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A Story of Two Lands

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In the fall of sophomore in high school, two students from Germany came and stayed with me for one month each. It was a great experience having them in the USA, and I had the chance to see how they experienced the United States. One of the students came through a program between my school and his school in Germany, and the other came with a different program. It was exciting when they were here, but that was not the most exciting thing. I knew that at the end of the year, I would be flying over the ocean to visit each of them in Germany. I just had one year of high school to live through before I could do that.
The week before school ends is the worst. As my sophomore year came to a close, that one last week seemed to drag on taking every single moment and making it just another opportunity to study or worry about the notorious final exams. However, I was determined to study as much as I possibly could because I had something big to look forward to. As soon as the stress of finals ended, I was on my way to a summer which I would be spending in an exciting foreign land.
The first student that I stayed with was in Berlin. His name was Jason, and he lived on the very outskirts of the city. One of the things that I found very interesting about the lifestyle there was the effort that it took each day going to school. There was no convenient school bus, and on the days that Jason’s father didn’t drive us to school we had to walk about fifteen minutes, take at least one bus, and ride in the subway to a stop near the school. Each day was an adventure going to school, and it fascinated me that the people there accepted it as a boring, everyday experience. After a few days, I felt extremely comfortable with the system and could easily see myself going to school like that every day, but I never lost the sense of awe that I first had about it. Another thing that I noticed was the relative laxity of rules in Germany. A great example of this is at the water park in Berlin that Jason and his friends often went to. It was commonplace for people to do things, especially on the water slides, that would be grounds for being kicked out of an American water park. At first it was nerve racking to stop on the water slide or do any of the other “rule breaking” things done everyday by the Germans, but after being told that there had never been any real problems arising from the laxity in recent memory, I realized that the German system in the water parks was likely better, and definitely more fun. I was beginning to feel at home in Germany.
After staying in Berlin for three weeks, I knew that I would have an entirely different experience in a smaller town in central Germany. This time I was staying with a family that I had already met, but it was the first time that I saw them in Germany. Although I was no longer in a huge city, I felt the same fascination with the way of life there that I had felt in Berlin. The school there was an entirely different experience and we only needed one bus to take us there, but I found that I was quickly accepted by the other students in the school. There was always something to do, and I always felt at home in this small German town.
In the end, my trip to Germany was the most unique and rewarding experience that I have ever had. I got to be a part of life in a large city and in a small town, and I felt comfortable with both of them. In fact, I felt more comfortable there in Germany than I do most of the time in my home country. Maybe it was because it was in my summer vacation or because I had the aura of being a foreigner, but I actually felt more accepted and at home in a foreign land than I do most of the time here. I don’t exactly know the reasons why I felt that way, but I do know that going to Germany was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and something that everyone should do. As I readjusted to the American lifestyle, I noticed that I had also changed in several ways. By learning about another culture, I am now able to notice new things about the way of life with which I have grown up. My proficiency with the German language has skyrocketed, and I now know that I am more confident and can enjoy life more.





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