Claire Goes To Deutschland

Monday, December 23, 2013

My new blog on my year in South Africa

Hello all! I wanted to direct any one whose curious about my college study abroad to my new blog: I will be studying for a year in Stellenbosch, South Africa and hope you will join me on my journey!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Update- 2 years later

An update post has been something I’ve been throwing around in my mind for quite some time now. In retrospect, what’s been stopping me has been my own fears that I won’t do it justice. It’s been almost two years since I left Germany. Somehow, even though the phrase is overused, it feels like yesterday.

To be honest, I doubt much of what I’ll be telling you is totally unexpected. My exchange year made me stronger, more open, and gave me a sense of family I had searched for since my childhood.

I’ll be real though, the things I learned on exchange seemed much more apparent in the immediate months following my return to the States. I suppose after so much time passing, they are so much engrained in me that I no longer notice their presence. This being said, I will share the things that have stuck after several years:

1.Life is too short to do anything, ANYTHING that you don’t want. To put it bluntly, obligation just doesn’t exist in my world post-exchange. There’s too much that I want to do, and not enough (when you actually think about it) barriers to me doing so, for me to care too much. Exceptions could be getting myself "edumacted" at college, which will live on as the biggest obligation I have succumbed to.

2.Don’t fight the things or people that can’t or won’t change. There will always be situations, whether temporary or permanent, that cause you pain, but trying to change them will only hurt you. The best you can do is to accept unfairness, unkindess, or straight up shit you just don’t wanna deal with, and sometimes, if you can, learn to laugh about it.

3.I read a quote that basically sums up this lesson, and it goes something like this: If you want something you’ve never had, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done. It’s hard to accept in some situations that God doesn’t make a hobby out of your unhappiness, but rather in some circumstances finding your own peace means getting out of your comfort zone and accepting that it’s something you are doing that’s keeping you from what you want.

4.Lastly, do stupid stuff. I can’t emphasize enough how doing stupid things keeps my sanity. Although I seem uptight at first, hang out with me long enough and I’m bound to make an ass out of myself for not only the entertainment of other people, but for myself. There are too many serious things in this world, that it’s important to take advantage of times when you can just let go.

That’s about the extent to my 19 year old wisdom. Aside from that, I’m content being clueless about basically anything else.

As a short, less philosophical follow-up, in the past two years I’ve graduated from high school and am almost done my first year at George Washington University studying anything that doesn’t make me write papers. I registered as an AFS volunteer my first week back, and have since met some of the most hardworking, fabulous volunteers and students that are out there. They provide me with a steady flow of inspiration and laughter. I have seen my host family twice since 2010 and plan on studying abroad again in South Africa, but other than that try to prevent myself from much planning.

It still goes that anyone with questions is free to hit me up at I’ve enjoyed the random emails over the past years.

My host family visiting West Chester this past Summer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Last Entry

I'm home. Though at this point it feels quiet weird to call anywhere home. The goodbyes with the host family were as sad and teary as expected. Afterwards, it simply left me feeling emotionless, not knowing what to think and being drained of all thoughts. The flight was painful, 9 hours in the middle of the day. Of course, I was the one whose TV was broken. Great. But I slept, and read, and listened to my Ipod, and at one point switched with my friend Jess to watch Ratitouille for an hour or so.

Coming home was unreal. My room smelt the same as I remembered. My books and pictures from before were still on my wall. Other than the new me, not much had changed. But I was glad to see my parents and sleep in my bed. I got an email from my host Mother telling me she misses her third daugter and that reading my letter that I left for them left her in tears and that shes already bought my host sister a suitcase to come visit me this Spring. She said its amazing that in 8 months I became a real part of the family. It was sad and nice to sleep after reading that email. But I called them today and it felt a lot better.

So now I'm left in a very very VERY stressful stage. A lot of things had been left behind this year. Leaving me with a driver liscence to acquire, summer school to complete, searching for colleges, and giving birth to the 17 pound German Food baby I made this year.

Thank you all for reading my blog, I hope it met standards. I encourage everyone reading to host an exchange student =D or to become an AFS volunteer. If anyone has any questions, I'd be glad to answer any at

Peace bitches!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Goodbyes

Today was my last day in Berlin. My family threw a goodbye party, inviting family, neighbors, and friends to wish me goodbye and reminisce on the year. Gifts were given and speeches were made, but I didn't have to say goodbye to them today, that comes tomorrow.

But today was my last day with my friends. It was also the Germany vs. Spain game. At the same time, Germany's time in the World Cup ended and so did my time in Germany. My friends and I walked through the dark city to the train station, where they waited for my train with me. As my train was announced over the loudspeaker, my heart stopped.

Indeed, a year had passed. And as much as you want to deny it, this is goodbye. For a long time. We cried, and I don't think I've ever felt such real-loving hugs as I felt tonight. Hard hugs that try to stop time, but fail, and yet hold on longer. They continually pressed the button to open the train door, so that we could hold a few seconds longer of a tear filled look goodbye and last second kisses on the cheek.

I found surprising refuge in a group of soccer fans going home. College kids who saw me crying and made me laugh and walked me home, even through my deep sadness. They all hugged me goodbye (something that after 5 minutes of knowing someone doesn't usually occur in Germany), but I know they knew thats what I needed. And still need.

