Welcome to our blog for this year!

What we are doing: We both (Nicole Schmidt and I) were recipients of the Congress-Bundestag Scholarship this year.  We are spending the year as exchange students in Germany, living with host families and attending German “Gymnasium” (the equivilant of the american high school).  We are going to try to keep this blog up to date with what we are experiencing while living in a new culture.

I will be writing in normal font text, Nicole in italics.

So, yeah.  Welcome and I hope we will be able to keep up with the blog despite the fact that we will both be busy this year.



About two weeks ago I went on a trip to Berlin with my AFS chapter. We stayed in a youth hotel right across from the train station. We left saturday morning and came back late sunday night. It was a lot of fun. The first day we saw the Brandenburg Tor, the Reichstag (the berlin parliament building), and the Holocaust Museum. I took photos of all of it but then, I dropped my camera and lost the photos. 😦 But then I used Léa’s camera and got photos of the rest of my trip. On sunday we saw the Berlin Dom.berlin domThen we saw Checkpoint CharlieCheckpoint CharlieCheckpoint Charlie SignThe American side













Then we went to what was left of the Berlin wall.

Where the Berlin wall once stood.

Where the Berlin wall once stood.

The wall




































After that we saw a few other sites, went shopping, got some coffee and headed home. Even though we only had a short amount of time there it was worth it. But I think the CBYX mid-stay camp is in Berlin as well. That’s in February so I’m excited to go back and see more. Here are a few more pictures.The Victory ColumnThe Reichstag

We couldn't resist.

We couldn't resist.

It’s already been a month and a half…

Our German course group took a field trip!

Our German course group took a field trip!

It seems like I’ve had so much going on lately I didn’t even realize how long I’ve been here.  A month and a half already… The year is going to go by fast.

I’ve found some stuff to do to keep myself busy here.  I’m joining the local ice hockey team ( which is so small we can’t even play games; we just train) and I’ve started drum lessons because I couldn’t afford a bass and an amp and all the little stuff that has to go with that.  All I needed for drums was sticks and a practice pad; cost me about 20 euro.  Better yet, I got a whole set of hockey equipment for free.  The club I joined has like a “Community equipment closet” ( Why not; there’s only like 9 of us 🙂 ), so the coach helped me dig around and find complete set of pads to use for the year, including skates in my size and a hockey bag.  Who knew I’d even find a hockey team here, let alone be able to play for next to nothing?
Other than that I’ve been going to school normally, although this Wednesday I had to stay home sick.  I have my German course in the city three times a week, and me and the other AFS students in the class hang out all the time.  This afternoon we went ice skating; it’s definitely funny watching a group of Latinos trying to ice skate for the first time 😉

I’ve finally made a few German friends at school now, as well, but I think it’s gonna take a while to truly feel really comfortable with them.  It still seems kind of stiff no matter how friendly I try to be, but I’m sure we’ll get to know each other better.

On a completely unrelated note, Turkish television is officially the worst television in the world.  The soap operas… ugh… Beverly Hills 90210 seems subtle and well-written compared to these things.  I don’t even have to understand what they’re saying to see the overacting and mellodrama…

One last thing for today: Add this link to your favorites; it’s my online photo stream/album.  The best photos will still end up here but all of them will be streamed there.


Finally, some pictures.

I finally got my hands on some pictures!

The first three are some pictures of Wiedenbrück, a part of my town. My town is divided into two sections. There is Rheda, where I live and go to school. And there is Wiedenbück where I take my German course every morning.

Last Thursday I went “Adventure Golfing” with my sister and a few friends. This was a long waited outing and it was worth all the hype and wait. 🙂 Adventure Golf was putt-putt except more in the woods with creeks and hills. We never really could stay on the green but it didn’t matter because it was adventure.

I also traveled to Münster and now have the photos.                                                                This is the Dom in Münster.

It’s Been Awhile…

German Exit Sign

German Exit Sign

Well.  I’ve been pretty busy lately, with school and my German Course and everything lately… It’s kinda hard to fit everything, really.  When I do get online, it’s normally late and I’m too tired to really contribute anything.  I will try to keep up better though…

Anyways.  I guess I’ll talk about the bus system today.

Forget anything you’ve heard about the efficiency of the German bus system.  The train system is wonderful.  Always on time, quiet, clean, comfortable… The bus, however, the bus is a different story.  First of all, it is never on time- When you are late, it is 5 minutes early.  When you are early, it comes sometimes 10 minutes late.  Unlike in America, there is not a bus stop on every street corner.  At some points, the bus stops are close to half a mile away from each other.  If you miss your stop, forget it.  Better to get to the bus station, and take the next available bus back to your stop.  It’s quicker than walking.

Second, the bus drivers.  Here, they are more unfriendly than anyone else I have encountered so far.  I have asked several of them whether or not I was on the right bus.  The answer I got was pretty much: “Why the hell don’t you know whether or not this is the right bus?” Both times it turned out to be the WRONG bus and I ended up having to walk a half hour to get home.  Fun times.  Also, I thought this was interesting, it is ILLEGAL to talk to the driver while they’re driving.  Illegal.  In America, I’ve had full conversations with the driver and they are usually very helpful and very friendly.

Funny story about the bus from a few days ago.  I was on the bus, coming home from the city at about 9:00.  It was dark outside and bright inside the bus, so there was a huge glare on the windows and I couldn’t see.  I wasn’t sure where my stop was, and was really worried I was going to miss it (as stated above, I would’ve had to walk a half mile to get home again).  I had with me my bookbag and a shopping bag.  In the shopping bag was my new forty Euro jeans and my digital camera.  Naturally, when I realized my stop was the next one, I rushed off the bus, relieved not to have missed my stop.

