Tuesday, June 28, 2011

wrapping it up

I remember my first week in Germany. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and terrified. I felt so proud of myself after making it through those 'tough' 7 days. Look at me now. Just like my arrival in September, my departure in July seemed like one of those things that was talked about but never actually came around. Now it's less than a week away: I'm going home. If words could describe the mixture of feelings in my head maybe this would feel a bit more realistic. For the past 2 weeks we've been on holiday from school. I had time to spend with friends, to make little day trips and to meet even more people. I also had time to pack my ever-growing luggage and plan my life out a bit for once I get home. Now, I'm sitting in school for another week. Not the most exciting climax to my departure, but there's nothing to be done about that. I've begun wrapping up the official things like Rotary (saying my many 'thank you's), school (getting signatures for credits back home), and flight finalizations (how many suitcases can I bring, again?). Then there's friends. I'm trying to meet up with them all as much as possible before I go. They've been such a crucial part of my experience here and I owe them a lot. Saturday will be the hardest on my tear glands. We are having our Farewell Weekend with the Rotex. Of course, for most of the exchange students it's just another weekend with the friends, but it's my last day in Germany. It's fitting that I get to spend it with the family I've made over here. I only get to stay until Saturday night, as I fly out on Sunday, but we'll be doing a high ropes course and having a bonfire. It should be the perfect end to my year with the people I love. Then, on Sunday July 3rd, 2011, I am coming home. Back to the United States of America, Michigan, my family, my friends, and most importantly, my bed. Some things will be different; some will be exactly the same (my room, hopefully). I guess I'll see in a couple days. That's just the mystery of a whole new adventure with a different zip code. Bring it on. See you all Stateside, my faithful readers and wish me luck!--sjinternational

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Here it goes: the last month of my exchange. I've switched to my last host family and am still pretty much living out of my suitcase. The first exciting thing this month was Prague! I've had a lot of experiences this year, and this was one of the best. Prague is a breathtaking city. The architechture was so beautiful that every time we passed through the main square of the old town I felt the re-occuring need to take pictures. As exchange students, we needed to find the cheapest way to do everything. Our train and hostel together added up to about 85 Euro, which for 4 days/ 3 nights in the heart of Prague isnt' too shabby. Not to mention our hostel had a pool. And our train had carriages, so we all felt like we were going to Hogwarts. We got 72 hour tickets for the city trams for 15 Euro which we used every day at least 4 times. On Friday, we took a really good city tour for free that took 3 hours to see the whole city. That night we got the best deal by joining in on this thing called a "Pub Crawl" which highlighted 3 or 4 of the cities most popular bars and clubs. That's about enough explanation on that one... Saturday, we spent the day up at the castle with a great view overlooking the whole city. One thing about Prague is how tourist oriented it is. I couldn't walk down a street without seeing at least 3 souvenir shops. At one point, I walked through a throng of people watching the astronomical clock do it's hourly thing. As I held tightly to my purse, I kid you not, in a span of 10 seconds, I heard at least 7 different languages. It definitely made it easier that everything was in English. However tourist oriented the city. the culture is thriving through the inquisitive hearts of visitors from all over the world. This was an amazing trip to highlight our exchange year. The final hurrah of us traveling all together, because much to our dismay, we realized that the next time we all gather will be the last time. Now on to the present: I have 2 more days of school until we have 2 weeks off. Although I'm not going to France or Italy like some of the other exchange students, I will have time to spend with my friends here in Friedberg and, well, sleep. My 3 week point is coming up and the clock is ticking.--sjinternational. P.S. A happy last day of school to FHS. I'm officially a SENIOR!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I can't make time go any slower now than I could make it go faster back in December. I have a little over a month left in my exchange and I have to say, I don't know if I'm ready to go home. Of course, I wasn't sure I was ready to go on exchange either and that seemed to work out just dandy. Now I get it. It takes a turning point; mine was my month-long travel experience of Germany and England. Those were times that I got so close to my friends, both exchange students and the German kids in my class. I was naive to think that I wouldn't get to this point where I was hesitant about going back to real life. My time is limited, yet here I am trying to enjoy the things that I should have appreciated 7 months ago. Then again, I think I might have needed the lack of time to fully appreciate it all. I am human, after all; we need to be without something or else we tend to take it for granted. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to go home. I can't wait to hug my parents and to talk to my friends face to face. I'm excited to see my house and my pets, who've probably forgotten who I am at this point. This is all exciting, but I'm nervous, too. I've been living a different for the past 10 months. That's a lot of time to not be a direct part of someone's life, especially if my parents decide they like having the house to themselves more than me being in it, which would be sad... I haven't picked up a school book in about a year and- this coming from a girl who likes school and is used to doing well- I am terrified of being so lost in my lessons. I have so much to do next year: school, work, driver's training, college applications, sleep, etc... This is all starting to whirl through my brain as I enter the final chapter of my exchange, not to mention all of the plans I still have in Germany. A day in Dachau with the Rotex, my last family change, a trip to Prague, changing schools from the Realschule to Gymnasium for June, Pfingsten holiday (2 weeks off school), Farewell weekend, and my flight home on July 3rd. It's unbelievable. My time is compressed into 39 days and I'm trying to stretch myself to be able to do as much as possible. This exchange has impressed me and I've impressed myself. I've gotten to the point where I feel like I'm where I should be- with my fellow exchange students, just carrying on. This exchange has transformed me from a dreamer to a do-er.--sjinternational

