but not that much for the sports. Still, the extracurricular activities play an important role for the lives of every student. The motivation to join one of the seasonal sports is to get good grades. Only if you have a good grade average and a good social surrounding you can join the sport teams. Making friends is always an important point in an exchange year, because they help you in your classes, you have lunch buddies and also someone to be with you in your free time. The easiest way to find friends is to join one of the sports which I did ever since the first day. Starting with cross country, dance, basketball and finally softball I met so many lovely people in which I found some new best friends.
My personal favorite break was over Thanksgiving. Going on a road trip with my host family brought me many amazing memories. Visiting the Niagara Falls (Canada) and a spectacular view, or standing in front of the White House makes me smile every day. My all-time favorite is still New York City with all those amazing skyscrapers and sights.
Quotes like “an exchange year is not a year in a life, it is a second life in a year” are totally true. I found here in the middle of nowhere, also known as the Wild West, my second home and a new family. Events like Prom, a winter formal or my upcoming graduation with the typical gowns and hats from the movies make my experience much more amazing than it already is.
I experienced many events like Prom and Graduation which are really famous in American movies. Having my summer break now makes me think about my whole year again. I really enjoyed being in a completely different country for a whole year, learning the language and learning to appreciate more. I can tell every student who is thinking about an exchange year to really do it, because those experiences help you in so many different ways. There will always be people who tell your parents that they would never send their children to a different country at the age of 15 now 16. I simply ignored all those people and now I am really happy about it. Remember: Just do it, because you only live once.
You want to see some pictures? – Follow the link!