When a family hosts an exchange student, a common side effect is a newly awakened passion and interest in travel and cultures! American teenager Emily participated in a 2 week German immersion experience with iE shortly after hosting an exchange student from China, and she shares with us below the main takeaways from her experience!
In the summer of 2014, I got the opportunity to go to Europe! I stayed with a host family in Germany for two weeks. Of course, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for my Chinese host brother Andy. My family hosted Andy for the spring 2014 semester and he was truly a joy for my family and his classmates. His experience inspired me to do the same, and I soon had a host family in Germany from the help of iE-USA and I was on my way!
I went to Germany with almost no knowledge of the language, but luckily, my host sister Elli went to a bilingual school and had near perfect English. My family welcomed me to their home with a homemade cake that had my name on it in German colors and made me really feel at home.
I was also extremely fortunate to be in Germany for most of the World Cup. I went to a viewing party with my family and got to see Brazil get destroyed; I also got to see Germany claim the title of 2014 World Cup Weltmeister (Champion). The camaraderie of a winning nation filled the streets that night and EVERYONE was honking their cars and singing in the streets.
I didn’t really expect much culture shock since my parents are foreigners, but that naivete put me in a constant state of awe. My other host sister Izzy was my age (17) and showed me the liberal German youth culture. I was surprised by how carefree my host mom Martina was; she was very supportive of all her daughters’ decisions and asked me to call her by her first name. I still cringe at the thought of not calling her Mrs. Perez. My host dad Mike was also full of surprises. Despite being a man in his late 40’s, he still lived everyday like his last. He’s in a band that actually gets gigs and not only acts like a father, but also like a friend.
After my two weeks, I had to say a terribly difficult goodbye to my lovely family. I went on to see Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brussels, and London. I am incredibly thankful to the Perez family for making my time so enjoyable, my school staff for telling me about how wonderful hosting a student is, the people at International Exchange, and all the kind people of Europe who made my trip so memorable.