• Lucy Harley

A German Journey - My Senior Year Abroad

Hi! My name is Lucy and I'm from Chicago but I am currently on exchange in Germany. This is my senior year, so while I am trying to learn German (I had no prior knowledge of the language or culture) I am also keeping on top of my college applications. I am going to a German school, so all of my classes are in a foreign language besides English class. I’ve been living with a wonderful host family that speaks mostly German. It’s been a huge challenge, and often people ask me why I chose Germany for my exchange year.

Though there are lots of reasons, the largest factor–and I will be completely honest–was the scholarship. If I had to choose to go to Germany without a scholarship, I don’t know that I would be here right now. However, I applied through the CBYX program–the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange–and I, along with two hundred other Americans, was granted a full-ride. The CBYX program is funded through the governments of the USA and Germany, and it is designed for students to learn more about a different culture, and create lasting international friendships. Though it is getting easier to know more about different areas of the world through social media, there are still stereotypes and misconceptions that this scholarship works to dissolve. On my first day of German school, my classmates told me they expected a girl to walk in with a cowboy hat. They told me they expected me to be loud and to have a valley girl accent. A lot of people asked if I owned any guns, and if high school in America was like the movies–with jocks and cheerleaders running the school, nerds and geeks banished to the bottom of the theoretical social hierarchy.

It has been exhausting to have to go to school and have lessons in a language I don’t understand, but everyone I have met has been so important to my journey. My host father watches German television with me and helps me go over the vocabulary I learn each day. My classmates help translate instructions, and my host sister helps me figure out the bus and trains. My host mother cooks and bakes with me, and it has been such a rewarding experience. I pick up German quickly, and I’m learning through all these experiences.

There have been lots of cultural and practical differences in Germany, and I am excited to continue sharing more about my exchange year!

Pictures by Lucy Harley