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Hilary on Exchange
18 December 2009 @ 06:45 pm
It's been almost two years since I last posted in this journal. I apologize for my absence the last couple of months of my exchange. I regret not keeping everyone updated with my travels. Right now, I am in the process of college transfer applications. Because my experience as an exchange student is so valuable to me, I included it in my personal statements. I wrote this statement for the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, USA a few months back--and I would like to share it:

05. April, 2009
I began my international travels at the age of fourteen when I agreed to participate in a program called People to People Student Ambassadors. This program, founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower, enables students in middle school and high school to travel to all corners of the world. As I went to my very first orientation, the woman in charge of my delegation said, "This experience will transform you outside and as well as in. When you step off the plane and greet your parents after this experience, they will see a change in you that is for the better".
Her words inspired me and I signed-up for the program. Before I knew it, I was traveling through the Mediterranean Coast of France, Spain, Italy, and Monaco with fifteen other students.
Read more...Collapse )
Mood: chipperchipper
Hilary on Exchange
12 March 2008 @ 08:52 pm

The conclusion is a little rusty, but I always have problems with writing conclusions.

Praktikum in Staats Theater

When I first heard about the Rotary Youth Exchange program, my brain was preoccupied with other more important thoughts.  I had high school, homework, and after school activities on my mind.  I had little thought for any kind of study abroad experience.

Despite thinking little of this program, I decided to go to the meeting to gather more information about it anyway. To my surprise, Katie Brewick, an exchange student to Germany last year, attended the meeting. She supplied me with a very brief—yet informative—speech about her year long journey abroad.

Hilary on Exchange
18 February 2008 @ 10:23 pm
For the Große Ferien (a vacation that is at the end of the semester), my host family and I traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands for a couple of days.

 The city known for "Coffee Shops" and legal prostitution (two reasons Rotary will not allow Exchange students travel there alone).  Amsterdam is a very liberal city, yet should be recognized more for its beauty and historical background than its abnormal rules.  

  I have been to many major cities in Europe, and Amsterdam is by far one of prettiest my eyes have seen.  The city is very old, yet carries this modern, cool, and hip atmosphere with it. When walking down the streets, one will see many people. You will not just see  Dutch natives and silly American tourists pridley wearing Amsterdam-made wool hats, but people of Asian and African descent as well. I find it refreshing to see a diverse amount of people all in one place.
The architecture in Amsterdam also caught my eye. Every building, coated with a warm and inviting color, is tightly compacted between two other buildings of the same nature (as seen in the picture above) .

 In front of every house, restaurant and shop, there lies  a cluster of bikes. Bicycles literally flood the streets of Amsterdam. Seriously, everywhere you turn, there will be at least one bicycle in your view. If I were an American who has not spent six months in Germany, I would have suffered from a severe "culture shock" when seeing the amount of bicycles. It is seldom to meet an American who commuites by bike on a daily basis. In Holland,  apparentally, it is considered the 'hip' thing to show up to school on a bicycle.

Me in front of the Entrance of the Anne Frank house. I apologize that you can't see have of my left eye.

Everybody knows the story of Anne Frank. Anne Frank, who lived during World War Two, was a Jewish girl who hid  during the German Occupation.  She, along with her family and the Van Pelz, hid in a very cramped house where she wrote about her experience.  Her diary has been considered an amazing piece of literary work around the world.  I remember reading the Diary of Anne Frank in Middle School and being very moved by it.  

'And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren't any other people living in the world. ' Anne Frank .

While in Amsterdam, I was very lucky to go inside of the very same house that Anne Frank lived in. It has been a dream of mine for sometime to see that building in the flesh.  I remember gazing outside a window within the house. I remember seeing a tall tree, and knowing for a fact that that's  the exact tree she spoke often about in her writing. I cannot explain in words how amazing it was to go inside that house. If I could, right at this moment, I would go inside again. 

Being in Amsterdam, all in all, was an AMAZING weekend that I will never forget. I want to thank the Franks (unrelated. haha) for taking me. I have always wanted to see Amsterdam. 

