My original plan was to graduate highschool a year early and be an exchange student with a program before going to college. My plans (like most everything else) fell through due to the ongoing covid-19 crisis. Halfway through the interview process, Rotary canceled their exchange program for the 2021-2022 school year. By this point, all other programs were also put on hold, which is when I reached out to Herr Schwab. Herr Schwab and my German teacher had previously worked together to set up the GAPP program in 2019.

Through a series of emails, I realized that my dreams might be a possibility. With lots of help from Herr Schwab, I got in contact with two potential host families, and got approved to attend Gymnasium Gaimersheim! I booked a plane ticket from Syracuse to Munich and started packing my bags.

On the 27th of August, 2021, I flew from Syracuse, New York to Munich all by myself. After a long and confusing trip through the Munich airport, I finally met my host family and was greeted with open arms. My German was broken at best, so in the beginning, Sophie and I spoke mostly English. But as the weeks passed, with lots of practice, my German started improving.

I was fortunate to have many interesting experiences with the L. family. We traveled to Munich, Neuschwanstein, and many small cities around Ingolstadt. With the Liebolds I also had the opportunity to learn about the history and culture in Ingolstadt. I visited many museums and learned a lot.

Two months in, I switched host families to the S. It has been really interesting to learn through two different German families and see Germany through different points of view. The S. are also amazing. I have loved the opportunity to meet and live with two families, both full of amazing people.

As my German speaking slowly improves, I have been able to communicate better and make friends. In the beginning, I couldn’t speak German fluently enough to have a conversation. Although my grammar and accent still aren’t perfect, I now have the ability to communicate clearly and understand others in conversation.

Through my improvement in German, I have also learned a lot about German culture. Some of the most stark differences I have noticed are in school. German schools are structured very differently from American schools. Instead of having Mittelschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium, all Americans go to highschool. This means that the grades in my school are much bigger (~450 students) and there is a much wider variety of classes to accommodate all the different levels of students. Also, in America, we have no pauses, and we are not allowed to go outside of the building during the school day without express permission.

Another difference I’ve noticed is the amount of freedom that a good bus system provides. Although the driving age is younger in America, I have found that having a functioning and easy-to-access bus system gives younger Germans a lot more freedom than kids in America typically have. Where I live, you have to go by car if you want to go anywhere interesting. I have found that having the ability to take the bus has made outings with friends much easier.

I have learned so much and met some of the most amazing people in my time here. I am so grateful to all of the people who helped me along the way to make this dream a reality. I will miss everyone here so much, and I’m so happy that this is a chapter in my life. I know I will stay in contact with the amazing people I have met here. Thank you, Gymnasium Gaimersheim.