Case Study: Exchange in Germany
Looking back on my exchange in Germany
by Katie from Yorkshire
Katie, 17, from South Yorkshire, went on exchange to Germany from August 2018 to June 2019. Katie was placed with a lovely family in Briesen, to the east of the country. She attended a local school and lived with the family for almost a year. Katie has kindly shared her memories of the experience with us.
Looking back, what are your memories of your exchange year in Germany?
When I think back to my exchange year, my most fond memories are of those in the summer holidays where I spent almost every day out with my really close group of friends I’d made, out on lakes swimming. As well as time spent with my host family where they really treated me as part of the family inviting me along to family events. The camps with the other exchange students were amazing as well and I met so many new people.
What was it like to return home after spending a year in the UK? What emotions did you go through?
Looking back I think I struggled more than I thought I did at the time. My life was so fast paced and exciting on my exchange and all of a sudden I was expected to go back to my normal routine. I was so happy to be home to see everyone and to tell them about my year, but no one really seemed that interested. It took time to settle back in and adjust and it really makes you notice how much you change in such a short amount of time. It definitely took longer than I thought it would but now I feel just as at home as ever.
What do you miss about Germany?
I miss being able to see my host family and friends every day. It’s never quite the same over text or FaceTime as it is in person. I also miss Berlin it’s such an amazing city, I completely fell in love whilst being there. And as well as that the Döner, they don’t quite do doner kebab in England like they do over in Germany!
What part of the German culture surprised you the most?
Definitely how hard the Germans are to befriend. We were told on camp about how Germans tend to be quite cold and may come off a bit unfriendly. I know a lot of the girls from South America struggled especially because of that particular contrast in culture, but in actual fact once you do make friends they really are the best friends you could ask for, and the most kind trusting and helpful people. Other than that I’d say the culture isn’t majorly different from ours.
What were the most challenging aspects of your exchange?
I think homesickness was always going to be a challenge, especially at Christmas time. I did struggle quite a bit but after that it was smooth sailing and I never really got homesick again. Making friends took a lot longer than expected as well, but it definitely comes with the language as well. It seems you always make the closest friends in the last months of your exchange.
Do you keep in contact with your host family and friends?
Yes! I keep my host mum updated all the time on what I’m getting up to back home and I regularly message friends from Germany and they tell me what’s going on over there and vice versa.
Now that you are nearly finished school, what do you plan on doing?
I have one more year at Sixth Form doing A Levels, then I’m planning on going to university, and I’m currently looking at different engineering courses that offer work experience abroad, because I’m dying to get out and travel some more.
How has learning German helped you since returning and do you still use it?
I’m currently doing my German A Level so it definitely helps in that aspect. I still get to use it in German lessons as well as talking with my host family and friends.
How do you think your experience of the exchange program changed you as a person?
My exchange year completely changed me for the better. I’m a much more confident and happier me. It’s made me fearless and so independent. I genuinely feel like I can do anything now. I don’t think I’d recognise myself from a couple of years ago.
Are you planning to return to Germany?
Yes. I already have flights booked to go back for two weeks this summer.
What advice would you give to students about to undertake an exchange program?
Go into your exchange with as few expectations as possible. I would have never been able to predict how my exchange year turned out. Just be ready for anything and jump at any opportunity given to you because you’ll regret it if you don’t take them. And have fun because your exchange will quite literally be the best year of your life if you let it be.
Thank you so much for these wise and inspiring words, Katie. We wish you the best of luck in your A Levels!