I was born in Germany, have family there, but grew up mostly in the United States. I wanted to spend a year in Germany after graduating from high school to improve my very basic German language skills. My 10 months abroad helped me do that and much more.
I was placed in Thüringen, Germany, in a town of about 5 thousand people. On hearing of my placement, I was disappointed I wasn't going to be living in a metropolis and a little nervous about being out in the middle of nowhere. In the end, though, my little town of Bad Klosterlausnitz became a second home.
I quickly felt myself at home mostly because of 1 important reason: my host family. My family was warm, welcoming, tolerant, and engaging. That last adjective can be explained well by the nearly weekly trips my family took me on to show me Germany (and even Austria twice!). We went to museums, festivals, concerts, river cruises, visited cities, countrysides, hiking and skiing in the mountains, castles, mines, Nazi concentration camps, palaces, churches...just about anything and everything.
I grew really close to with my host family. I continue to stay in contact by phone, email, facebook, and travel. I have since been back to visit for several days; I wasn't sure how things would have changed after a year, but things were unchanged.
Because I graduating from high school already, I didn't have to worry too much about my classes in German schools. I didn't get grades, but I did try to learn when I could. Some subjects where nearly impossible for me. Without either a strong background or the technical vocabulary, I basically ignored my biology and physics classes. I did really enjoy and/or get a lot out of my history, math, German, French, physical ed, and geography classes.
The orientations and support through AFS (provider of CBYX scholarship winner's programs in the northeast U.S.) were okay. Not great, because sometimes they were repetitive or unhelpful, but mid-stay and end-of-stay enrichment trips to Cologne & Bonn, and later Berlin were a blast. You'll love being with other CBYX students from the U.S. They are smart, engaged people who are on the same crazy adventure along with you. They were the best friends I made and stay in touch with them today.
Living in a new culture and trying to speaking a foreign language is never easy, but an experience like CBYX is a real privilege. It will push you in many ways. You'll grow personally, in your understanding of the world, and in your thinking. It may not happen until you return to the United States, but you will realize your time in Germany will have changed you forever. For one, you will from then on see the world as your oyster. You'll have a travel bug and will want to go everywhere on earth and try to experience everything this life has to offer. If you are thinking about going abroad to study, work, or live (whether with CYBX, a different program, or on your own), do it! It's one of the best decisions you can ever make.