Thursday, September 30, 2010

sweet sixteen and skype

This week has been wonderful. My mom's birthday was on September 28th (Happy Birthday!) and that always hails my birthday soon after on the 30th of September. I had my first Skype experience last night. For some crazy reason I can't explain, I was nervous. I didn't know how I would react to seeing the people I love so dearly and know in my heart I won't be with them until next July. First came my best friend, Meagan. As soon as I saw her wild mane of hair, I knew I'd be fine. We talked and caught up with eachothers' lives. It was like nothing had changed and since her laptop was on her bed, it was like I was sitting there with her! Then came the parents. After a quick malfunction, everything worked out and we had a good conversation about life and plans. Most importantly, I saw my kitten. For those of you without pets, you won't understand. But to all those pet owners out there, animals are a wonderful thing. Their silent companionship and love is something to cherish. There are nights when I need to wrap up a blanket and put it next to me so I feel like my kitten is here as I fall asleep. That's what I miss the most from back home. So now every curious mind is at ease. Well, after a wonderful Skype experience, I had my birthday to look forward to! Today is my Sweet Sixteen! I've hit some landmark that I can't enjoy the reapings of in America OR Germany: I can't drive or drink. Despite those two things that are supposed to change, I feel completely the same, but it's good to finally be able to say I'm sixteen. Everyone at school wished me a happy birthday and it was wonderful to have friends here who were happy for me. I'm making my favorite meal for dinner tonight: Thai Peanut Noodles. I'm quite overjoyed. Everything in my life is good and my only birthday wish is that I can keep going down this wonderful road full of adventure and experience with happiness and health. What more could a girl ask for?-- sjinternational

Monday, September 27, 2010


It did that a lot this weekend. Mostly on Saturday while I was on a tour of Augsburg with a group of Italian Rotarians. Well, the guests were from Italy and so, much to my dismay, the whole tour was in Italian. I could actually pick out some of the words due to my two years in Spanisch, but mostly I hid beneath my umbrella, looking at my soaked through jeans. I believe one of the largest lessons to learn in youth exchange is to grin-and-bear-it. We do that a lot as exchange students, even in the rain. There was a reception at Schloss Friedberg (the castle) where I met all the Rotarians deemed "important". They all seemed very interested in me and happy that I'm learning German. A child of one of the Rotarians asked me, "If you're American, why can you speak German so good?". I just smiled and thanked him. The other kids liked taking words they found interesting in Englisch and making them into sentences. The all-time winner: "That squirrel's a weird creeper!". Well, it's my last week in Konradin Realschule before I start my German course in Augsburg and to tell you the truth, it's a little bittersweet. I like the friends I've made in school. With the help of Facebook and visits in town, I'll talk to them a lot. The wireless has been down so I haven't written in a while. Here is an excerpt from my notebook that I wrote during school last week:
"I'm in Chemistry, or Chemie as it's called here. This class is okay compared to the others. Herr Gerkhardt usually has something boiling and I can ball-park estimate what's going on. Most of my classes, however, are painfully boring. I've never doodled so much in my life. Today I drew a roller coaster. Riddle me that! Anyways, I talk to some of the girls in my class and we have short spurts of conversations in broken Englisch or Deutsch. I need to start dominating this Deutsch. In the wise words of my mother to her ever procrastinating kids, 'It will get done because it has to.' Contrary to what I've read or heard, I haven't noticed myself changing that much yet. I'm quieter, but that's bound to happen when you can hardly speak to anyone around you. My classmates at Fremont High School may laugh at the fact that Sarah Jane McGinn is not a teacher's pet here in Europe. I feel like the teachers dislike me because I do absolutely nothing in any class other than Englisch and Sport. Let me tell you though: it's a good thing I mastered facial expression in the early years of my life. They've helped a lot in the communication process!"
Well, there you have it, straight from my hours of doodling. Until next time, when I share my adventures of Skype and my Sweet Sixteen!-- sjinternational

