Merry Christmas, from Germany

By on December 21, 2011

My name is Emily Daniels. I am 16 years old, and, up until this September, I’ve lived in Lititz and attended Warwick School District. But now I am spending my junior year in the small village of Loxstedt, Germany. That means 10 months of talking, eating and living like a German. The title of my column, Marmeladenglasmomente, is the German word for moments that are so amazing you want to keep them in a jar forever. So far, my year has proven to be full of these.

I think my parents thought I was kidding when I told them one night of my plans to be an exchange student. I remember my mom’s response being something like, "Uh, yeah … maybe you should give that a little bit more thought."

She probably just thought it was another big, exciting thing I would obsess over then forget about because it was so far-fetched. But I didn’t forget it. I went to information meetings and did research online about the organization I would go with, and read blogs from past participants. I loved the idea of traveling, understanding foreign cultures and meeting so many new, different people — even ones I would consider my own family at the end of the year. I was warned plenty about the loneliness and homesickness that almost all exchange kids are cursed with during the first few months and how I would have to leave my new friends at the end of the year, but with all the experiences and new things awaiting, it still seemed worth it to me.

I started filling out applications for my organization, the American Field Service (AFS), still without a definite yes from my parents. Slowly, over a few months, my parents and I had filled out both sets of applications; the first costing only $75 and the second costing $900, only refundable if I joined the program. By now I had my definite yes.

The program itself would cost $12,500 and I can count myself among 17 other lucky teenagers who had their tuition completely taken care of by the Speedwell Scholarship Foundation. I don’t think this trip would have been an option for me if I hadn’t been offered the scholarship. And all I had to do was achieve good grades and write an essay about what I would do to shed light on AFS while I was in Germany and carry on its name after I came home. That easy.

Fast forward through the best summer of my life, full of friends, good-bye parties, and anticipating a host family assignment, I’m actually sitting on a plane to Frankfurt, surrounded by friends I’ve made after just two days of orientations in Washington, D.C. After eight sleepless hours on my over-night flight, the AFS group of 92 American teenagers arrived in Germany. I was not one of the lucky kids whose host families came directly to the airport to pick them up. I had to sit around in the Frankfort airport for hours, waiting for a train, and it would take another six hours until I could finally meet my host family.

Now, about my host family, or rather lack thereof. About three or four weeks before I left, AFS sent me an e-mail telling me I had somewhere to stay, but only until the end of October. And this family would be my welcome family until AFS could find me a permanent one. It’s a little scary being sent to a foreign country without having a place to stay for the full year, believe it or not. It wasn’t until I’d been living here a month that I finally received my permanent family.

I’ve now been living in Germany for three months and already I’ve been exposed to so much. I’m now living with my permanent family in Loxstedt, but during about the first month and a half I was living with my welcome family in the city of Bremerhaven. And I can’t tell you how happy I was to move.

Loxstedt is like a European Pennsylvania, but 20 minutes away from the sea. My village is pretty small and there are few roads so it’s pretty hard to get lost. In fact, I live on a gravel road with two houses on it. But there is a bit of a "downtown" area with drugstores, hair salons, and more than enough bakeries. The rest is corn fields, meadows and farms. Many times, I look out my window to see someone riding their horse past my house. Sheep and cows are everywhere as well. The donkey next door wakes me up before my alarm sometimes.

My friends in the city, where I’m still going to school, think I’ve been exiled to some sort of death-by-boredom, country bumpkin hell. But I really like all the calmness, little cottages and pretty scenery. Plus, I reminds me a bit of Lititz. Loxstedt actually has grass and space between the houses while Bremerhaven was all asphalt and houses lined up right next to each other. I felt so trapped!

My host family consists of my dad, Jens, my mom, Kathrin, and my two adorable sisters, Lily and Jette, who are 10 and 3. Considering I’m the youngest of four in America, being the oldest sister here is a big change, but I actually really like it. My family is really funny and they do everything together from walking the dog to making dinner. We live in a home that, for German standards is kinda big, and our grandparents live on the other side of the wall so we see them almost every day.

I’m starting to really feel at home, though I’m still adjusting to some the weird things Germans do, like wear the same outfit two days in a row, or only eat a slice of bread with Nutella for dinner.

Living in Germany for just these three months has already opened me up to all sorts of new things and friends from all different cultures. I can’t imagine what the next seven months will bring.

Emily’s German journal will appear in the Lititz Record Express each month during her study abroad. Chloe Eberly, a Warwick student studying in Italy whose column "La Vita Italiana" ran in last week’s Record Express, will check in with our readers each month as well. More GERMANY, page A18

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