So I’ve been home from Germany for almost 3 months now and although this post is extremely overdue, I’m happy to finally be writing it. If I’d thought that it was hard to be away from Chico for 11 months then what I was feeling this past October and November is absolutely nothing compared to the homesickness I now have for Germany, my wonderful host family and my neighbors and friends – both exchange friends and German ones alike. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy being back home with some of my greatest friends, living it up this senior year and dreaming big about where my future will take me and which college I’ll spend the next chapter of my life at, but everything has returned to an ordinary, almost mundane, sort of routine. I’m an American in America and there is absolutely nothing interesting or unique about that.
When I think back on my days in Germany I’m faced with the most bittersweet of emotions. In my writing, thinking, and lifestyle I notice how much my time away really changed me and I am so grateful that I was willing to take such a risk my junior year. I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much, built up so many amazing relationships, seen so many places, or learned so much about the value of culture and conversation before. All of the memories are something I’ll hold on to for forever and they make me so incredibly happy.
The bitter part of the bittersweet comes in when I’m met with the terrible, crushing feeling that seems to envelope me every time I realize that there is no going back to that incredible, blissful year. It doesn’t matter if I return to Germany or not, although that is something I desperately want to do at some point in my life. The point is that I will never be there for 11 months again at the age of 16, living with the Hucks and going to the Friedrich-List Schule. I won’t have my CBYX family of relatable exchange students there with me and it’s likely that I won’t even live in the same place there. Knowing that I’ve been back for such a substantial amount of time now and that I’m still missing Germany so much isn’t the best feeling… I feel like most everyone else has moved on to the next year of their life while I’m stuck dreaming of the best year of my life.
I flip through my photo album and scroll through the last year’s Instagram posts and I know that nothing can replace what I experienced. It’s hard and it hurts, but at the same time I know that if it hadn’t been such a finite thing I never would have come to appreciate it as much. So I’ll have to move on, while appreciating the numerous friendships and memories I was given. The last year opened the world to me, I no longer feel as though studying abroad in college or eventually living overseas is as intangible or unreachable as it did before. Germany gave me the confidence, willpower, and motivation to truly see the world and I can’t wait for the opportunity to travel again, to learn another new language and culture, or perhaps to pick up the familiar rhythm of German life once again.
For now, seeing as I can’t change much about living here in Chico for the remainder of my high school career, I will strive to apply what I’ve learned from Germany to the rest of my life. I think that the most important and prevalent thing at this moment of my life is the way that the Germans know how to enjoy their life, and how to truly live rather than simply exist. I rarely have a bit of spare time here in America, my afternoons, evenings and nights are filled with extra classes, work, extracurricular activities, and, above all, homework. In Germany, I didn’t do so much. And with the extra time that I did have I was able to enjoy myself and everything the world has to offer so much more thoroughly. From the soccer games to the “Grill Abenden” with my beautiful neighbors, to the nights spent out late in Kassel to the long conversations over coffee and cake that I had almost daily with my host mom. I learned to appreciate the people around me and the little things in life, rather than constantly focusing on how I was doing in school and how my future was going to turn out.
Over here, everything is so rushed and competitive and I’m growing more and more tired of it. Why can’t we just pause for a second, breathe, look around us, and realize that things are pretty great?