by Grace Remmert about her exchange during the spring semester of her 10th grade year.
My name is Grace Remmert and I’m in the spring semester of my 10th grade year at Shining Mountain Waldorf School, Boulder. I am currently on a three-month exchange to Düsseldorf, Germany and attending the Rudolf Steiner Schule. For those of you who don’t know me, I am an only child who has not traveled outside the US until now. The idea of living with strangers halfway across the world and doing everything in a different language was a crazy prospect and a very new experience.
When first arriving to my exchange home I was warmly welcomed by my host family, Ella, her mother Margot, her father Jan, and her cat Greta -all of whom I love dearly. About 15 hours after arriving in Germany, Margot, Ella and I flew to Italy and spent ten days traveling through Rome, Tuscany, Florence, and Venice and finished the trip by visiting Ella’s family in Bavaria. During the ten days in Italy we went sightseeing, biking, shopping, and took a cooking class where we learned to make pizza and gelato from scratch.
After a memorable adventure through Italy, it was time for me to meet Ella’s friends and start school. At this point, I was definitely nervous but also really excited. On my first day of school I learned a few things: One, that my German needed some work, and two, that the community I was in was very accepting of my mistakes, and was open to helping me learn. And last but not least, I learned that nobody in Germany knows what mac and cheese is, and this was the first of many culture shock experiences I’ve had during my time here.
After a few weeks of school, I felt like I was understanding more, and could follow along in my classes. However, I was still very hesitant to speak and have conversations with my classmates. After about a month of school, I went on a ten-day, land surveying class trip in France. On the trip I had to hear and speak German the entire time; this was absolutely exhausting and I had many headaches from hearing German all day. However, in doing so my German improved a lot! After the trip, I was much more comfortable with my classmates and speaking German, so naturally I had more conversations and started picking up the language much faster than before.
Not only did I learn lots of German, but I also learned a lot about how I want to live my life going forward. One main takeaway is that I want to make sure I continue to take every opportunity presented, and make the most of every experience, good or bad. The final thing I would like to say is that doing an exchange is a life changing experience. It requires a lot of preparation, time and commitment, but in the end is extremely rewarding and is completely worth the hard work. So if you are reading this and are interested in doing an exchange know that it’s not always easy but in the end is definitely worth it.