In my next blog, I will talk about a weekend in Köln and Kohlfahrt.. I would like to keep the blog seperate because I have so much to say.
Mood: bouncybouncy
Hilary on Exchange
26 January 2008 @ 11:14 pm
Most Rotary Youth Exchange Students are required to change families every four months. For me, it has been almost a month since my first switch. In my new family, I have a father, mother, little sister, and a hamster. Since my arrival, my host family has been very nice to me. On the first Sunday with me in their house, they took me schlittschuhlaufen (ice skating) in Bremen. I have enclosed pictures from this family outing below:

Me, and my host sister Birte.

My new host papa, Uwe.

My new Host mom, Birgit.

My host sister holding my hand because I can't iceskate. :P

Since I have not seen much of Bremen, my host mother took me and a friend of mine to the city once again. Bremen, in a nutshell, is one of the largest city in my Rotary District 1850  ( with Oldenburg being the second largest). This city is known for its successful Fußball (Soccer) team called Werder Bremen, Beck's (A German Beer), and a fairy tale called 'Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten' (The Bremen Town Musicians). Bremen is an amazing city. Like Oldenburg, and the rest in Germany, it is difficult for me to summarize  its beauty into words. Since it is so difficult, I will let photos describe everything:

My Try auf Deutsch:

Rotary Austauschülerer musst Familien immer vier Monate wechsel. Seit ein Monat, habe ich in meine neue Familie gewesen.  In  meinen neue Familie habe ich einem vater, muter, kleine Schwester, und einem Hamster.  Seit meiner Ankunft ist meine Familie wirklich nett zu mir gewesen. Die Erste Sonntag war ich fur einige Stunden in Bremen schlittschuhlaufen. Ich habe so viel spaß gemacht!

Da ich viel von Bremen nicht gesehen habe. Ich war einmal mit einen Freundin in Bremen.  Bremen ist eine Großte Stadt in der nähe von Oldenburg . In Bremen gibt es Werder Bremen (Fußball ), Becks (ein Bier), und einen Geschichte heißt "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten".  Bremen ist so schön (wie Oldenburg und Überall Deutschland).

Everyday, I am reading German language books, skimming through Dictionary pages, writing words and phrases down, and asking questions. My German is better than when I first arrived, but I still find myself yearning to improve.  Right now, I am quite confident with my German. I am able to have long conversations and read small children books. In my new host family, we do not speak in English very often. To tell you the truth, I am not aware of my family's fluency in English because it is rarely ever spoken! 

My life as of yet, consists of school, German class, and theatre group. Theatre group, which is held at the Staatstheater every Friday, is one of s high lights in my week. Not only do I get to socialize with with people from my school, I am getting to know other people as well. I regret not joining theater group at the beginning of my Exchange. I suppose anxiety and fear were grabbing a hold of me at that time. For now, thankfully,  I am free of both.

Location: Bremen, Germany
Hilary on Exchange
06 December 2007 @ 01:47 am
I know that I have not been updating as much as I should, but my English gets worse as the days pass by. I am a little embarrassed to write this entry, to tell you the truth. A while ago, Philip had a pullover with writing on it and I asked him what the writing said. The sad thing about this little story is the fact that the writing on the pullover was in English. :P

I will try to summarize the past few weeks of my life for my readers:


I went into the city to see the Oldenburg Weihnachtsmarkt. A Weihnachtsmarkt, for those who do not know, is a Christmas Market in the city. Almost every town, no matter how big or how small, have Weihnachtsmarkt every year. When walking through the market, I was reminded of Pike's Place in Seattle (http://www.pikesplacemarket.org). Sadly though, there were no men in dirty aprons throwing fish high into the air. There were, on the other hand, shops full of interesting trinkets and stands full of delicious pastries, dinner items, etc.
I tasted Glühwein and Glühbier for the first time. It is a very delicious drink that is served all over Scandinavia (and Germany too apparently). It can be served both as an Alcohol and alchohol-free drink. In America, people do not drink Gluhwein (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulled_wine). In the USA, the traditional holiday drink is eggnog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggnog).


