Happy Days

I got the approval from the doctor on Thursday. I am now able to do activities again! I have had a stress fracture from my soccer and put me out of both tennis and soccer practices for eight weeks. I am so excited to start playing tennis now again – it is the sport I’ve been wanting to play ever since I came here to Indian Springs School in Alabama.

The spring holiday ended approximately one week ago. Our choir here at Indian Springs went on the annual choir tour. There are some certain cities that the school visits and performs in, but I had the luck to come this year, when we all went to New York City. The whole choir, which is roughly 40 percent of the school student body, and 120 people, packed onto three buses and headed from our school and started a too short long journey up to New York City. It took us 22 hours to reach our destination. I would get bored sitting in a car more than 2 hours usually, and this journey took 11 times more time, but it was in no way discomfortable. I enjoyed sitting on the bus talking to my friends and having a good time socializing while we were on our way.

In New York City, we performed at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. Bartholomew’s Church, a friend school and some other places. St. John the Divine is the biggest cathedral in the world, and we could really hear that. An F4 for the guys and a high F for the ladies in fortissimo gave a resonance in that amazing building for about 11 seconds. I had never heard anything like that before.

After the performances we had some time exploring the Big Apple. I went to a jazz club called Birdland. Even though the food was bad, the music was awesome. The only jazz I knew from before was maybe “Mack the Knife”, a song I learned in choir just about a month before coming here.

Another night we went watching the musical “The Phantom of the Opera”. My only comment is that you have to watch it if you are in New York City. Like, you really do have to watch it.

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Exactly 7 Months in the USA…

7 months ago, we arrived all together in Boston and had our mutual orientation at the Pomfret School. I still remember the day when I went through the glass door at the airport in Germany and waved to my family the last time.

I also have not written any articles here in a long time, so I will give you an update about my winter term now.

During the winter term I have traveled around a lot and I have tried out new things which I have never done before. After Christmas I moved from my host family to a very good friend to Boston. However, on that day the news warned of a snow storm, so my friend, her family and me, we left the house and went on the highway in the direction to the White Mountains, NH at the same day. Even, on the way we have already seen a lot of snow. My friend Liana and me were very excited to go skiing together in the following days. I have never skiied before and that was why I was incredibly excited and a little fearful what skiing was like. On the next day we had 2 feets of snow there and the wind was blowing very strong, but we went to the ski slope and I signed up for a first time ski package. After the first day of skiing, I was able to ski the first slopes down and I was very pleased that I tried this sport. I had never thought I would love skiing. So the next 3 days I was skiing with my friend until we left our vacation home the day before New Year’s Eve.
It was very interesting to watch the ball-drop from New York on the television on New Years Eve. However, we started packing our stuff very soon because we were going to New York City. It was so awesome and my Christmas present from my friend’s family was a ticket for Wicked on Broadway. I was so happy I cannot describe this day.
“New York here I am coming!”

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(from the left: Kristina (my friends’s sister), Liana and me)

In the time in New York, I was visting the Metropolitain Museum of Arts, I enjoyed a great visibitlity from the Empire State Building and a walk through the Central Park. Then we visited Chelsea Market, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Ground Zero and a lot of other things. I really enjoyed this trip and in my memories it was one of the best trips I have ever did with my very good friend! It was great to see the diversity of people in New York and also how tall the sky scrapers were in fact.

After the Christmas Break, we had Spirit week. Spirit Week was a week in February in which we were allowed to go to classes in costumes to special themes every day. The first day was Pyjama Day, after that I paticipated in the Spirit Day, the Color War in which every grade had their own color and needed to create a short sketch with this color. The last interesting day of our Spirit week was the Switch Gender Day through which my school became in one day a boys school. It was very interesting to see how some people dressed up themselves because this was our chance in which we could be out of dresscode.

66095_10200136058337013_1108529646_n( my host sister aned friend Brandi & me)

Moreover on Thursday, there was Valentines Day and my dance group supported through a flash mob at lunch the billion rising campaign which criticizes violance against women.
Valentines Day is in the US very different from the Valentines Day in Germany, but I appreciated to see the different way of celebration. In the community service, we created little thank you cards for the staff of Stoneleigh-Burnham School and in my advisory we decorated “Happy Valentine’s Cards” for friends. I even got some valentines presents which I did not think about – I was very suprised.
The end of our Spirit Week was crowned with the celebration of 100 nights until graduation. I could not believe that only 100 days were left until graduation for the seniors and the end of a year abroad for me.

I do not want to picture the day when I will leave the US again because I had such an enjoyable experience so far. I have been able to improve my English, my knowledge and skills culturally and socially, and also my sport and academic prowess. I have become acquainted with many great friends, teachers, house parents, coaches and other people who work here. However, I think it is much more important that I learned a lot about myself and that I got to know myself in a different way. A year abroad was, is, and will be a live changing experience which I will never forget for my entire life.

