Eurotour happened in April, so yes I'm a little late in posting about it, but here's a video I made with my camera during those three awesome weeks :D
On the 10th of February I said goodbye to my last host family and moved in with my third one - the Bernhards. They are very nice people! I have a fluffy dog and three younger host siblings - two sisters, and one little bro. This is the same family that took me skiing in the Alps in December. I'm going to be living with them until may.
From the 16th to the 26th of February I took a small break from my exchange trip in Germany to go do some travelling on my own. I hopped on a plane and flew over to Moscow where I met up with Katya and Sophia, my (real) mum and sister! It was great to reconnect with family after about 6 months without having any of them; the three of us got to reconnect with each other and also with our other relatives in Russia that we hadn't seen in ages.
We explored the city of Moscow for about a week, and then took an overnight train to St. Petersburg. These are both beautiful cities, and even though the cold was pretty bitter at times, we still had an amazing experience!
During the time that I was in Russia, Germany was having its annual Karnival (aka. Fasching). Karnival is traditionally "the celebration before the fasting season," and in Germany, Karneval is actually a pretty big deal. The celebrations are mainly just an excuse to dress up in costumes and party, and to celebrate life. It takes place over three weeks (usually on the weekends), and luckily I came back to Germany just in time for Rosenmontag (Shrove Monday). This is the second last day of Fasching, and in many cities it is the most important day of Karnival. I landed back in Germany on Sunday the 26th, and the next day I took off again to Fulda - a town 2 hours away from me by train. I met up with with a group of exchange students and we got to take part in all the festivities. Fulda is home to one of Hessen's biggest Karneval parades, and so when we were there, there was a huge amount of people. But then something funny happened! An Australian friend of ours got lost in the crowd, so me and an American exchange student went to go look for her. We were looking for her for about 2 hours, and then we in turn got lost from the rest of our group... So that's when we decided to sneak into the parade, and maybe our friends would see us then! So we quickly snuck in behind one of those parade floats, and luckily I had brought my Canadian flag with me, so we just held it out and pretended we were part of the show! People started cheering and encouraging us, shouting "Go Canadaa!" and things like that. We even picked up candy and started throwing it at the crowd! The people in the parade behind us started talking to us, and asked who we were, but we just told them we were meant to be there, and that we were part of the parade. It was obvious we weren't though, seeing as we didn't have any costumes or anything other than a flag; but they were very chill about it and just let us stay in. It was just a cool and funny experience; we stayed with the parade for about 20 minutes, and then we found our friends! Oh and the Australian was found again too.
(Just a cool thing! Back at the orientation camp in August we actually came to Fulda for a day, so walking through the same city half a year later was actually really interesting. It's fun to think of how much we've all changed in this time).
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or want to know more please feel free to message me!
Also a big thankyou to my Sponsoring and Hosting Rotary Clubs for making my traveling dreams come true, and thank you also to the rest of you for your continuing support!!
So its been a while since I updated this blog, but thats only because there has been so much going on. I’ve been on exchange for about five months now, and I’m happy to say that I’m at a point where I feel more or less completely at home here in Germany. Before signing up for rotary exchange I thought it would be more ideal than anything to go on an exchange for a few months rather than a year; the reason for this being that I didn’t initially want to be gone for "such a long time," but now I’m realizing that if I went on exchange for a short period of time it would have been something totally different. What I’m coming to realize now is that when you dive into a foreign culture for a short time, you only scrap the surface of what that culture has to offer (you're kinda like a tourist) whereas when you stay for a longer period of time, you actually become absorbed into the culture and this new country becomes something like a second home. The thought of going back to Canada at this time is something that I can't even imagine. I’ve started a new life here with new friends, new lifestyles, and even new family (in a way). I’m learning to look at things from different and new perspectives, and in doing so I'm constantly broadening my mind! This what I think the gift of travelling and adventure brings to someone, and my adventure isn’t even half way done!! I'm looking forward to what the future holds! :D
I’m staying with my second host family now! I have three younger host sisters, we get along most of the time.
