Semester — Spring 2019
Application deadline: July 25, 2018
To live and study in Germany is to discover a world of contradictions. The country is renowned for its precision and orderliness, but it’s also the land of “Dichter und Denker” (“poets and thinkers”), with world-class musicians like Wagner and Bach. By staying with a host family and attending a local high school, you’ll have the opportunity to observe both sides of German culture as well as become a vital part of the community. Germany’s reputation for quality and efficiency means you’ll likely attend a well-organized, competitive school, where you’ll be able to learn the language and experience life as a regular German teenager.
If you’re environmentally-conscious, you’ll appreciate Germany’s emphasis on recycling and conservation. Opera, theatre, and classical music are popular and easily-accessible, with prices kept low thanks to public funding. Germans are generally direct communicators, valuing honesty and openness. They’re also punctual and orderly, so you can expect trains and buses to arrive on time.
Your journey to Germany will begin in Washington DC, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. You’ll attend an overnight orientation and get a crash course on German culture. Then, you’re off! You’ll travel with a group to Frankfurt where you’ll be welcomed by AFS Staff and Volunteers.
Soon you’ll be ready to head to your community. On the way you might catch sight of the Bavarian Alps, site of Germany’s tallest mountains. You could also encounter medieval fortresses or Renaissance palaces recently converted into modern hotels, restaurants, or museums. As you travel closer to your new home, you might catch the smoky scent of some sizzling sausages, to be enjoyed later with onions and mustard.
AFSers have lived in communities all throughout the country, but you’re most likely to end up in a small town or rural area. Family life is important in Germany, but so is independence. You can expect to have the support of your host parents while also getting the chance to explore on your own.
Like anywhere in the world, all families in Germany are different. Most are industrious, thrifty, and organized. Many Germans like to discuss politics, sports, culture, or the environment, so you should be prepared to share your opinion.
While living in Germany, you can take part in community events and attend year-round festivals. The most popular sport is soccer, but other common weekend activities include hiking and cycling. Your German friends might also enjoy going to movies or holiday markets (German Christmas markets are beautifully decorated, world-famous extravaganzas). Teenagers are generally independent and considered to be full members of the family. With this freedom, you’ll get the chance to step outside of your comfort zone and make new friends in your community.
Before eating, your host family might say, “Guten Appetit,” which means “bon appétit” or “enjoy your meal.” Germans are very proud of their many different kinds of bread, which range from dark, heavy ryes (like pumpernickel) to lighter wheats. A typical German dinner called Brotzeit or Abendbrot consists of bread with different toppings, spreads, and vegetables. Or you and your host family might enjoy a hot meal of meat or fish with potatoes, dumplings, noodles, and vegetables. Cakes are also very popular; one of the most famous is called the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake), which is a chocolate layer cake with cherries, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings. The traditional time to relax and enjoy cake and coffee is around 3 pm.
You’ll most likely attend a college prep school called a Gymnasium, but you could also be enrolled in a Realschule (which only goes up to grade 10) or a Gesamtschule (which is a comprehensive public school). Classes usually begin around 7:30 or 8:30 am and end by 2 pm. Because most German students don’t attend school in the afternoon, many teenagers are involved in local sports clubs (Verein) or music lessons. Most host families will encourage you to participate in after-school activities, since they’re a good way to make friends and learn about German culture.
You’ll begin learning German through a Rosetta Stone course before you depart to help you communicate with your host family and friends as soon as you arrive in Germany. If you stay for the full year, you’ll have the opportunity to take additional language lessons with your local AFS volunteer chapter.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.