St. Niklaus Tag (St. Nicholas Day) is similar to how Americans celebrate Easter, though it is not a big celebration. The night before Easter in America, children put a basket out and pray that the next day there will be a present from the "Easter Bunny" in it. On St. Niklaus tag, children put a boot or shoe out and wait for a visit from "St. Niklaus". If the children have been good all year, they will indeed find a present in their shoe.  In my stocking, I received chocolate, make-up, and handschuhe (gloves. It literally translates to "hand shoes". What a funny word!). I thank St. Niklaus for my gifts. "St. Niklaus" knows who he is. :D


In Germany, there are many traditions that I find similar to American holiday traditions. Germans have Christmas trees and decorate their houses with lights just like people do in my home country. Though, from what I have noticed, Germans normally buy their Christmas trees one or two days before Christmas eve. In the USA, my family normally buys the tree a week or two before Christmas.

 Also unlike American traditions, Germans only decorate with white lights. I have asked my host father why this is so, and he explained to me that the white lights are meant to represent peace. In America, people are crazy with colorful light displays. I swear that around Christmas time by my home, the whole town is lit up like a carnival! I love it though; it is one American holiday tradition that I miss.

As for Christmas eve, my family celebrated with a very nice meal and present opening.  Since Americans open presents on Christmas day, I found it very different to open presents on Christmas eve.
I found the two days very formal, but I enjoyed my holiday very much.

I will put pictures in this post when I am not to lazy.

Mood: awakeawake
Hilary on Exchange
10 November 2007 @ 10:45 pm
The past couple of weeks have been very eventful. After all, I was on Fall break.  The first week, Victor's host mom took Jose, Victor, Paola, and me to Hannover and Muenster (Muenster is originally spelled with the "U" as an umlaut, but I am typing on an American keyboard). Both cities were amazing in sight and culture.

Me, Paola, Victor, and Jose in Hannover.

I have more pictures, but I don't think this entry can handle so many.

This week and the next, I have my Praktikum (internship) in the Staatstheatre in Oldenburg (www.staatstheatre.de).  It is so fun! Because of it, my German has improved dramatically. During the day I normally work in the office, but every now in then I get pulled out to view a production. On Wednesday, I saw a production in rehearsal. I forgot the name of the piece, but I found the production so fun to watch!  The second piece I saw was an Opera for kinder (children). That was also very interesting for me because I have never seen an opera live before.  This past week has been both enlightening and fun. I love working in the theatre!

 So...das wars fur jetzt!
I will make a long entry about Deutschlandreise later.
Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Hilary on Exchange
21 October 2007 @ 05:00 pm
Since I have been here, I have been hearing the word , "Plattdeutsch".  Plattdeutsch, for those who do not know, is a regional dialect/language spoken in the Lower Saxon part of Germany (my location). Based on what many Germans have told me, I believe that Plattdeutsch is a mixture of German and Dutch (or Hollandisch).    Here is the Wikipedia Article:

Auf Englisch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plattdeutsch.
Auf Deutsch: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plattdeutsch.

I have also found a ten minute clip from a Plattdeutsches Theater. My host father said that he used to watch plays spoken in this language:

All the Germans here say that it's almost impossible to understand a person speaking in Plattdeutsch!                                                                                                   

Since residing here, my German has improved tremendously. It it still hard to follow conversations, but my vocabulary  is improving.  I get embarrassed when I speak German and I receive a funny look from someone. I am feeling less and less embarrassed as time goes by though...hopefully by January I will be able to translate all of my journal entries into Deutsch. :)

Well, I have found that I learn a lot of German when watching English television with German subtitles (specifically Mtv, despite the fact that I do not like Mtv).  I try watching American television shows dubbed German, but I do not learn anything through this...I don't know why. I think it's because I can see the word (I am a visual learner).

For example:
On Mtv, someone will say "Whats up?", the subtitle will say "Was gehts?"  and the phrase will stick in my head.