Monday, May 9, 2011

a healthy dose of happiness

I wish that everyone on this planet could experience all that I have in the past four weeks. Instead of work, war, boredom, and toil, everyone should take a trip around a country, any country, with people that make them laugh. Then make the time for a trip to a place they've always dreamed of going. It could be Disney World or Antarctica. Anywhere. Mine happened to be England. Four weeks can change a lot, but four weeks traveling can change a life. It all started on April 9th, 2011 at about 9:15. Every exchange student gathered at Augsburg main station for three weeks on the road. 19 days, 20 cities, 30 teenagers, 3 chaperones, 1 bus. I'm just going to put it out there: I had so much fun. Sure, three weeks with the same people cramped in a bus and hostels night after night can be tough. Emotions fluxuated, I was pretty much permanently sick, and there truly is no way to control how your friends' suitcases explode in your hostel room every night. Despite all this, I had the time of my life. I've seen more of Germany than my host families and friends. Up to the East Sea, over into France and back down to the Alps that I love; this was the trip of a lifetime. I'll give you a layout of our days on the road. Every day we were on the road, exluding the extra days we spent in cities like Hamburg, Cologne, and Dresden. Usually we would check into our hostel and then take the afternoon to explore the city. Sometimes the Rotex, our chaperones, would sometimes give us guided tours of the cities, but mostly we had free reign to wander and explore on our own. In the evenings we would have dinner at the hostel and then sometimes we would go out to a club or a bar all together. The best thing about this trip was being with the people. Usually we just split into our little language groups and stay that way, but in these three weeks together we had the time to break out a bit and hang out with the others. I loved becoming really good friends with the Latinas and the Brasilians. I'm really grateful to this trip for making this group of teenagers like a family. It's something all of us need on a year away from home. Upon the end of D-Tour on April 28th, after the tears, I had less than 24 hours to unpack, do laundry, and re-pack for my school trip to England on the 29th. I went as fast as I could, taking time to watch the Royal Wedding, but there really is no rushing washing clothes in a family who hang dries everything. Then, at 11 p.m. on April 29th, I and 43 of my classmates boarded yet another coach bus for the 15 hour drive to Broadstairs, England. When we finally arrived, I was in heavan. We got to our host families and parted ways on the 30th. My family, the Edwards, was very shocked that they had gotten an American girl. I got on with the whole family really well, playing with the 4 year old host sister, cuddling with their labradoodle, and having great conversations with my host mom. I was seriously happy to go home every night. The next day: London. A little background on me: I have had a little bit of an obsession with London my entire life. It was always one of those places that seemed magical to me. And now I've made it there. I was a wide-eyed child all day. The Parliament Building, the London Eye, , Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Tower of London, and Picadilly Circus. I saw it all. I was actually there! The whole day was a dream. I definately need more time there to see it all: a week, a month, maybe even a whole other exchange year! Now to the main part of the trip: The Kent School of English. Were were in class every morning, split into level groups 1-5, 5 being the highest. I was in 5 thankfully. My teachers all askes me if I had learned English in the USA and I always explained to situation. I got to know the teachers and staff pretty well and they were a lot of fun. Every afternoon, we took a trip somewhere: Sandwich, Leed's Castle, and Canterbury were all on the schedule. All of them were amazing and beautiful. Then every evening we had a program through the school. They all sounded really lame to me: karaoke, folk songs, barn dance, disco and movie. I was always shocked at how much fun I had at each activity. On 6 a.m. on May 7th it all came to an end and we drove back to Bavaria. 18 hours in a bus and we arrived at midnight back in Friedberg. All of my friends were happy to be home. I was happy to be off that bus, but I was so not ready to leave England. My first host family picked me up and I am once again with another family. Now back to real life. I only have two months left. After four weeks of complete happiness, that piece of information is a downer. I don't know if I'm ready to go home now. I am excited to see my family and friends and home again, but I feel like this is my home now, too, with my exchange student family and school friends. It's a weird place to be, stuck here in the middle. After learning so much this year, all I know is that time is against me. That four week trip was a healthy dose of happiness and my wake-up call to how little exchange I have left.--sjinternational