So during Christmas time, German towns set up these little Christmas markets all over the place! There’s food, music, little stands that sell cute little ornaments, and of course Gluhwein (Mulled Wine - basically warm spiced wine which tastes like heaven). Needless to say, christmas was pretty different this year. Outside the charm of the christmas market though, I didn't find there was as much holiday spirit as there is at home (in Canada); there was no snow, the houses aren’t decorated with lights, you hardly hear any christmas songs and there's just not that much Christmas hype. Christmas is also celebrated on the Christmas eve (presents and all) as opposed to on the morning of the 25th - this was also pretty different!
A few days after christmas I joined my third host family on their ski trip to France!! We drove for about 10 hours to a place called Orciere Merlette, and the amazing thing about this place is that when I lived in France with my family 8 or 9 years ago, this is the place we would occasionally go to ski. Being there again felt like home! I even got a see some family friends again, and practise my French which was nice! It was really good to be there again.
Orciere is also home to one of Europe’s biggest ziplines, and me being me couldn’t let such an opportunity slip by. So I convinced my host dad to go with me and we flew from the top to the bottom of a mountain for 1.87 km at 120 km/h! It was just like flying!! And it was definitely one of my exchange year’s highlights - definetly one thing off my bucket list.
I'm starting to read Tintin books in German now and its helping my German skills a lot surprisingly!
And so big thanks again to everyone who made my traveling dreams come true! I appreciate everything that has been done. But hey I'll try to post more, and if you have questions feel free to message me!
Hi people, I've finally updated this blog again! Please enjoy.
Climbing statues with the little host sis.
So during the October Holidays my host family, the Espig's took me up to northern Germany by the Baltic Sea (which I swam in and it was really freakin cold) and we spent a week at a cottage in a small village. This picture was taken at a nearby Slav museum.
We visited Lübeck, an old city known for its Brick Gothic architecture, for being an important trading point, and for its marzipan!
The architecture in northern Germany is completely different from where I live in Wetzlar, being there almost felt like being in a different country.
The Baltic Sea was awesome.
Even though it was super cold!
On the way back home we stopped at the Edersee dam.
This dam was completely destroyed in WW2, and the Ruhr valley and villages in the Eder valley were completely flooded as a result. (That's host mum in the corner)
Exchange students! US and Argentina.
This was one of the last pictures I took at the Espig's house, I am now living with the Högler family. This snow was magical but it only lasted for one day; its probably not going to snow again for a while.
Many things have changed and many things have happened since the last time I wrote in here. There's so much I can talk about from this past month, so I'll tell you a little about the highlights.
First thing is school - I finally quit that Spanish class I was talking about. Learning two languages at the same time was harder than I expected it to be, so I replaced that class with another German one. I'm not required to take any tests in class, and I don't even get grades, but I still participate in class, and school is an interesting place to be. Though all of my teachers speak way too fast, I'm still managing to keep up in class - my German improves every day, and over this past month my confidence in speaking has increased drastically.
Making friends has not been a problem either. I have 4 host families, and the host sister from my last family has introduced me to a lot of people. In my class I became really good friends with a guy called Cedric, and we hang out regularly. Outside of school I bike, I row, I hang out with friends, and I visit other exchange students - so life has honestly been pretty good.
I'm really enjoying my current host family - we spend lots of time together and we go on many outings. From October 22 to 29, we will be up north by the Baltic Sea for a week. Germany has an Autumn school break that lasts for two weeks and it started October 14th! So I'm on holidays now!