Well, along with Plattdeutsch, I have also been researching  German-speaking countries. A country in Africa sparked my interest:


(Well, German is a regional language here. The official language is English).
Mood: amusedamused
Hilary on Exchange
18 October 2007 @ 08:38 pm
"If you have ever lived abroad, you will have noticed this phenomenon in a particularly striking way. Most of us do nor ordinarily think of ourselves in terms of  the state to which we belong. However, let us reside in a different state, and suddenly our native state becomes a most important aspect of our identity. Canadians living in the USA or Europe begin to think of themselves much more as Canadians than they ever have before, Nigerians studying or working in the USA suddenly begin to think of themselves as Nigerians, Americans living in Europe or Asia suddenly feel themselves to be vividly American, and so on" (Shively, 41).

I got this from my political science textbook. When I read this, I could totally relate. Right now, I feel more American than ever before....

Well, I just wanted to tell everyone that I have been doing fine. There is no reason for anyone to worry about me. Yes  I am homesick sometimes, but that is a normal emotion to be feeling when a person is in my situation. My emotions here are like a roller coaster: one moment I feel as if I'm the happiest person in the world, and then the next I am sad and yearning to come back to the states.  I know that in a month or two, I will be fully settled in. I know that when time comes to leave this amazing country, I will be sad. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. I know that in the end I won't regret it.

I have to admit though, I have a small fear of meeting new people. I am naturally shy; I have been since I can remember. It is hard for me to feel comfortable around people I do not know very well, but I am getting better about that. Like I said, my main goal this year is to overcome shyness and feel more self confident.

I am also here to embrace the culture. Germans are so incredibly different from Americans, but that is not a bad thing.  I did not understand the culture differences at first, but now I am beginning to.

 It's constant culture shock for me everyday though. Not only with Germans, but with the exchange students here as well. Everyone is so different from me. It's overwhelming sometimes, but I think  that it is for any exchange student.

I think of myself as a baby in this country...I'm learning how to walk and talk all over again.
Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Hilary on Exchange
01 October 2007 @ 04:50 pm
I apologize for the lack of update these past couple of weeks. I have not found any time in my schedule to write in this blog.

Well, school has been better for me socially. What I like about German schools is that students do not form cliques (i.e. goths, emos ,jocks, band geeks, etc) that are common in American high schools...everyone here blends together, like colors in a painting. To me, that's how the school community is supposed to be.

I started hanging out with a group of girls during Grosse Pause (big break). They are very nice to me! They invited me to Kramermarkt this past weekend; which I went to. When we were there, they tried speaking only English with one another so I could follow their conversations (they did not want to leave me out). I told them that it was okay to speak German in front of me (since I need to learn the language anyway), but they insisted that it's okay. They told me that speaking English would be good practice for them. All of them are excellent English speakers though, I don't see why they need the practice!

When I think of Kramermarkt , I think of the Ever Green State Fair . The Evergreen State fair is considered family event though; I do not recommend bringing the whole family to Kramermarkt. At Kramermarkt, you have to watch your back because there are drunken Germans and smashed beer bottles everywhere you walk. The amusement rides, I believe, are not that safe either. The rides are fun, but there are no safety gates around them and there is no one controlling the lines...anyone can just hop on at anytime! The rides were similar to the ones found in an American amusement park. They had a ferris wheel, Bumber Cars (called Auto Scooters auf Deutsch), ect, ect. Kramermarkt was deffinitely a wild time.

 My host family took me to the ocean a couple of weekends ago...well, it was sort of an ocean. The tide was in, leaving a thick coat of mud on the supposed ocean shore. I also tried a certain kind of fish sandwhich for the first time (I forgot the name of it, but I will update this post once I do know what it is called). I did not like it much. It was raw and to me, raw fish is considered sushi...not a sandwich. haha.  All in all though, I found the experience very enlightening!

Right now, I feel comfortable in Germany. I am finally doing a little homework in school (Englisch, Kunst, and Biology mostly), and those acquaintances that I have talked so much about are slowly becoming good friends.  I also started Japanisch Klass (Japanese Class) at the Herbert Gymnsium a couple of weeks ago. It's only a workshop, so I only have the class for an hour every Friday. The class is hard for me because I have been teaching myself German for so long. When the teacher (who is from Japan by the way, like my past teacher: Takebayashi Sensei) asked me to count to ten in Japanese, I counted in German instead! But I find the class VERY interesting. I am seeing how Germans are taught Japanese (which I find similar to the way  I was learning previously).  Though when I was learning the hiragana alphabet, Takebayashi Sensei taught me phrases like:

"KA" is a crow bent over an old woman.

