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 of 2006, and lived in the United States until January of 2007. Part One of the reading, published in October 2007, included 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. Part Two, which you’re about to read continues with her winter experiences, which include difficulties with the new culture, holiday observations and her feelings about returning to Germany.

November 1, 11:06 a.m.

Halloween yesterday was fun. Now, that I have been here for over a month, I have some routine in my life during the week. I go to practice and meetings of my Girl Scouts troop, where I find more friends and I have fun. On the weekends, my host-parents take me to places and we eat out, or I do something with my Girl Scouts troop.

Adrian and I are together now. I went to his house yesterday for a Halloween party. I was so happy that my host-parents were cool about it and allowed me to go. They don´t like it if I hang out too much with boys.

It´s funny how Halloween is celebrated so much here. Today, even teachers were wearing costumes! Sometimes I think Americans are crazy.

December 6, 7:00 p.m.

Well, the Cross Country running season is over now, and I am sad about it. I looked into some after school program that I can do so that I am not bored at home.

I like to talk to people my own age who understand my problems. There are other exchange students that came here with me who are really good to talk to. They know exactly how it feels to be far away from home. Martine, a girl from Norway, is my best friend here. I also talk to my parents when I call them about once a week; It´s funny to speak German again. Usually, I am more homesick after talking to them than I was before calling. So I am trying to not call as often, but sometimes, it is just necessary. For example, when Charles and Gloria have an argument or if they are mad at me. I once locked the cat in the garage. Stupid thing. I didn´t do it on purpose, but everybody was in a bad mood.

December 24, 8:20 p.m.

People in America don´t really celebrate Christmas Eve. I had it imagined differently. The day after seems to be more important. I was so frustrated today! Charles, Gloria and I went to a coffee shop where they didn’t even play Christmas music and we spent the time like always. In Germany, everybody goes to church and sings Christmas songs today. I couldn’t even call my parents from the coffee shop. When I was in the bathroom there, I cried.

December 26, 11:23 p.m.

Christmas day was better. In the morning, I got all these packages and pink pajamas. My host parents gave me a lot of stuff, and I also received a package from my parents.

I have also realized that it was really worth it to have written down all the new words that I was learning every day. I also understand my host parents pretty well now.

I didn´t lose my accent yet and a lot of people ask me, “Where are you from? You have an accent – ohh, are you an exchange student?” When I am frustrated with that, I call people to distract myself or I draw stuff in a book I got here.

January 2, 10:44 a.m.

New Year’s wasn´t different from the one in Germany, everyone popped fireworks and drank alcohol. But before that, I had a nice camping trip with my host dad, which was cool. I am off from school and that is totally boring. You really underestimate that school at least keeps you busy.

January 10, 1:12 a.m.

Wow, I didn´t expect it! Charles and Gloria organized a surprise party for me! When I got into the Italian restaurant, all the other exchange students and Girl Scouts were there! Some even had presents for me, which showed me that I had friends. Now, I am already thinking about how it is going to be when I am back home. I am collecting addresses from everyone so that I can stay in contact. My friends at home say that they look forward to seeing me again, but I am also connected with this place now.

January 20, 3:40 p.m.

All the stuff I want to take home doesn´t fit into my suitcase. So I guess I will have to send a few packages by mail. It is a weird feeling to get all the things out of my room. It´s like moving out.

I am glad I did everything I did here, and I mean that. Even the bad things, like arguments and complicated situations (such as unfriendly people at school) gave me confidence, and now I see that I am able to manage some things better by myself.

Altogether, I tried different kinds of food, went camping, rode roller coasters at different theme parks, visited peoples´ houses and even had the chance to see Mexico. I rarely said no if someone asked me to do stuff. Another important thing, was not being embarrassed to ask questions anymore.

January 28, 4:10 p.m.

I’m writing this in Germany, everything here is taller. I didn´t want to say “danke” to the people at the airport; I still said “thank you” and was thinking in English. When I was leaving Austin, Gloria was crying at the airport. I mean, yes, she is really sensitive, but I wasn´t ready for that many emotions. They said that if I wanted to come back I could live with them, they also gave me a letter that I opened on the airplane. I know I will stay in contact with them and with my boyfriend, Adrian. We are still together, and he is going to visit in the summer. But right now, things are overwhelming as well probably because I just returned to Berlin.

By Josi Wolff, Teen Reporter

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