Planning a Trip to Europe

In a few months, I will be going back to Europe for the third time! The past two times I went to Europe, I traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. This time I will be going to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, and France. 

So far, I’ve traveled to 13 countries. After this trip, though, I will have traveled 17 countries in total. Right now, I’m still currently in the process of planning the trip. Some of the places I’ll be revisiting and some of the places are going to be completely new to me. I’m not going to say exactly where I’m going just yet. I’ll leave that for after I come back and can post pictures. 

The Land of the Rising Sun

In less than  one week, I will be going on my next adventure to-if you didn’t get it from the title-Japan!

Japan is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun since the Kanji (Chinese characters) for Japan-日本 (Nihon/Nippon)– literally means  “the sun’s origin. Then from “the sun’s origin” translates to “The Land of the Rising Sun. Also in the national flag of Japan, officially known as 日章旗 (Nisshoki), has a red circle representing the sun in the center of a white background.

Japanese flag

Anyways, I’ll be going to Japan for about a week and a half to visit a friend of mine I met in college. I’m really excited now, since the closest I’ve came to actually being in Japan was being in the Narita airport 3 years ago. This time I’ll actually be exploring in the cities of Nagoya and Kyoto-the food, the culture, and the language. The language part will be interesting since I decided to start learning Japanese this semester, so let’s see how that works out…

North South East West

It’s been about 8 months since I’ve last written anything in this blog. But you can’t really blame me once I tell you what I’ve been up to these days..

Since the start of the year, I’ve been to Oklahoma for Army basic training, Missouri for AIT training, back home to Pennsylvania, Wildwood Beach, New Jersey for vacation, Virginia and South Carolina for vacation and a wedding, to Boston, Massachusetts to study Chinese for the summer, and just recently in Maine for a short day trip. Soon I’ll be going back to West Virginia to start school again, and to end my year I’m off to Japan.

This year has definitely been busy for me, but traveling is what I do best. And I’ll find time again to post more about what I’ve experienced, the different programs that are out there, and so on.

Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina

Rainbow Row in Charleston

Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina

Boone Hall Plantation

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston

Ogunquit, Maine

Ogunquit Maine

Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunites for High School Students

It’s about that time of year again. Study abroad scholarship applications are opening up. Many of you may be asking yourself, why should I study abroad? Why should I leave my family, friends, and everything behind to go somewhere I’ve never been before? Well, let me tell you. Looking back at my life, studying abroad was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Yes, it will be difficult at first. Leaving everything you know behind, and being thrown into a new culture and family you don’t even know. However, during this difficult time you learn more about yourself and accomplish things you didn’t even know you could do. You make friends of a lifetime, and learn and fall in love with a new language and a new culture. You will have opportunities that you will probably never have again. This is why I really want to push more American students to study abroad. There is more out there than the American life and English language. Expand your horizons, do something different. Something challenging, adventurous, and rewarding. I will tell you, you will definitely not regret it.

So if you’re interested in study abroad, here are several scholarships that will allow you to study abroad for free or at least help you along the way. These scholarships, however, are very competitive. Not trying to scare anyone off or anything, if you really want one of these scholarships then you really need to take these applications seriously. For high school students or recently graduated students only*

NSLI-Y (National Security Language Institute for Youth program offers intensive language immersion during the summer or for a year to students willing to learn Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Russian, Hindi, Persian (Tajik), or Turkish. Locations include the following locations: Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Moldova, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Estonia, India, and Turkey. More information at: http://www.nsliforyouth.org/

CBYX (Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange) program offers 250 full-year scholarships around the United States to high school students who are motivated to go to Germany and learn the German culture and language and gain a new perspective on the global current affairs and German economic, political, and social life. More information at: http://www.usagermanyscholarship.org/about/

The YES Abroad (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad) program offers 65 scholarships to high school students to study abroad in countries with significant Muslim populations. Countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. More information at: http://yes-abroad.org/