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

photos of the experience that will last FOREVER

So, I can'te put anything else up, but there are a bunch more pictures on my Facebook. Hope you enjoy them!--sjinternational

Monday, September 20, 2010

4 miles in a durndel and heels

Well, where to begin. My weekend FLEW by as the events I had planned were checked off the list. I went to a birthday party for a friend of Manuela's family on Saturday. It was nice to meet everyone and become integrated with the family, even though I could only understand bits and pieces. Manuela's two nieces didn't need too much talking to start to like me. We played games outside and they stared in awe at my dirndl fitting.
Yes, a dirndl. It was bound to happen, but I didn't ever imagine it to be on the scale it was. On Sunday, I woke up at 5:30 and I walked with a group in the Oktoberfest Parade through Munich. It was a big deal. Hundreds of people lined the streets all the way through the city. It was a 4 mile walk in heels. It was so exciting. Everyone wanted MY wave and smile, and although my feet were yelling at me, I gave it to them. I loved seeing the city: Munich is so BEAUTIFUL. I hope to get back and see it without marching in the street. The parade walked right into Oktoberfest, which is more of an amusement park than I had originally thought. We had a reserved beer tent and it was loud and crowded, but so much fun. The people in my group were generous and interested in me. They all tried a bit of Englisch and complimented my little Deutsch. By the time we left Munich, it was only 12:45! What a day. More pictures of the parade to come!--sjinternational

Friday, September 17, 2010

it's been... one week since you looked at me

I woke up this morning with that song in my head. I think my brother, Zach, will appreciate it. He always liked that one. Anywho. It actually has been a week. One full week ago I was on a plane. My parents were on their way back to Fremont, and I was off to my new life in Germany. It feels like I've been here forever! I take it as a good thing, though, not as if it's been so long and I need to go home. I've simply done so much already and can't imagine what else there is. Oh, but I CAN! I've got trips and weekends planned out the wazoo over here. There is so much to look forward to. I also feel comfortable in my new home. Henner and Manuela treat me like a daughter and I treat them as parents, although I'm sure I'm a bit more flexible and helpful than a true daughter would be. But that's just the exchange student training in me. School is good. It's mostly me sitting next to my friends in class, doodling on my notebook, listening to the teacher talk and reading my dictionary. It's as exciting as it sounds. However, in two weeks I start my German course in Augsburg. I'm quite anxious to begin, because if you hadn't noticed, dear reader, friends usually speak. At the moment, my 'friends' and I smile, laugh, and occasionally attempt to breach the language barrier. I'm really good in Englisch class, though. Duh. Well, I don't want to give too much away yet, but this weekend yours truly will be walking in the Oktoberfest Parade in Munich. Wearing a traditional durndel. This is not something I would normally EVER get to do. But I am an exchange student and the sky is the limit (in the air above Germany; other than that, I need a visa and permission). This is really something I'm looking forward to and I hope everything goes well. I will blog about the details when I have the details! Until then, tschus!--sjinternational

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

konradin realschule

High school. The word strikes fear into the hearts of teens all over the world. Friedberg, Germany is no exception. I was so nervous this morning to walk into a class full of teenagers who had grown up together, speaking the same language, I might add. I wanted to turn my fahrrad (bike) around and pedal all the way back to Fremont, which would be hard considering the Ocean. Despite my nerves, I got to school and went to meet the principal who only spoke Englisch to tell me that he doesn't speak good Englisch. Okay, that was cool. They dropped me off in my class, where I gave that awkward, new student introduction to everyone. Two girls, Isabell and Simone asked me to come sit with them. I didn't say no. Those two and their friends seem really cool. A lot like people I would hang out with in Fremont. I wish I could have talked with them more because I want to stay "friends" with them. I will just have to learn German. What a concept! I have been speaking some sentences with Manuela and Henner. I don't seem too bad. I felt pretty homesick after school (at 11:35 today!). Henner asked me if I wanted to go walk around town. I have now figured out that when I feel homesick or upset, all I have to do is walk around. Not in circles, but around Friedberg. It's almost as if I'm walking away and leaving the bad emotions where I was. Not a shabby compromise. All in all, school seems okay. I won't really participate in classes, because Economy and Chemistry auf Deutsche isn't really my cup of tea. I will read my dictionary or sit and watch the teacher's lips as they flap in a language I will know. Das ist alles! Tschus!--sjinternational

