Not-So-Great Expectations

March 25, 2011
By , Rochester Hills, MI
I stared in awe at the Schultute perched upon the table before me. This colorful cone overflowed with stuffed animals and appetizing pieces of candy. The wonderful surprise allowed me to temporarily forget why I had spent countless nights dreading the coming of this day. Traditionally given to children on their first day of school, it quickly reminded me of my troubles. I was about to head off to an international school in Frankfurt, a new school where I would not recognize a single face. I tried not to be spiteful at my parents, but it became impossible when I remembered the day when I found out I would have to uproot my entire life in Rochester, Michigan to relocate to Germany.

“We have some big news for you kids," were my dad's first words upon walking through the door after work one day in March, 2000.
My brother, sister and I stared at him expectantly. He had recently been taunting us with the possibility of getting a new kitten. Without a doubt, I knew the announcement that would pour out of his mouth would consist of this joyful new addition to our family. I hoped we would all pile into our blue minivan and drive to the local Humane Society. We would pick out a black and gray spotted kitten and stay up all night getting it acquainted with its new home.

“We're all moving to Germany this summer!" My father had announced with a smile so big, you would have assumed that he had just finished watching the weekly lottery drawings, and his lucky numbers had graced the television screen.

Every fantasy I had just conjured up in my head shattered like glass with that one sentence. We were moving. I wouldn't begin school in the fall with my best friend Lauren; I wouldn't uphold the tradition of Trick-Or-Treating with my neighbor, Thomas, in our subdivision. Lunches eating alone in the unknown cafeteria and embarrassing class introductions would plague me for the coming years. My teacher would explain to the class, "This is Kelsey, a new student from cold, snowy, endless winter Michigan." I could feel the class' cold stares already.

Weeks went by and my anxiety about moving grew along with the amount of ugly brown boxes that housed our possessions. I would look away in agony every time I saw the For Sale sign in my yard, standing tall like a model, begging for potential buyers to take notice.
Every night before bed, I would wish that time could slow down. That I could stay in that one part of my life, so that I would never have to leave the place that I felt at home. Time never did slow down. It actually seemed to have sped up. It seemed as if it knew that I had felt dread for the coming of that day in August-when I would have to start over and make new friends at my new school-and wanted to make it come even faster. Before I knew it, I had stepped off of the stuffy, overcrowded plane and into the airport in Frankfurt, Germany following the excruciating 9 hour flight there.

I had entered a whole new world. The food had too potent of a taste, I could not decipher the German signs, all of the people spoke a language I could not begin to understand, and no one could pronounce my name. I decided that this place would not receive a fair chance from me. I hated it already.

"Kelsey, go get your coat. You better hurry or you'll be late for your first day of school!"
My mother's voice derailed my train of thought and I came to realize that I was still intently staring at my Schultute. I trudged away, preparing myself for the long, lonely walk to school that lay ahead of me. I threw open the front door, expecting to see German street signs and the rest of the mild land that I would be expected to call home for the next few years. Instead, my eyes landed on a girl around my age, with an eager smile and a voice that sounded like home. She had dark hair that was as reflective as glass and sunburn that alluded to her late summer vacation to Spain.

“Hi! My name's Taylor. I live next door. My mom told me your starting second grade just like me. I thought we could walk to school together, if you wanna."

“Sure," I agreed as we began walking in the direction of my new school. "So have you always lived here?" I asked her.

“No, I moved here from Michigan. It's almost as great as here except Michigan feels like Antarctica compared to Germany."

I couldn't believe my luck. I had a neighbor that could relate when I would mention class trips to the Detroit Zoo, or the way that winter in Michigan seems to last longer than the other three seasons combined. We talked the entire duration of our walk to school. I told her about my friends and the life I had left behind back home, and she told me about all of the amazing places living in Germany had enabled her to travel to.

“So I'll see you at lunch? I'll save you a seat right next to mine," Taylor promised when we had reached the sprawling school.

I had realized in the short time that it had taken to arrive at school that the severity of my troubles depended entirely upon my disposition. I could then clearly see the opportunities that lay ahead of me. I walked into school with my head held high and an open mind.
Maybe I would like it here after all.

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