YFU (Youth for Understanding) provides several partial scholarships to study abroad in countries like Japan, Finland, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, etc. More information at: http://yfuusa.org/american-students/scholarships.php#

The CIEE Leadership Academy program offers scholarships to study abroad for a month in the summer and do community service projects in one of the following locations: China, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Japan, Jordan, Senegal, or Spain. More information at: http://www.ciee.org/high-school-summer-abroad/

In the summer of 2013, I went to Nanjing, China with the CIEE Leadership Academy. It was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. I stayed with a host family, learned more about the Chinese culture and way of life, taught English to elementary school students at a local school, and made friends of a lifetime. If you want to read more of what I actually did during the 4 months, you can read about it here: https://christinathepolyglot.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/ciee-leadership-academy-in-china/

The AFS (American Field Service) organization also offers some partial and full scholarships. These scholarships include the BP Global Citizens of Tomorrow scholarship for students who want to study abroad in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, or South Africa; the Cultural Explorer Merit scholarship for students who want to study abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, or Thailand; Japan scholarships; and several other scholarships by state. One state scholarship I would like to talk about is the Speedwell scholarship. The Speedwell scholarship offers 30 full scholarships to students from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am personally thankful for this scholarship and for the donors, because without this scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to go to Germany and fulfill my dream.

If you’re even considering about studying abroad, please apply for these scholarships. It is a lot of hard-work and effort, writing dozens of essays, getting teacher recommendations, going through interviews, and the roller coaster emotions. But trust me, in the end it is definitely worth it.

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The Berlin Wall

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my departure from Germany. So far I’ve been really busy with appointments, studying, watching the World Cup, and readjusting back to American life. Now that I have a little bit of time, I would like to tell you one of my favorite highlights in Germany.

One month ago, my host family and I took a trip to the capital of Germany-Berlin! We walked around the city for a bit, went to tour the dome at the Reichstag, took a city bus tour, and saw the one thing I wanted to see most-the Berlin Wall!

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I remember that I’ve always wanted to see the Berlin since the 6th grade, when I learned it in my Social Studies class. And coming across the Berlin Wall that day was actually pure luck. I knew that most of the wall was torn down, and probably wouldn’t be able to see it still standing. We were actually looking for a parking spot, when we suddenly find a part of the wall still standing.

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Some history about the wall:

After WWII was over, the German Reich was taken over by the Allies and split up into four zones: (Western Germany) American, British, French, and (Eastern Germany) Soviet. And Berlin was split up into the same four zones. On August 13, 1961, the communist party of the German Democratic Republic began putting up barbed wire and a protection wall between East and West Germany. The people of East Berlin were basically deprived from the western world. They were not allowed to leave East Berlin, and if they try to escape-they were shot by the border patrol. However, Germans from West Berlin and West Germany were allowed to go to East Berlin by going through Checkpoints, such as Checkpoint Charlie (pictured above). At least 136 people died trying to escape, and over 5,000 people have successful escaped from the East to the West. Communism began to falter in 1988 and 1989 in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. And in 1989, an announcement from the East German government official Gunter Schabowski came-the borders between East and West Berlin were open. There was a huge celebration afterwards. People began hammering the wall down. After the wall came down, East and West Germany were finally reunited as one single state on October 3, 1990.

East and West Germany

East and West Berlin

First Two Weeks

Tomorrow is the two week mark since I’ve been in Germany. Before I came here, I thought the German culture and American culture/lifestyle were at least a little bit similar. Well, I was wrong. The food/meals, school, transportation, etc. are a lot different.My life here is completely different than my life in America.

