By: Annika Kunz
Moving to the other side of the world, starting a new life, learning a new language – welcome to the life of an exchange student. Or, more accurately, welcome to my life!
This past summer, I moved from Germany to the U.S., all by myself to spend my sophomore exchange year here. In a series of writings, I hope to provide you the opportunity to get to know the perspective of a non-American person on certain topics.
I’m not just here because I got bored of my life in Germany, or because my parents wanted to get rid of me; rather, I received the CBYX scholarship from the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag. This scholarship pays for all the school-related expenses, the organization, the plane tickets, and last but not least: me.
Securing a spot in the CBYX scholarship program is a competitive yet rewarding process. As an aspiring exchange student, the journey begins with a thorough application, which typically includes submitting academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and an in-person interview with a member of the German Parliament. All in all it's a long, but worth it journey.
Once accepted into the program, I knew I would experience a life-changing adventure. But still - why did I leave all my friends and family behind to start all new here?
Simply put, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. When else will I ever be able to experience a whole new culture, new people and new language and get paid for that?
Besides the jet lag, adapting to a new culture isn't always easy. My first month was full of culture shocks: everything is far away, food portions are much larger, and pick up trucks are overly prevalent. And there were a lot of first times: eating American cheese, going to an Orioles game, and shopping at Walmart.
The very first thing I noticed as soon as I left the plane was that people in the US have a different way to communicate, especially with strangers. If you would go up to a stranger and start asking them about their day in Germany, you would get a lot of confused looks. It’s very uncommon and almost obtrusive in Europe to do that. But Germans aren't ignorant or unfriendly, we are just not used to small talk with strangers and sharing personal information. So if you ever come to Europe, maybe keep that in mind.
The CBYX scholarship is not only for Germans coming to the US, but also for American students to come to Germany and experience European culture.
The application for students between 15-18 years is open right now and offers you a full scholarship to spend one year in Germany. You do not need any prior language experience.
So far, my exchange year has been an unforgettable experience and I would certainly recommend trying it to others. I look forward to sharing more of my experience in America through a series of articles. Stay tuned!