Tomorrow I say goodbye to my host family. Something I don't even want to imagine right now.

Even though they won't read this, I'd sincerely like to thank those people here that took me under their wing such as Pitty, Herr Schuttler, Frau Doktor Schussel, and Steffi. I'd like to thank my Grandparents for giving out their love to a complete stranger as if I was their own grandchild, and...and a million others. I thank you all. And though I never thought it would happen, I've fallen in love for this country and this life.

I don't know how to be a good writer when I'm upset. Or have a nice ending. Instead I'll leave off saying the thought of sleeping right now is hard. I don't want to loose even one of those last moments.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I tiptoe towards the end

Leaving. Something that at times during this exchange you dream about, and others you slap yourself in the face for even pondering. Its a hard concept. You had a family here for a year, a community, a home, a room, a school, and all of this-good and bad- for a year was yours. And though I left as quickly as possible from Pennsylvania looking for any adventure available (as my Stepmom rightly phrased it-into a black hole), I've unconsciously become attached to all this. From little things like my German style bedroom windows and sharing our one bathroom with the whole family, to big things like how the main train station looks at night and being able to stay out until all hours.

I think what I'll miss most is the freedom. The trust, that once 16, your instantly handed in this society. Your never told "your too young" or made to feel inferior because of your age. Parents don't wait up for you or ask you a million questions over how your getting home. Instead, they trust you to take care of it yourself, that your smart enough to get home. And it makes you step up to the plate at a very young age. Or so I think.

I'm currently under the dilema of packing. I didn't realize the sheer load of crap that I've built up here. A lot has had to be thrown away (thereby I have no jeans to wear) and a lot is staying here. Still, I've had to send two packages home. The limit for my suitcase is 20 k. I will thoroughly enjoy lifting this on and off trains to get to Frankfurt, where I'll be flying out from. I'll be bringing back things that hold a lot of memories here. A carton of hand painted eggs I made at Easter with my host sister. Train tickets from all over the country. Entrance cards to the Black Eyed Peas concert and a Queen tribute at the planetarium. I'd rather bring those back than clothes.

Tomorrows my last day of school, and then Wednesday is my goodbye party with family and friends (and also the Germany vs. Spain game). It's ganna be a tough transition, but I suppose at least I know that beforehand. Summer school, getting a drivers licence, a job, and volunteering all await my return. I said towards the end that I wouldn't get sad and instead enjoy every moment. But at the very very end, its becoming harder and harder not to ignore the clock.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sounds of Summer

I find it hilarious that the kids at school complained all winter about the cold, but now its over 30 degrees Celsius and they are all still wearing pants, long sleeves, and scarves. Yes, scarves (God forbid Man be any less stylish due to weather). Then again, I go to a school where most of the kids come from the Middle East and Asia who are very "traditional". So basically I have two options. 1: Wear what they wear and die inside of myself. 2: Wear weather appropriate clothing and get dirty looks. I take the second. I always have the excuse of being the exchange student.

Summer vacation here hasn't actually started yet but the feelings definitely there. Fieldtrips are being made, ice cream eaten at cafes at all hours, and lots of naked butts to be seen tanning in the parks. I've been enjoying going to the countryside with the host Dad and swimming in the lake and tanning by the river with friends(my fellow students think that the reason I'm so tan is cause I'm American?). Parties are a lot more enjoyable now that I don't have to wait for the train in -20 degree weather.

As far as my report card, it was sort of stressful. I am getting grades in Math, Chemistry, French, Gym, and Music. They aren't amazing grades, but I was graded literally EXACTLY the same as the other students, no "your an exchange student, I'm just ganna throw a good grade at you". But its nice, I feel like I really worked hard for what I got. Before I left, I did English and History summer school for my credits. And then I'm doing Pre-Cal in the Summer I get back.

Trying to enjoy every minute I've got left and appreciate everything I have here. Hope everyones enjoying their Summer =D

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rush Hour in Heaven

Tonight was one of those times that you tell yourself "Don't forget this". So I thought I'd write about it. Short and quick before I get into bed.

Today a family friend, Saskia, came back from a year in the US. A group of about 20 of us waited to greet her at the airport.

But before she came out...A teen guy walked out with the same look I did on my first day. His host family was waiting to meet him for the first time. I was in aww. At first I smiled and laughed, as if watching a family movie of myself. But my smile quickly faded. Realizing that seeing him was confronting me with my year. That was me. That was a scared young girl arriving in the first foreign country in her life. That was me arriving at a huge train station after dark and looking around frantically to where my host family may be waiting. There was me 10 months ago.

Then Saskia came out. Flabergasted and unable to speak German, she didn't know how to react to leaving one life for the next. In a matter of minutes, I saw my year flash in front of me. I saw my first moment in Germany. And through Saskia, I saw my last.

We all headed to Saskias house for a welcoming party. But my head was a blur. I cried in my host Moms and sisters arms knowing this party made me realize how close I am to the end. I realized my year has flashed behind me.

The party ended up being amazing. But coming home at 11, riding in the dark of the countryside with my family, seeing the planes fly over and the trains pass where all you could make out was lit up windows, I realized how much moments like that mean to me. Simple moments where I think with all my heart "I'm happy"- as easy as that. The end is coming, and its sad, but the ride is so enjoyable that one just has to close their eyes and act like the end isn't coming.