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

click, click, click

That's a sound that both thrills and terrifies me. Have you ever been on a roller coaster? There's always that first hill right off the bat that gets your heart pumping. First you have to make the slow and steady journey to the peak. That's what this first week of April is for me and another 20+ exchange students. We're cooped up in school, chomping at the bit to head out on the road with our friends for 3 weeks. March was a good month. Long, but full of friends and new experiences. I've learned a lot this month, too. I've plunged into the wonderful world of online movies. I've been on an 80's movie kick with films such as The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Mighty Ducks. Some quality movies, there. I've learned once again that my mom has impeccable taste in novels. I've also learned that you should not jump-hug an unsuspecting Canadian because they will lose their balance and you will recieve a concussion, eventually resulting in a week or two of headaches and every other common sickness in the book. So although March was great, it's last week was a bit miserable due to said unhealth. Cold, cough, headaches; you name it, I had it. It was my fabulous way of going into March like a lamb and my health going out like a lion. I did get some important things accomplished, such as finally registering myself with the great nation of Germany. For all you future exchange students, a little heads up: you should probably take care of that right away when you enter your country. Don't, like yours truly, wait for 7 months until right before you go traveling for 4 weeks. Now, on to the future! On Saturday (4 DAYS!), I will embark on our Deutschland Tour (D-Tour) for 3 weeks. I am excited, I am pumped, I am already packed... 21 cities in 20 days, or something ridiculous like that. Less than 24 hours after I get home from that adventure, I will travel to England with my class in school for a week. We're staying with host families, going to school lessons for the mornings and then taking side trips to London, Canterbury, etc. At the end of all the adventures, I will be well into May and back with my first host family. I am excited beyond compare, but I know it will be an exhausting month that will fling me into the last 2 months of my exchange. The idea is hard to grasp. I'm not sure that I will be able to post on the road, but expect an amazingly long post in May. Until then-- sjinternational

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Who knew Sarah Jane could have a social life that she enjoyed? On Friday night, I conquered my fear of clubs when my friend Martina and I headed to Friedberg's Tropicana, the club on the lake. I wasn't exactly looking forward to a Friday night without my bed and a good book, but I put on a brave face and faced the teenage nightlife with my friends. I wasn't expecting to have as much fun as I did, so that made it all better. I had no idea how much I enjoyed dancing! I also found two Brazilian exchange students from my distrikt, which was fun, too. Around midnight, we headed out of the club. I was sweaty and tired, but really happy. On Saturday, I had an 8 o'clock wake up call. I met with a group of the exchange students in Augsburg and we traveled to Ulm. With a group of spanish speakers, I was a bit intimidated. I guess I'm not used to being the minority, even in a group when I'm already friends with everyone. I found that it was good to only have one other english speaker. I definitely got to know the other exchange students a lot better and make some new friends within our own group. Ulm is the home of the tallest church tower in the world. It stands at 161 meters. The architechture of the cathedral was absolutely beautiful. It's tall gothic tower is a great icon for the city. We climbed to the top and I can't even explain the pain my legs are still in. So many stairs; they were never-ending. The view from the top was worth the climb though. It was beautiful. Then, if climbing up was tiring, climbing down was downright scary. Imagine a narrow, winding staircase with stairs that seem to get smaller the more you concentrate on them. Scary. Lunch made me very happy: Pizza Hut Cheesy Crust Pizza. I haven't had an American style pizza in 6 months and I was a very happy camper. After such a good lunch, what could make this day better but shopping! I got my spring shopping done at H&M with my friends Ryan and Camila. Laughing and getting to know more people made my day really great. When I got home, I was able to Skype with my mom. We hadn't talked in a while and I really wanted just to catch up with her. Sometimes it sucks that I can't share everything so easily with her, even if it's just the little stuff. However, I know she's always there for me if I need to talk. Overall, it was a really good weekend born out of things that I wasn't expecting to enjoy very much. We only have 3 weeks until the Germany tour with Rotary and all of the exchange students are to go and be together again. The time is going so quickly by, I'm sure it will be here in no time.--sjinternational
Ulmer Münster- the tallest church tower in the world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

