Rather than stories, this post is more about thoughts.. And thoughts I articulated more for myself than anyone else. But feel free to read on of course!
They say that being an exchange student makes you mature about 5 years in the course of 1, and I’m starting to understand why. I’m sure that everybody’s year is a bit different, but my personal experience is leading to a lot of thoughts about personalities, people, humanity, and me as a whole.
Before coming to Germany, I would have instantly classified myself as an extrovert. I’m generally happier when I surround myself with other people. I crave conversation, I’m social, and I’d rather be at a party than at home, scrolling through Tumblr posts and watching hours of Netflix. Before coming here, I felt like a lot of our identity is braided into our relationships and connections with friends, family, and even acquaintances. Or maybe you could say that it’s the other way around, that those are braided into our identity. Either way, seeing myself as a person always involved seeing the other people in my life at the same time. Less of a vision of “Laretta” and more of a vision of “Laretta & Every Other Person in My Life”.
However, being on an exchange such as this one has allowed me to take a step back, and see myself as a little bit more of “Laretta” and a little bit less of “Laretta & EOPML.” I’m in a new place and people know me for me, not me because of the friends I have or the family I come from or even the impression I made when they met me when I was 5 or 8 or 11 years old. The typical Chico kind of deal. A lot of the reason for moving to a new country is to build more connections with the people there, and by now means am I attempting to shirk away from that type of a responsibility. I’ve grown incredibly close to my host family; I never realized I could feel like a true member of a family in a family other than the one I’d been born into, and maybe the one of my future husband. I absolutely love the Hucks, as well as the host grandparents, host cousins, and host aunts and uncles I’ve acquired. I love the neighborhood families and I feel incredibly assimilated. I’m also making friends with some really great people in school and starting to feel like a part of the school, the group of girls, and maybe even a part of this country.
However, this feeling of acceptance doesn’t mean that I can communicate perfectly with everyone yet. My speaking gets better and better every day, as well as my understanding of things, and I do feel accomplished in that way. But the truth is, at this point along the way, it’s just not quite the same as having a conversation in my native language. I talk to my friends from back home, along as all the wonderful people I’ve met (and grown so close to) from CBYX and this helps fill the gaps for sure. But still, I’ve got a lot of time for thinking. I’ve come to the realization that I probably shouldn’t text a friend every moment of the day when I’ve got something to say that I can’t articulate in German. And at first this feels a little strange to get used to. I’d never before considered the situation of not being able to say what I’m thinking.. and maybe this comes from the fact that I talk a little bit more than your average person. Anyways, at first it wasn’t great. But I’m learning. I’m learning that I don’t always have to be surrounded by other people and that having myself for company is sometimes enough.
I like the personality I’ve got and the person I’m becoming, so why not let myself be alone every once in a while?
After realizing this, I immediately flipped to the other side of the personality scale, or what have you. I started wondering if this meant I was an introvert. I didn’t really want to be one, but I knew that I liked being alone at times.
And finally, after a little bit more (introverted?) thinking, I came to realize that you don’t have to be an extrovert, or an introvert. Having balance is also an option here. At this point I love the time I have to myself to think about everything going on in my life, and I love the time I have surrounding myself with other people and feeling accepted and like a part of Germany. And now that I know this about myself, I don’t think I could live without either.
So I’m not necessarily so very extroverted, and I’m not exactly introverted. But I’ve found a balance and as soon as I press publish I can stop over thinking my personality so much, and start living as I am.