I was about half way home when I realized I had, of course, left the shopping bag on the bus.

Two minutes later I was in the car with my host mom, driving 90mph to the bus station in the dark and rain.  Luckily, we made it before the bus left again for the city… Good luck, I guess 🙂

Crisis averted!

It’s very strange, though.  Back home, I was a pro at the bus.  Here, I feel totally lost.  But I’m sure that will come with time.

On a different note, I took some cool pictures at AFS camp last weekend.  There was a very cool park in Darmstadt and I got some really good pics there.

Nothing to do this week…

My headphones for my iPod are falling apart.  They still work, but all the cushy stuff is falling off….

So I dont start in school til next week; this week Ive mostly been going out with my family and hanging out at home (thats why I may seem to be online a bit too much…).  My host brother and I are going to see Batman this weekend in the “Kino” (movie theatre).  Im pretty excited.

All of you, excluding Nicole, should be jealous of where I get to live for the year.  I feel like the luckiest person on Earth.  Heres a picture of the main part of my town, Obernburg am Main.

Its gorgeous.  Everything is old, and all the streets are cobblestone.  But at the same time, everything is efficient and modern while still preserving the old feeling of the town.  I love it.

Yesterday my host mom took me to get a library card.  Im reading some book in German; hopefully Ill be able to get through it 🙂 We also went out for dinner.  We had something called döner.  Its Turkish, and something like a Gyro.  Heres a photo.

It was awesome.

One last thing: Im now addicted to a drink called “Apfelschorle.” Its apple juice, but carbonated.  Its the best thing ever invented, pretty much.

First week in Deutschland!

Wow, so this is my first blog ever and I’m so confused on how to use it. Hope I’m doing this right. Well I landed in Frankfürt around 7 a.m. after six grueling hours on the plane, then had to take a train to my town and didn’t end up at my town till 7:30 p.m. Then i basically ate and slept 12 hours. I’m already going to the Einstein Gymnasium, I’m in 11th grade…..again. No it’s really great. I’m in most of the same classes with my host sister Lea. Today I had Biology and it was the first class were I knew what was going on. But that might have been because I was sitting in between Lea (who speaks a little english) and the half-american boy Colin who was an exchange student in California and can speak perfect English =]. So I’m also taking a German course that should hopefully bring me up to speed here. I never knew that trying to understand and speak a foreign language would be so tiring. I think I’ve reverted back to being a toddler. Im taking naps in between classes. But I’m very busy, so sorry if I’m not as “in touch” with everybody. This weekend is packed. There’s a festival in my town Rheda so we’re going to that on Friday. On saturday I’m going to an amusement park with Lea and her friends. Then on Sunday I have an AFS meeting. Well my town is beautiful and my bike ride to my German course in the morning is about 15 minutes, a workout, up hill and everything, but it’s through parks and gardens so I’ll have to take pictures and put them up. Any who, I don’t think I should stay on my laptop anymore that I already have been so I should wrap this up. I miss everybody and kind of, maybe, just a little bit, miss NT. I’ll write more later! Tschüss!

First Few Days

*Excuse the lack of apostrophes in my posts here.  The German keyboard Im using doesnt have them since the apostrophe doesnt exist in the German language.

My host mom Semiha, my sister Selin, and Me

My host mom Semiha, my sister Selin, and Me

So this weekend has been one crazy ride.  Let it be known that six hour plane rides are long, boring, and impossible to sleep on.  Let it also be known that airline meals taste like corrugated cardboard.  The flight we were on had a problem with the water and we couldnt have any coffee (I almost died) or tea, or water not from a bottle.

Finally the plane landed at Frankfurt International Airport at about 7:00 AM German time, approximately 2 in the morning EST.  I was exhausted but I couldnt complain; Nicole still had a long wait and then a 2 hr. train ride to get to her host family.  My host family, the Alkans, picked me up right at the airport.

The German Autobahn is something else.  At first its extremely scary; youre in this tiny car going like 70-80 mph on a curvy, two lane street.  But everybody there  knows how to drive on it, and after awhile it seems normal to go that fast.

Sitting there in the car with a new family was nerve-wracking and kind of awkward.  I remember I could barely understand when they spoke to me.  I remember saying OK lot (the same word in both languages).  Its frustrating, especially when you are asked a question and understand it, but cant find the right words to answer with.  There is a lot of pointing, broken sentences, and confused looks on both parties faces.  But you get through it.  My family doesnt know more than a few words of English, so its all German, all the time.  Its extremely exhausting, but rewarding when now, three days later, I realize I can understand twice as much as my first day.  I can only imagine how good I will be able to speak after a year here and attending school.

The food here is so delicious I cant describe it.  Its not because people here are better cooks, but because the ingredients are fresh, the portion sizes are right, and it seems the people here really understand the concept of “less is more.”  The food is simple but tastes awesome.  Maybe Ill do one post just about that.  One thing I particularly like is that everyone seems to drink coffee all the time; everytime we go shopping or out to eat, or anything, we always stop in a little cafe for some coffee or a cappucino.  Its pretty cool.

One more thing for today: I dont care how much you study in school, you will not truly know how to speak a language until you use it everyday with native speakers.  Despite the best efforts of teachers, I dont think they can ever do more than give you a decent background in grammar and vocabulary to make things easier to understand when you first have to use the language.  It does help to know sentence construction and how to ask basic questions.  But you cant know how real people talk unless you hear it on a daily basis and are forced to understand everything.  Before I came here, I thought I was very capable of speaking German.  And why not? I passed German class with flying colors, and I could speak pretty well with others Americans who were speaking German.  But now I know that language is something that you have to absorb and actively engage in and be immersed in in order to really learn anything.