fasching and beyond

It's been awhile, my friends. It's safe to say that not a whole lot has been happening around here. Life has gone on, much like it has this past month. We have been out of school for the past week for a holiday called 'Fasching'. I'm not exactly sure what we were celebrating. Most likely something with Lent and the Catholic religion. I got a week out of school, so I'm not complaining. I've seen decorations and costumes in stores for the past couple of weeks. With the weather as nice as it's been, I honestly thought we had gone back to Halloween in Oktober. The first event of my break arrived after school last Friday: LILY! My Canadian friend came to stay the weekend at my house. On Saturday, we met up with some other exchange students in Munich to celebrate the 18th birthday of the other Candian exchange student, Torrington. We had a great day displaying our inner children at the zoo, shopping in the city, and enjoying dinner at the famous Hofbrauhaus. We still have a month until the D-Tour, which kicks off in April, so hopefully we will all have the time (and the cash) to meet up once more this month. On Sunday, my host family and I took a day trip to Chiemsee, where I visited the final of Kind Ludwig II's fairytale castles. Castle Herrchiemsee is a direkt replica of the castle at Versailles in France. On the tour, I was blown away at the sheer size, let alone the detail that accompanied it. The great hall took up the whole front of the building, measuring 89 metres long, if I remember correctly. Mirrors and windows played with the architechture and light filling the building. It was beautiful. Monday was taken to recover from the weekend. I then made dinner for my family and they really appreciated it. On Tuesday, there was a Fasching parade through Friedberg. When I biked into town, I heard the parade before I entered the city limits. I met with some of my friends and we watched the oversized, deafening floats weave through the streets. It wasn't like parades at home, let me tell you... First of all, I can usually still hear after some of the parades in the U.S. They're loud, but they're not dangerous. What shocked me the most was that the people on the floats were drinking and smoking simoultaneously while throwing candy at people- not to; AT. I hate smoking anyways, so it was already disgusting, but on top of that, every alcohol I've ever heard of was on the floats or in the crowd. I've never seen so much alcohol and trash in public before. I decided to bike home. I love hanging out with my friends, but that is just not my scene. By Wednesday, I was ready for some "me" time, I took the bus to Augsburg for a shopping day. There's nothing like books and clothes for some therapy. Thursday, surprisingly, was my favorite day on break. My host sister, Verena, and I visited the grandparents. They live in the heart of Friedberg, with all those beautiful houses that popped out of "Beauty and the Beast". I was not prepared for so much food. Maybe it's a Grandma thing, but I felt so welcome and it was a great way to spend my 6 month anniversary. I even had my first schnitzel. I know it's sad that I haven't had it after 6 months, but I'm getting there. I really felt like part of the family, chatting and laughing. It was a great day with Verena and Oma and Opa Zabel. Friday featured even more food when family friends came over for dinner. The sauerbraten and potato knödels were good, but dessert wiped them both off the board: homemade creme brulee and raspberry sauce. I was so happy, I didn't even care that little wimpering sounds were escaping my mouth as I tasted heavan. The weekend was all about chilling. The weather was gorgeous, so on Saturday I got lost in my iPod and went walking through the fields in the sunshine. One of my unhealthier obsessions came into play as I watched Survivor online until 3:30 a.m. Not my strongest moment... I did get to Skype with my best friend from home. As fast as the time is going for me, it seems to be going a slower pace for those at home. I can't believe: 4 months until I head home, 1 month until D-Tour, 6 hours until I shower... The time is playing tricks with my mind. I continue to learn and speak. I continue to miss my parents. I continue to get frustrated. Mostly, I just continue to live my life and be grateful for what I have. Sidenote: Everyone has heard of the disasters in the Pacific. Having been to Japan and having met the people there, it hurts to hear of the loss of lives and culture as the earth fights back against humanity. I hope for the safety of Japan's people and have come to appreciate my lot in life even more.--sjinternational