Monday, September 13, 2010

to sum up the past 48 hours

Wow, so I've only been in Friedberg for 3 days and already I've: had a conference, climbed a mountain, figured out I don't really like beer as much I put on, miss my parents enormously, and seen Neuschwanstein (from a distance). In the next two days I will: exchange my wad of cash, go shopping with my host parents, check in with the local authorities, meet my counselor, and go to school. This is without doubt the craziest thing I've ever done. My sleep is out of sheer exhaustion. I climbed a mountain yesterday! A small one, but still a four hour hike! So worth it though. The view was spectacular.

There I am on top of my little mountain, next to the big ones. The conference was good also. I traveled by train to Gunzburg and met up with a bunch of exchange students, both Inbound and Rebounds. No Outbounds yet. It's so weird not being an Outbound anymore... Anyways, we have two planned trips. One in a couple weeks for Autumn break, we are going to Berlin for four days. Then there is the 3-week trip around Germany trip in April that I am beyond excited for. By that time, hopefully, we'll all be speaking German. Well we have to be, since before Christmas Break we have to take a test. Wonderful. Better get cracking! Until next time, Tschus!--sjinternationl

Friday, September 10, 2010

so this is it

Well, here it is. After months and months of waiting to go, here I am sitting in my new bedroom posting a blog. Huh. Crazy how time can drag and rush by at the same time. Saying goodbye to my parents was hard. Really hard. I know how lucky I am to have gotten a good pair and I love them both so much. Anyways, I stopped crying halfway through security because the man asked if I was alright and I couldn't say NO. The other emotions took over from there. It was a crazy long day of flights and sitting. As tired as I am now, when I should be sleeping, I know I need to adapt quick. I'm being thrown into the thick of things. Meeting Rotarians, going to a conference, getting to know my family, and starting school soon. It's a lot to take in. I have to say, for a while this experience has been something to talk about, something that never really came, but now it's here! It's crazy. The surreal dream has become a body-wrenching reality. Speaking of body-wrenching, I'm exhausted, so I'm going to use this downtime to nap. Until next time, auf wiedersehen!--sjinternational

Sunday, September 5, 2010

inching my way to o'hare

Bags: packed. Goodbyes: said. Room: cleaned. What's left? Departure: ALMOST. No worries, though. Today is my official last day in Fremont, Michigan. I leave for Chicago tomorrow and my flight is on Thursday from O'Hare International Airport. It's about time. In between the two trips I am meeting with family and friends in Evanston, eating scrumptious food, and finding last-minute necessities. I am ready. Or, at least, I feel ready. Perhaps I will get off the plane in Munich and fight my way back on to a flight home, but I don't think so... It's a funny picture though. With all the preparation I've been through with other Outbounds, I believe I would be shunned if I wasn't ready to start my adventure in Germany. Talking to my host family makes everything seem so real, which it is. Manuela and Henner are going through the same transition that I am with their daughter gone to Brazil. Through our conversations, I believe that we will get along and learn how to live through this program together. Back to preparation; I got my debit card, which I had to bend the rules for because I'm not yet 16. Talk about confusing. I now have an even greater respect for the adults of the world. Dealing with the sheer amount of paperwork and information was intimidating, but now I have to learn PERSONAL ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION? It's all too much! It all seems pretty easy until I'm calling my parents, crying over my third lost emergency credit card. Yikes. I doubt that will happen, but being prepared is what Rotary is all about! Anyway, until next time: Auf Wiedersehen!--sjinternational