Diary of an Exchange Student

Editor’s Note: The following is a two-part reading of diary excerpts from a German student, Josi, who came to live in Austin, Texas as part of a student exchange program. This type of international program allows high school students to live in a foreign country for a semester or two. Usually, there are organizations that work with local schools and host families to make all the arrangements.

Josi arrived in Texas in August 2006, and lived in the United States until January 2007. Part One of the reading includes an introduction by Josi and diary entries of her fall experiences. She shares stories about traveling to Austin, settling in with her host family and meeting new people.

I am 16 years old, and I just returned from Austin, Texas, to my hometown of Berlin in Germany. I lived as an exchange student in Austin for half a year in 2006.
Being an exchange student means that you live with a host family in another country. There, you go to school and try to live your life like your hosts. I wanted to see as much as I could and learn about the different places, culture and the lifestyle in Austin. I also went there to make friends and improve my English.

I arrived in Austin on August 7, 2006, and got back to Berlin on January 28, 2007. My host family was a married couple, the Torruella’s, who had a cat; my host mom´s name was Gloria and my host dad´s name was Charles.

I had a lot of fun in Texas, and I would go there again to be an exchange student. I was a member of the Cross Country team at the high school and I also joined the Girl Scouts. Additionally, I had fun writing for Latinitas. After a while, I became more secure about the relationship with my host family and other American people, but of course, I also had to manage some difficulties and problems. To give you an idea of my emotions and experiences, I want to share some parts of my diary that I wrote during my stay in Austin.

August 10, 10 p.m.
Tomorrow is the departure and I fear that my luggage is too heavy (I’m thinking of how they have found liquid-bombs in London.) I cannot take my book with me, so I have to finish it now – is that right? Shouldn´t I at least be able to take something like that with me? Something familiar? And I cannot sleep at all. But I expected that.

August 13, 2 p.m.
Well, now I am here for real, and I am very tired. At the moment, it looks like it is more quiet here than at home. At first, I missed Charles at the airport because I wasn´t sure if it was him standing there and I was also kind of shy to just walk up to him. Well, finally he found me. We had some steaks when we got to the house – that was nice, but it was a little hard for me to get along with the language. I will have to be strict with myself to learn all the new words.

It is awkward to know that this will be my home for six months. My room is smaller than at home, but the bed is bigger and there is a lot of old stuff. It is not really like a teenager´s room. I guess that´s part of the deal.

August 16, 8:25 p.m.
Wow, I am already involved in high school! I had my second day of school and some trouble finding all my classes. I also need to make a schedule change – I hope that´s not too complicated with that sheet I have to fill out. A lot of people here are saying things I don´t understand. I am a little embarrassed to ask about everything. But one girl that is riding the school bus with me helps me a little bit.

September 1, 9:31 p.m.
I am a member of the Cross Country team now, which I really like, because I can meet some people there in the morning and can ride the school bus home. Unfortunately, my host parents are really strict about me riding the city bus home. That´s one thing I totally don´t understand. In Berlin, I can ride trains and busses everywhere and I don´t even have to ask for permission. Here, I have to be home right after school, because Charles and Gloria want to spend time with me. But sometimes, I want to hang out with people my own age! It´s kind of hard to balance all that. And I also cannot e-mail all my friends in Germany because in the evening I am tired. And there is that book I have to read for English in the next week…

September 15, 10:15 p.m.
I need to get my head clear! There is that boy in my Algebra class – his name is Adrian, and I have no idea what it is going to be! He walked up to me and introduced himself. He also walked me home. He is very polite and friendly. But when I made the mistake of telling my host parents about it, they reacted kind of strange. Like I have to be VERY careful, and I am not allowed to do anything with him without telling them. Wow, I don´t know if they think I am five years old or what, but it is annoying, because they can make all the rules they want. If I don´t follow them, I can be sent back home.

Look for the second part of Josi’s journal in the November 2007 issue of Latinitas. Part Two will continue with her winter experiences, which includes difficulties with the new culture, holiday observations and her feelings about returning to Germany.

By Josi Wolff, Teen Reporter

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