Student exchange Texas – Half a year in the USA

As the headline already suggests, this is about my student exchange to the USA. I would like to give you some insights into my stay abroad and acquaint you with the good, as well as the bad sides of it.

Preparation

First of all, such a student exchange involves a lot of organization and perseverance. It all started when I was looking for an organization that would place me. Doing everything on my own is even more time-consuming and risky. It can happen very quickly that you are standing in the airport without the right papers and don't know what to do.

On the recommendation of Mrs. Sahner I visited Munich Academic Program (MAP). There you can listen to lectures about the offered countries. Once you have decided, the paperwork really begins. You get forms and information sent to you, such as doctor's reports, school permits, parental consents…

Once you have filled all this out, the documents all go to the partner organization Greenheart, which is now looking for a host family for you. It can take different lengths of time. While one of them received it immediately, I received it at the beginning of October. Others againrum in the middle of December.

MAP has a host family guarantee, d.h. You do not fly without the address of the host family. When that is also done, it is time to pack my suitcase, where you always remember something new that you forgot, so that the 23kg are quickly reached.

At the airport, the first thing I had to do was check in my luggage and then go through security. There it was already time to say goodbye to the family. From then on I was on my own. After the security check I went through passport control. Now I was finally allowed to go to the gate.

The flight itself was very long and quite o.k. In Denver I had to go through a security check again. Here I also had to go through customs as well as immigration.

Finally, after an exhausting layover in Denver (I was very, very, tired), I landed in a modest plane with no entertainment program. But I have to say that in this small plane the atmosphere was 1000 times better than in such a big plane. You become more aware of your surroundings and talk to the people around you.

What I can give you all is to talk to the person sitting next to you. It doesn't have to be a friendship, acquaintance is also enough. Personally, I met 2 nice seatmates on this flight. One helped me through customs and the other simply radiated a great friendliness and openness. Both of them gave me something for the trip that money can't buy. Helpfulness and a smile. If that wasn't a good start to my semester abroad…

Wanderlust? JuBi!

At the airport in Lubbock I was picked up by my host parents and at home my host sisters Lani and Grace (exchange student from South Korea) welcomed me. I felt kind of out of place because everyone seemed to know each other and I was new. I could hardly speak without bursting into tears. I was terribly homesick. I lay down in my new bed with clenched teeth and fell asleep on the spot.

Day 1

Today I woke up before my alarm clock and couldn't get my mind off of homesickness. It was simply too much of a good thing. Luckily Grace was awake after a while to distract me. She showed me the house and had breakfast with me.

My local coordinator Diana came by at 1:00 p.m. to check on me. Local coordinators are people who make sure you are doing well. Like the tutors at our school. She did an orientation program with me where, among other things, the way of life of Americans was explained.

This definitely includes the Walmart supermarket chain. When I first entered this store, a "wow" escaped me. This store is a mix of Lidl, Aldi, C&A, bakery, butcher store… It's huge and perfect for a bulk purchase.

Something that is common in the USA are self-service checkouts. So you play the cashier yourself and swipe your goods over a scanner. At the end you pay and can leave the store.

First week of school

The education system in the USA is different than in Germany. It has advantages, but also disadvantages. I am attending Lubbock Cooper High School in Texas. However, the first thing you have to do in both schools is sign in.

Afterwards the school rules were explained to us. Among other things, dress codes, which not only I, but also the other Americans who were enrolled with me, found very amusing and unnecessary. For example, the ripped jeans that are popular here are only allowed if the holes are sewn shut or if you wear leggings under your jeans.

After that, I was allowed to choose 8 subjects that I would like to take. Compulsory subjects were English, math and one science. The rest were free to choose. There were various sports, science, computer science, but also subjects like theater, photography, cooking and fashion design.

Each student gets their own schedule depending on their choice of classes. Now it's time to remember your room number and go from classroom to classroom. Here every teacher has his own classroom and the students have 5 minutes between the lessons, which are 90 minutes long, sometimes to rush through half the school. Nevertheless, the teachers are tolerant and understand if you are late.

The school days here are alternately red and black days. On black you have the first four subjects you chose and on red you have the remaining four, so all subjects are divided fairly. After school ends, most students go home on the typical yellow school buses. Overall the school here is great!

Farewell to Grace

As you may have noticed during my article, I have a host sister from South Korea, Grace. Unfortunately I found out on Wednesday that she will leave on Friday next year. For me it was all a shock.

I didn't know what I had done, or worse, what I hadn't done, so that it would be sent home three weeks after I arrived. Little by little more and more people told me that I had nothing to do with it and that Grace didn't stick to the contract I had previously signed. My local coordinator told me she was not responsible enough. She was even two years older than me.

With this farewell I realized that this exchange is not a matter of course and certainly not a vacation. You have to show that you can do tasks. You should fit into the family, contribute things and not be a burden.

Host families in the USA do everything voluntarily and you should show respect for their actions. So I said goodbye to my ex-guest sister and try to make the best of my exchange.

Dallas Trip

Since my host sister Lani plays soccer and her tournaments are in Dallas, we had to get in the car right after school and go on a half hour road trip. Contrary to my expectations it was very interesting. I have seen a lot of the scenery in Texas.

cows, horses, steppe. We drove through the 6666 Ranch, which has a very educational history. The current owner of the ranch won it in a poker game with 4 sixes. Lucky for one, unlucky for the one who lost everything. This ranch is huge, about 1.000 kmĀ². So guys, never bet everything in poker.

After we arrived at the hotel at midnight, there was nothing better than going to sleep. The next morning we went to the game. Lani's team won the first one 8-0, 2-1, 1-1 and then in the semifinals we got blown out 0-1. Lucky for us, we were able to make the return trip Sunday noon.

We went to the cinema and I have to say, I like american cinemas so much better than german ones. First of all it is much cheaper, then you can fill up your popcorn as many times as you like. So you don't have to worry anymore if your popcorn is already empty during the commercials. You just jump up and refill your popcorn and of course your drink as well. Free! Did I mention that refills are free of charge?!

Also, the rows are all arranged more steeply, you have to walk a few more steps but you have a full view of the screen and it's worth it. And not to forget: You can raise the footrest by the seats. The seats have a small rotating table at the back and the seats are better padded. Cinema in the USA is cooler. I will not be argued with on this point.

Superbowl

As many now suspect, I watched the Superbowl, but not in a big way with friends and such, but only with my family. As you can see from the previous thread, my family is not that big of a football fan. Still, Superbowl has to be, so we cozied up at the family home theater and watched the Patriots win.

Meanwhile Candy explained me the football rules. I personally like soccer better than football because you have a more fluid game and less physical contact. Soccer is more tactical, and less I-throw-myself-up-on-you.

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