Stories from Abroad - Jayden in Germany

Jayden was an AFS Year High School Participant to Germany - read about his experience below!

It only feels like yesterday when I stepped of that train in Duisburg and greeted my awaiting family. Eleven months is since gone by and now I have the opportunity to reflect on my experience with you.

Hi, my name is Jayden and I went to Germany on student exchange. I gather that the first question that pops into any persons mind is why I chose to go on exchange and why Germany. I’ve had friends who have had the same opportunity as me, to do an exchange, and from what I heard it was the best thing they had ever done. I wanted to experience life in another country for myself. I think the thought of the unknown got me really going. Germany is central Europe and above all has a very (for the western world) controversial history. I thought, I’ve been taught about their history in school, so now it’s time for me to experience it for myself. And before I knew it I was in Germany.

I was welcomed into a family of three. I had a mother, father and sister. We lived in Deirsfordt just out of Wesel. I couldn’t speak a single word of German. I couldn’t even tell people my name in German. Being in a well developed nation such as Germany, I had the advantage of being able to speak English and most people could understand me. Even though my lack of knowledge of German was bad, I was lucky enough to be able to communicate. I found the language very difficult at first. Imagine being in a room full of Germans, they’re talking and you don’t have the slightest clue what they are saying. That’s what it was like for me at the beginning. I had adopted the attitude of saying that German was very difficult and that I would never learn it. I had very little confidence in myself. My host mother once said to me, “German isn’t difficult, nor is it easy, it is simply different”. After overcoming this hurdle I managed to learn German and I now believe that I am almost fluent.

That wasn’t the only problem I had. I ended up not being able to get along with my host sister. I was also too stubborn to change families and I put up with it for a very long time. That was a mistake. But I had my support person and she was able to help me get through the challenging situation. I had never had a sister before and being able to talk to someone about it, was very important to me. I also had problems enjoying school. I put it down to the mere fact that I didn’t understand a single word, because after the summer holiday I enjoyed it more than here.
But my exchange wasn’t just “doom and gloom”. I found it to be one of the most life rewarding experiences that I will cherish the year forever. I made some of the closest friends and saw some of the most historical places you can see and lived for ten months with little communication to “home”. During my exchange, Germany really became my “home”.  I also swapped families six months into my journey. It was one of the best things I did. Persistence really did pay off. I became a member to my second family. I was at home with them.

My exchange year was the best thing I could have ever done, but I didn’t do it without having to give up a few things. My friends here are all now one year above me. I’ve turned down scholarships and had to give up my part time job. Giving up these few almost insignificant things, were probably the hardest choice I made in the whole lead up to the year.  But although I gave up those things I chose to take on something completely different, an experience that will only come up once in a lifetime. Now I look back on a year that was rewarding, challenging, pleasuring and to a point crazy and think “why did it have to come to end so fast”.  I will never look back on my year and think of it as a mistake.

After the year, I have made friends in almost every continent. These friends are really friends for life and I’m looking forward to seeing them all again in the not too distant future. I’m also looking forward to going back to Germany to see all my friends and more importantly my families again.
If you’re thinking about going overseas, don’t hesitate. Do it. It could be one of the best things you will ever do. In ten months I travelled through nine countries, visited over 30 famous cities and learnt some things that you will never be able to learn here in Australia.....

Thanks AFS for making my dream a reality!!!