During the last weeks until the Spring Break my school had a very special week: EUROPE WEEK!!! In which every student from an european country could express its own and different culture. Thereby, each student prepared a Power-Point Presentation about their country for our House Meeting, cooked traditional European Food in one of the appartments of our Houseparents on the weekend or talked about their country on culutre tables at lunch in our dining hall. This was a great opportunity to express a little bit of my german culture in our small Girl’s Boarding School community.

After this week, our Pre-Season for our Spring Sports started and I had signed up for Lacrosse so that I can try out one new last thing in my time abroad. Also if the practice was/is a lot of work and exhausting, I enjoyed it more and more each day. I am very happy that I signed up for this and I hope I have a wonderful time in that big team.

All in all, I had another awesome term with a lot of different experiences. During this term I chose dance as my sport and I enjoyed it a lot. I learned so much in this course and I experienced through workshops so many new types of dance which I never tried before. I enjoyed going to every dance class and I remember that I always had a smile on my face. Our big dance presentation was before Christmas and for this performance we danced Momo.

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(Winter Dance Performance; Stoneleigh-Burnham School (picture: by Stoneleigh-Burnham))

Now I can finally start to relax after 2 really exhausting weeks with Pre-season, tests, the 3 final exams and packing all my stuff. In the afternoon on Friday, I left Stoneleigh-Burnham School and my host mother picked me up. Until now I have had a great time over break and on Wednesday my parents fly to the US to travel around through the US until the end of the break.
I am very happy to see them again, however it is very sad that less than 3 months are left!!!

The time runs too fast!!!

Janine – Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Indian Springs vs. Altamont

This friday we had the most anticipated game of the year at Indian Springs School – the beat Altamont (our rival school) game in basketball. The school and team spirit was on the top, and we had the greatest support. The whole crowd of Indian Springs School were up and jumping, screaming “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!!!”, making animal noises and just having a great time while cheering on our school. The boy’s game itself was also very exciting. As the game was going to end, people were thinking that it would go into over time. And so it did. Three times. The two teams were so close, that as the real play time ended, the first extension ended, and the second extension ended, the score between the two teams were the same. Finally, in the third extension, with 50 seconds to spare, the Indian Springs School scored a three pointer and won the game. That was the most exciting game I’ve ever been to.

Inauguration!

This week I was in Washington D.C. and went to the inauguration of president Obama with my host family. Since I live on Indian Springs School in Alabama, and we took the car up to D.C., it took plenty of time to reach our destination. We arrived late at night on Saturday, after picking up my host brother’s friend in Atlanta, earlier that morning. Even though we had a long ride, it was fun and we had some stuff to do (such as me writing this, on our way back home). The inauguration was itself a great opportunity and I was so happy that my host family gave me the opportunity to go with them. The first day we went running after tickets in the state buildings, and I was just amazed walking around in the Capitol buildings – since I am interested in architecture – and just enjoyed every minute of being there. The next day was the inauguration. An approximate numbers of spectators at this event was around 600 000 people. I had never seen that much people gathering at the same place and time, and that was one big event that I will never forget, as the situation itself was so intense and exciting. With a lot of people, there were some problems actually seeing the orators or the president talk. This was a bit of a pit but there were big screens that showed what we only could distinguish as a small bunch of people on the stairs beneath the dome of the Capitol building. Even so, it was fun and I was excitingly clapping my hands for everybody and their speeches, not that much for what they said, but for the excitement of that moment. Afterwards, we went sightseeing in the city. Since Washington D.C. has the monuments of the government and the nation, we could not leave it without going watching them. We hired some bikes and went around and visited the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Capitol and various other buildings.

A little reflection over the past semester

During the first half of my stay here in America, I realized how good friends you could make on a boarding school. I have some really close friends in the dorms, and I am for sure going to cry when I am leaving the school. Though now I have a reason for coming back to America and visit!

The first months were somewhat unstructured, learning to build a routine for that specific place. I either took too much time on friends, putting the effort of learning to know people, or trying what my school had to offer. Suddenly, when I found that I had found my place and what I wanted to do, it was already Thanksgiving. Even though I felt that my first three month had been as an onion – pursuing to find the inner core of it, my place at this school, as the layers of time went by without me noticing. Then came Christmas, and between my host family’s parties and family gatherings, I realized that I the time hadn’t really gone past. I had taken the moment into account and what I had essentially done was making the most out of the moments this semester. With this happy thought I made a New Years Resolution – to make the next semester even better.

It’s been three months!

It’s been three months since I came to the United states!  I feel like time is running so fast, that in spring I won’t even realize that is time to go home. These past three months have been full of meeting new people, struggling in school, visiting new places… basically everything was new and exciting.