"Ne" is a new bicycle.

"Ya" is what Germans yell when drinking beer...
and etc.

See the visuals? They helped me a lot learning the Hiragana alphabet, I just wish that they could do something similar to this in my current Japanese class.

Oh, and just so all of you know: my host family has been very good to me, and I thank them very very much for that. Since I've been here, they have made me feel at home!

I have much to say about previous events, but I do not know how to put them into words right now.
Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Music/Film: Polka. :)
Hilary on Exchange
12 September 2007 @ 05:57 pm
I went to a Rotary Meeting on Sunday. Since it was in Oldenburg, I didn't have to take the train or anything. My family drove me there, but I biked home. I brought my pins to trade. My Jacke (Jacket) isn't quite full yet, but hopefully it will be soon.

Anyways, there were many other Rotary Exchange Students at the meeting. The majority of the exchange student population is North and South American. Within our district, we have about 14 Americans, 13 or so South Americans, 6 or so Mexicans, 5 Asians (2 Thai, 2 Indian, 1 Japanese), 1 European (haha, Sinni from Finland), and a few Australian/New Zealanders here and there. It's a pretty big district! What I found amazing was the fact that almost EVERYONE spoke English fluently. I felt really dumb around the South American and Asian exchange students because they can all speak two languages, and I only know one (English, obviously).

The next day, I had a Rotary meeting in my Club. There are about 4 Rotary clubs in Oldenburg. In my club, there are three Rotary Exchange Students (me, Isabel, and a girl from Argentina who has been here since January). The Rotary meetings are okay. It took place in a really nice room with a molded ceiling and an intricately-made chandelier. When I walked into the room, I felt so under-dressed! Luckily, the two other exchange students were under-dressed as well (I didn't feel alone). Well, it was a meeting full of Rotary men dressed in suits with bruise-able handshakes (hardy hand shakes they were!). The men spent the night guzzling down beer as if it were water while listening to a presentation from a guest speaker.  The presentation, I believe, was about Chemistry in school. The woman was talking about how schools can make the Science more interesting for students.

Change of subject...

Today I went into the city and got 20 Euros worth of school supplies. I went to this cute little craft store called Onkel or Onken (I forget the name) near Pherde Mkt (Horse Market). Pupils don't really use binders here. I suppose it's because pretty much EVERYONE rides a bike to school and they need to have their load as light as possible. Instead, most kids buy a folder for every class and very very thin notebooks. Since I am here to "embrace the German culture", I decided to organize my school work the way German students do. I bought about 10 folders (10 cents each), a pack of pencils, pens, 10 thin notebooks, a spiral-bound notebook (for Deutsch lessons after school), a pencil sharpener, various supplies for kunst (art class), and a Felix  die Hase (Felix the Rabbit) Pencil case (only 2 Euro, and it is soo adorable).


Nathan, a boy who was an exchange student in Southern Germany last year, was right about how lonely it can be the first two or so months of the exchange. I feel as if I've made "acquaintances" but not "friends" since my arrival. It will take a while to make real friends, I think.

I need to gain courage to go up to German students. From what I've noticed, Germans will not come to you, you  have to come to them.  A lot of them, from what I've noticed, are too embarrassed to speak English in front of me. There is this one boy in my class who speaks fluent English  (I've heard him speak). But when I ask him a question in English, he answers me in German (and he knows I don't speak Deutsch). 

I suppose this lack of confrontation from German kids is good for me. Over the years, I have been very shy. It's still hard for me to get up the courage to simply talk to a random stranger. I believe God set me in this German world for a reason. This year, it is my goal to be less shy and more self confident. This year, I will be the one to make the first move in creating a friendship (oder Freundschaft auf Deutsch).

I just need to believe in myself and take risks...that's something that I have never really done in my life.

Oh and....

I'm soo happy that you're reading my blog, Lauren. :D
Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Music/Film: Wir Sind Helden