And as for Rotary, I've already helped out at a few Rotary events. I helped at the Gallos Markt, and an event called the Apfelernte (apple harvest). During the Apfelernte, we spent the day making apple juice at farm, and all the proceeds from all the juice we sold went to a children's help centre. It was good to be there - I really enjoy helping people. It was at this event that I met the Giessen Rotaract club (Giessen is the biggest neighbouring city), and they invited me to one of their meetings. For those of you who don't know what it is, Rotaract is essentially Rotary but for people aged 18 - 30. Their vision is the same as Rotary's, so their focus is on helping people, and on organizing community events. So I went to their meeting and really enjoyed it, and now I've become an honorary member.
On October 15th and 16th, there is a big fair in Wetzlar called the Gallos Markt; during this time, the whole city is covered in little stands, booths, and rides such as a ferris wheel, and bumper cars. I helped my Rotary club set up a food stand.
I've been asked what the coolest thing has happened to me on my exchange so far, and yes I've done lots of cool things here, but none of it would have been possible without the people I met. Making new friends has been by far the best thing for me so far. Everyone is so friendly, and making new friends has been way easier than I anticipated it to be.
But the coolest thing that I've done here so far would have had to be Oktoberfest. The night of October 15th was a crazy night - a Rotarian named Stefan invited me and my friend Cedi to an Oktoberfest in Herborn, a nearby town, and we had an amazing time. During Oktoberfest people congregate in a giant tent, everyone is wearing traditional German clothing (the lederhosen and dirndl are technically from Bavaria), there is a band playing folk music, and people are drinking beer out of big litre glasses everywhere you look. As the night progresses, people end up dancing on the tables, and the whole place is roaring with sound of people dancing and singing. Its really something awesome to witness.
Once again, I'm going to try to post on this blog at least once a month, but if you have any questions, thoughts, or if you just want to know something more feel free to contact me!
August - September
Time travels fast. I arrived in Germany on August 13th, and I have already been here for one whole month. I have already seen so many things and done so much stuff. The first two weeks here I spent at a language camp with all of the other exchange students. There are 25 of us and we all got to know each other very well. We spent these two weeks in a youth hostel in Oberbernhards, a really beautiful place in the German countryside (with no wifi...). We climbed mountains, went on walks, visited a chocolate factory, some neighbouring cities, and of course we had German classes; but due to jet lag, and basic lack of sleep I honestly didn't learn that much. But the camp was a great opportunity to build new relationships.
I am the only exchange student in Wetzlar, but there are a few more exchange students just a short train ride away; travelling here is very easy.
School started here on the 29th of August, and its been going surprisingly well. The Gymnasium (school for university bound students) I am going to here is called Goetheschule; it is a pretty big school with lots of people. I have been put in grade 11, but I'm fine with that since my class is pretty chill, and though I can't really keep up in class, my German is slowly but surely improving. School is very different here from Canada. Rather than having a set 6 hours of school every day like in Canada, every day here is different. You don't always have the same classes. School usually begins at 8:05, but that all depends on your schedule. For example, on Mondays I have Math, Music, German, and Spanish (I don't know why I took Spanish, its so hard to learn two languages at the same time), and school ends at 2:55. But then on Tuesdays I only have Physics and German classes, so my day begins at 9:50 and ends at 1:05. The other classes I'm taking throughout the week are English, Religion, Biology, Politics, Sport, and History (in English).
I am meeting new people everyday, and I'm doing my best to get out of the house as often as possible. I go biking on trails a few times a week, and I'm going to join a rowing club (I've already gone to a few practises) since there is a very nice river called the Lahn that runs through my city. Wetzlar is a really nice town. It has about 50,000 inhabitants so its relatively small but theres still lots to do. There is a big mall called the Forum, there's the river with plenty of nice places to walk, lots of bike trails, and of course the old city (Alt Stadt). The old city is definitely one of the prettiest parts - every single house is half timbered and has a really cool historic look, and every other one is either a pub or an ice-cream shop; in the centre of the town is the Dom, which is a great big old church. I will post pictures soon!
Thanks again to my family and friends in Canada for supporting me, the Rotary club of Sarnia, the Rotary club here in Wetzlar, and of course the Espig's for hosting me in their house.