Food/Meals: The meat and other foods are a lot larger here than I expected. The food is always fresh, and almost always prepared-unlike in America where we seem to just grab something out of the freezer and cook in the microwave. For Fruhstuck (breakfast), I normally eat muesli on schooldays and eggs or bread with meat, cheese, and meat on weekends. During school, I’ll have Pausenbrot (bread or a sandwich eaten during breaks). Then after that is Mittagsessen (lunch), which is the largest meal of the day. Lunch for me is always something different: Maultaschen (my favorite), spaghetti, pizza, cordon bleu with french fries, sausage, doner, etc. And then is Abendsessen (dinner), which is usually just bread or brezel with meat, cheese, butter, etc. German food is delicious, especially the desserts.

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School: The school I am attending is called a Gymnasium. In the Gymnasium that I’m attending, there are Grades 5 through 12 (I believe). My classes change everyday, and each class (or lesson) is 90 minutes long. 3 days a week I have 3 classes (or blocks) and I get to leave at 1 pm. In between each period is a 15 minute break. On Monday, I have 4 blocks and I get to leave at 3:30 pm. After the third block, there is a 30 or 45 minute break for lunch. On Thursday, I have 5 blocks..which means I don’t get to leave school until 5 pm. Leaving at 5 pm isn’t actually all that bad. The class subjects are almost all the same like in America except for Religion. All my classes (except for English and Spanish), are taught in German (of course). The first couple days, I didn’t understand at all. But everyday, I learn more German and understand more and more. Something else that is different is that we are allowed to leave the school during the breaks (well, not leave leave), to enjoy the fresh air or go into town to get food.

Transportation and Punctuality: I go to school everyday by bus, however, not a “school bus.” Every school morning and afternoon, I get on the public bus and it is always packed of school kids-so it seems like a school bus. But on the bus are kids from different schools and can get off wherever they want to. Public buses here are really convenient, you can pretty much go anywhere by bus-but you have to wait sometimes awhile for them to come. The cars here, I was told, are mostly manual and not automatic. And the trains and subways..can’t say anything about them yet because I haven’t been on any so far. As for punctuality, when the bus is scheduled to come at a certain time-it will be there exactly at that time. If you have plans to meet someone, always be there at the schedule time.

Environment: The Germans definitely care about the environment. The streets and sidewalks are always clean, and never littered with trash. They recycle and have individuals recycling bins for paper, glass, plastic, etc. And they conserve water. I really wish we did this in the United States. I never really realized how much we’re wasting until coming here.

So far, I like my new life in Germany. Like I said, it is definitely different. Sometimes it can be a little difficult being in a new culture. So far, I made a lot of mistakes and mispronounced a lot of words. But it’s from these mistakes, that we learn the most.

Below are some pictures of Wertheim, two of the castles in my area, the Main and Tauber rivers, etc.

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Goodbye, Pennsylvania

My last day in Pennsylvania was bittersweet. I’m glad I was able to spend it with my family and friends. Time has gone by so fast. At first, I wished I could just go to Germany right away right after I came back from China. Now, however, I’m glad I had one month to settle back at home and embrace life in the US again. I was able to do everything I wanted to do before I left: eat my favorite foods, visit my friends, go to my favorite places, watch movies at the movie theater, absorb my surroundings, spend time with my family, host exchange students (from Korea).

I will soon embark on a journey of a lifetime. Tomorrow I will leave my hometown and go to Washington D.C. (my  4th time..this year!) for orientation. Then on Friday, I will depart from the USA to Germany by plane at 17:30 (5:30 p.m.). Finally, I will arrive in Germany on Saturday morning around 7:30 a.m.

Right now, I feel very excited. I am so thankful that I even have this opportunity. I just want to thank everyone who has supported me starting from when I decided to study abroad: my family, friends, the AFS volunteers, fellow AFSers, my teachers and peers, coworkers, and everyone else (there is just too many to name). Thank you, I will make you guys proud by being a valuable representative of the US and learning as much as I can. See you guys in 10 months. Make sure to follow my adventures here on my blog!

Goodbye, Pennsylvania. Goodbye, USA, Hallo, Deutschland.