Since Wyoming seminary is just two hours from the city that never sleeps, I have been in New York several times. I love this city. The diversity of the people in there is unbelievable. Broadway shows are amazing and Central Park really stunning.

 

My host family is the best host family I could ever get. It’s very nice, when somebody treats you as a part of the family and is open to talk when you have an issue with no matter what. Since my host sister attends the same school that I do, I see her every day, what makes my relationships with her even deeper.

Speaking about the relationships, I found amazing friends at my school. All of them are Germans..and blond 😀 . We have so much fun together and really enjoy company of each other. I hope our relationship will last as long as we can maintain.

What about the school? I just started new trimester, so the week before Thanksgiving was the Final exam week. A lot of studying, a lot… But I was encouraged, because I knew that next week I’ll have the vacation! My final grades were fine, I was very satisfied. Ok, maybe I wanted to have better grade in US history, but I have to admit that it’s a tough subject and I was working hard. And that’s what counts, right?

Anyway, just three weeks to Christmas break! I am so excited to experience Christmas in the USA, Santa Claus and all that stuff that’s different to Slovakia.

More than three months – and the first finals coming soon!

This is one of my first posts in here, I am not sure if anyone read about me before. I am enjoying my year at Fountain Valley School of Colorado, in Colorado Springs. We live close to the Rocky Mountains and fantastic ski areas like Breckenridge and Keystone, which open great opportunities for our ski team, which I am in now.

The first quarter is over, and I can already tell that I learned a lot of new things and improved a lot in all academics, athletics and personality this year. I started to play the guitar, having never ever tried before, I became a decent western horse rider after never having dealt with horses before. I started to take a wonderful Ceramics class. I never thought I was good in arts, so I am really surprised of what talent I have in me. I started taking voice lessons, and even auditioned for Colorado All-State Choir. I learned how to live and share a room with someone who I never met before. Dorm life is great!

What I especially like about my school is the location of our Campus: Colorado is probably the most scenic state out there, and our Campus offers a great view onto Pikes Peak. The Campus is huge (1,100 acres = 4.5 square kilometers) and I love going for a run out in the prairie. It is really warm and dry up here (we still do not have snow, and it does not seem to get colder within the next days).

Thanksgiving break just ended today, and I had a great time, staying in three different families. Especially Thanksgiving day was great, we had a huge party with 36 people, celebrating two birthdays and a proposal besides Thanksgiving. I learned how to fry a turkey, how to eat a lot, and I now understand the basic rules of football. Living with different families and getting to know so many new people teaches me a lot about how to get to know people, and that asking for help is always the right approach to solve problems in America.

Although I find American people to be very open and welcoming, I experience some cultural differences that sometimes really bother me, because it can be hard to understand and live with those things: I believe a life is made out of small things, so the small differences bother me. In my point of view, America is made out of islands. Many islands. My school is an island, and McDonalds is one, Walmart is one, and every house is one. In between, there is: Nothing. Only roads. There are not many parks, and nearly no public transportation. If you don’t have a car, you are stuck here. And since cars here are incredibly inefficient, I can not see any advantage in this system. I miss going somewhere by foot, or by bike, by bus or by train. Americans would see this as discomfort. But most of us international students would see a walk to a bus station being the necessary time to relax, for example. Though it slows life down, it makes us more productive and efficient. What also bothers me is seeing all my classmates applying to college, and the immense pressure that parents put on them. Getting into College here is something you need to do if you want to stay friends with your parents. Though the tuition will make your family poor.

Here are some funny cultural differences that I experienced:

  • In American houses, you would not use the front door to enter the house, but most likely you would enter through the garage. That is why Americans keep their shoes and jackets close to their garage door.
  • Bathroom doors have no locks. If it is closed, it is occupied. If it is not, then come in. And make sure you leave the door open after you are done! You better think twice before you open the bathroom door, because someone might be in there, but maybe the wind just shut it. No lock will tell you. And it is interesting: I feel weird using a bathroom without being able to lock it, but it is just trusting each other, which is good. Though I already saw family members walking into each other.
  • Families open their house to each other: If you have a friend over or you are over at your neighbor’s house, you would just walk up to the fridge and take something if you are hungry. Where I am from, you would never even think about looking into someone else’s fridge without asking.
  • Here, you keep guns. Everywhere. Even in places children can reach them. And they are loaded. Wow.
  • There are nearly no front loader laundry machines here. And those upright one’s people use here waste water and don’t wash your clothes very well.
  • You would buy a t-shirt in a bigger size, because: You will put it in the dryer, and it will shrink. That is also why most people here do not fit in their clothes.
  • … and there is a lot more (lets not talk about how houses are built out of wood only)

All those experiences let me think see my own country in a completely different light. I am proud of my home country, and everything we accomplished. And I am proud of having the comparison. People who have never travelled to another country would never have such an amazing point of view. Thank you, ASSIST!

More: My own blog, in German: MatthiasFVS