Germany: 2017 Student Voices

Bavarian Homestay by KJ

For the past week-and-a-half, we had been living with our homestay families in rural Bavaria–or Bayern, as they call it over here. Hailing from a small town just outside of New York City, I come from a strange mix of small town-life and bustling city-life. But out here, it’s very different from anything I’ve experienced back home. In my host family, I had my wonderful parents, older sister, and younger sister, alongside the best dog in the whole world. Our house sat among the trees away from most else. Driving anywhere took us through miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) of farmland. The ride back from the train station took almost an hour. To get to school, we drove 5 minutes to the bus station and then the bus drove 35 minutes to school. Coming from a small town, this was the first time I’ve ever taken a bus to school. Some of the others drove for an hour to reach the school. But the ride never felt that long; I would listen to music with my younger sister and watch the fields and buildings pass us by. Although we went to neither the Czech Republic nor Austria, my house was about half-an-hour from each. In school my sisters had been learning English, German, and French. My sister and her best friend spoke English so well it was easy to forget they were from rural Bavaria (Perhaps the American schooling systems could learn a thing or two about teaching a foreign language). I never had trouble talking to them, but even when I attempted to practice my broken German, they would be more than happy to correct where I was wrong or sing praises where I got it right.

With our host siblings, we’ve gone to school, visited Munich (München), visited the Bavarian Forest (Bayerischer Wald), got our own Dirndls, and celebrated birthdays–even if some were celebrated on the wrong day because of the differences in how we write dates. Out here, we’ve toured Passau, shopped in Regensburg, been welcomed by an official from Deggendorf, taught students about life in the U.S., and had the time of our lives. The St-Gotthard-Gymnasium, the high school-equivalent that all of our host siblings attended, was the central meeting point for all of us. Each day, whether we were going to school or hoping on another bus to go tour someplace amazing, we would ride with our host siblings to school and then either meet up all together or part ways with them until the afternoon when we would return home with them.

Now we sit here on the train the Berlin, off to our next adventure. Franziska and Laura, my dear host sisters, thank you for everything. Thank you for inviting me into your home and helping me with my extremely limited German. Thank you for driving me around and showing me so many cool things I have never seen before in my life. I will never forget you, and I will never forget this wonderful part of the world you call your home and which became mine.

Danube in Flames by Chaim

A wise man once said ” a man is only as good as the bratwurst he eats.” These are the words I have chosen to live by during my home stay. The second night I was with my host family we went to a festival called ‘Danube in Flames’. This is a traditional Bavarian festival that includes an extravagant fireworks show at the end of the night and a lot of amazing food. The fireworks were set to music which was an interesting change to what I am used to seeing. As I reflect on this past week with my host family I have three main takeaways 1. Bavarian Food is amazing! (Maybe don’t come if you’re a vegetarian!) 2. Bavaria is beautiful. (True dat) 3. Family is everything. (No, like seriously it totally is).

Farewell Party by Cordelia

I never thought that I would find a home with Thomas, Semra, Steffi, and Anja, yet I have. At first glance, we have drastically different lives – my city lifestyle is so much louder and busier than their rural one, a ride to my school lasts 5 minutes, not 45, and we never make our own jam or cheese. It seemed insane to even think that we would be a family. However, these differences did not separate us; instead, our limited language skills pushed us to connect through other things – jamming to music during late night car rides, dancing to both German and American songs at Donau in Flammen, and running and laughing through the rain are just some of the many memories that I have with my family.

To all of our German families and friends, thank you. Thank you for celebrating our birthdays with special cakes and songs. Thank you for teaching us the German language and never giving up on us. Thank you for sharing your recipes and food with us and letting us do the same. Thank you for accepting us into your homes with open arms. There are an infinite amount of things we’d love to thank you for, but one more “dankeschön” will never be enough.

Last night was one of the many things we’d also like to thank you for. Our farewell party took place at the Kalk & Ziegel Museum, where the mayor of Flintsberg guided us through the 1000 year old brick making factory. After, it was time to eat. The food table was a perfect representation of the time spent with our families and our cross-cultural interactions – a tray of Christian’s special Kentucky-style ribs sat next to a pile of bratwursts, peanut butter cookies adjacent to strudels, and barbecue sauce and curry ketchup lay side by side. As we ate our dinner, the incessant chatter and laughter that could be heard made it seem like we had known each other for forever, not just a short week.

For the rest of the night, we were treated to a variety of different performances, including but not limited to: Peter and his tarot cards, Chai’s never-ending musical theatre references and short bursts into song, off-key group numbers, jumping and spinning through the rain, and a multitude of accents by Spencer and Jul. The night ended with an impromptu verse of Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” and one line in particular stood out: “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” It was a bittersweet moment – our happiness made by the unity of our voices and selves, but our sadness came upon the realization that we really were going to miss each other when we were gone.

This was evident by the following morning at the train station. Not a single dry eye in sight, families and friends hugged and hugged until it was time to get on the train. We waved until we could no longer see each other and then sat down, remembering the past week.

They say that “home is where the heart is” and I can definitely say, that Bavaria has found a place in all of ours.

Until next time ❤