Going to Europe is a lifelong dream
Editor’s Note: This is the first of 2013 Douglas High School graduate Carson Costa’s articles from Germany.
“Why did you decide to do it?” This question has defined my life for the last eight months. I answer, “I have always known I would do it.” This is true, but it neglects all the incredible aspects of the world that have driven me to this experience. Although I don’t remember the moment I first decided, I know it was while Marie, a French exchange student, was living with us. Maybe it was when she gave me Paris, wrapped up in a jar of water and glitter. Maybe it was when we sat in her room and she showed me pictures of her friends and family, all living other lives in Europe, beyond the reach of our senses or cars. Maybe it was the first time I saw her play piano, and I decided to learn to play it. Whenever I decided, the little moments have pushed me onward ever since. Such as listening to music in the Spanish class I ended up taking by accident. Or evening walks with Amelie, our German exchange student, and the little snapshots into her life at home that we would unwrap like presents. My desire to partake in this adventure comes from the view from the top of Mount Whitney, from the kiss of a manta ray, from the feel of cobblestones under my feet for the first time. It was spurred to greater heights by the feeling of ordering a “café au lait et une crêpe chocolat” in French in a “petite café” located in the backstreets of Paris. There are so many moments when I was privileged enough to catch a brief glimpse of the world beyond Carson Valley, and each one only made me hungry for more. As the years passed, I picked up a world map, I hung it in my room, and I stuck pins in all the countries, one by one, each representing somewhere I wanted to go. Every time I looked at this map, I knew I would become a Rotary Foreign Exchange Student. Eine Rotary Jugend Austauschstudentin.
The process of getting into the program is a bit complicated. First, one must complete an application to the local Rotary club. If the club agrees to sponsor the applicant, he or she must then attend a full-day orientation about how to complete the district application. The application must be typed or in black or blue ink, except for the signatures, which must be in blue ink. It includes two pages on basic information, school transcripts, two letter-style essays, photos, a copy of the applicant’s passport, medical information, a guarantee form and visa application, and a rules and conditions form, much of which must be signed, four pages which must be signed in the presence of a representative from the sponsoring Rotary club. Four copies of this must be submitted, and only after all of this has been submitted, may the applicant attend their hour-long interview with the district committee. If all goes well, the district committee agrees to send the applicant out and decides on a country to send the application on to. Applicants whose applications are sent on attend three orientations covering four full days, and complete various homework assignments, including an eight page research paper on the assigned country. Meanwhile, the country decides where to send the application, that district decides if they are willing to take the applicant and must find a club that is willing to host the applicant. Then the club must find a host family. Once everything is in order the host guarantee form makes its way back up the chain to the applicant, who is only guaranteed a spot in the program when they receive this form. Looking back on it, it seems like a lot, but while I was going through it, I only focused on the step that was right in front of me. The process is designed to ensure successful exchanges. It is what makes Rotary a wonderful exchange program.
It also makes the arrival that much sweeter. After all the hoops I have jumped through the last 10 months, it feels so incredible to finally be here. I was greeted at the airport by mein Onkel Klaus, meine Tante Helga, Amelie (the exchange student my family hosted about six years ago), and my host mother and sister. My host mother, Jana, is absolutely wonderful. She teaches German in the school I am to attend, and she teaches English to an adult class, covering primarily literature. She has been so eager to help me have a wonderful exchange so far, and I have no doubt she will be just as helpful in the future. My host sister, Laura, is very sweet and a lot of fun. She has helped my German a lot already, always speaking to me in German, but making sure to speak slowly and to help me with any words I don’t recognize (or can’t pronounce). However, she is about to be an exchange student to Brazil and leaves on Thursday, so my time with her is limited. I think one of the things I love most about Germany is the seemingly endless supply of butterflies. If I go in the backyard at any given moment, I see at least 30 of them.
So far, I have been able to explore Scharmützelsee, a nearby town and big tourist attraction, with Laura and her boyfriend, Richard, and Fürstenwalde, my place of residence, with a fellow exchange student from Australia, Louis. Apparently, Scharmützelsee was the location where they filmed the shipwreck scene for the original Titanic. We also went to a Dragonboat race competition to watch Laura’s team, the Little Dragons, compete. They came in third for their division. Today, (July 29) I will register myself with the German government and run some errands with Jana (apparently we will go to Poland to buy gas). I hope to include more about my experience in Germany in the future, as well as commentary on the language and culture.
I would also like to thank Mr. Hildebrand for his introduction to my adventure in his column last week. The support of The Record-Courier staff in my exchange means so much to me. Bis zum nächsten Mal!