High School: Erfahrungsberichte & Forum
How do you start writing about a year so full of experiences so wonderful and amazing that even you yourself can not grab a single thought of where to begin or what to say. I think that for me it’s best to start with telling you how much I appreciated everything the GLS team and everyone else did for me. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have experienced a year in Canada, the best year of my life. Thank you soooo much for that. Everybody has put forth so much effort in making everything perfect for me and I think writing to all of you, who are still about to go somewhere or maybe only considering it, and telling you about my stay in Beautiful British Columbia is the least I can do to show my great appreciation.
On September 3rd 2004 my parents brought me to the Berlin airport, where we met up with another GLS student, who- just like me-was about to leave home for a long time. We stood there waiting… waiting for a plane that was going to take us away from home, away from our friends and everything that we had known up until then. There is no way to describe the feelings you have in that situation, when the day of your departure has finally come. I would say I have never been so scared in my entire life and have never been so excited and anxious about a single thing before. Altogether I was dangerously calm, like the eye of a tornado. I did not realize that I was going to leave everything I knew behind, simply because I did not know what it meant then. My fellow GLS student, Christian, felt the exact same way and together we spent our last few minutes on German grounds. Saying goodbye to my parents was alright, really more weird than sad, but for my Mom it must have been horrible.:) Until this very day, I am extremely proud that she actually let me go instead of throwing herself on top of me to prevent me from going away for 10 months…(just kidding hahaha) Finally, Christian and I were on the plane to Frankfurt, where we met three other GLS students, who were going to the same destination, too.
We arrived at the Victoria International Airport on Vancouver Island after what seemed like a million years later. It was about 10 o’clock at night and already there were host families there, patiently waiting for their exchange student to arrive. Most of my new German friends left right away, but a few of us had to wait a little longer. In fact I was the one, who had to wait the longest. It was about 10.30 at night as I waited in the abandoned arrival hall and I think I had never felt so lonely before. I called my Mom at home and told her that we landed safely. While I was talking to her on the phone three kids came running into the hall dragging their Mom after them. My host family! We hugged and kept staring at each other, then drove to my new home in my new family car and everybody kept asking me questions and I tried to answer them as well as I could, after just having traveled for over 26 hours. That night I moved into my new room and because I couldn’t sleep, I started to unpack all of my suitcases. It was definitely the weirdest day of my life!
The next morning I didn’t have much time to get to know my new home, because we left for a trip to Mount Washington right away. Mount Washington is a little summer and winter sport resort village, where my host family has a condominium. So after a 3-hour drive with beautiful view of the ocean, my new family took me mountain biking. It was a fun experience, but I was still pretty tired from all the traveling, so until today the scar that I got when I fell with my bike hasn’t faded away. It will always remind me of my first day in Canada. J While we were up at the condo I really got to know my host family a lot better and it was obvious that we were going to have a lot of fun together. That weekend I also got to know my host grandma, who lives in Victoria with a gorgeous ocean view and her own little part of a beach. It was like a wonderful dream.
A couple of days later the first day of school arrived and nervously I took a step into another little adventure. For the first time in my life I saw a real yellow school bus and I just had to start laughing, because it reminded me so much of the Hollywood Teen High School movies. When I got to the school I was really anxious about what was going to happen next, but right away I met a nice girl who asked me if I needed help and then she showed me the way to my new counselor. Mrs. Mais, a wonderful counselor at Parkland Secondary School, set up a schedule for me and after she showed me and a couple of other exchange students our way around the school. My schedule was as follows: Block A – Biology 12, Block B- Seniors Foods Class, Block C- Math 12 and Block D- Spanish 9.
The next few weeks went by really slowly. School was interesting and different from what I was used to, but sometimes it was really difficult to understand and in that period of time I was basically constantly over-tired. Being in the completely new environment, with all the new impressions I got every day, hearing and speaking English all day long and having to concentrate all the time… let’s just say it was exhausting! My other exchange student friends had the same kind of “symptoms” and we all shared our ups and occasional downs together. Even though I had already met many nice Canadian students that I had gone to Victoria with and had a sleepover with, I still really missed my home and all my friends in Germany. I would say the first month was the hardest. The nights were especially brutal, because I was totally exhausted from a long day and then I started missing everybody and everything from home soo much. I was happy to be in Canada, but I also had my boyfriend back in Germany. To be honest I just missed seeing someone who I had known for longer than 2 or 3 weeks. The first month passed eventually and everything started to normalize for me as I fell into the daily routine of things.
By the end of October I had made good friends with Brandon, a sweet Canadian boy my age. With him and a couple of other good friends I celebrated Halloween. I had also met gorgeous Caroline, a Canadian girl who was in grade 12. With her and Christian I had my first Halloween pumpkin carving party. J Carving pumpkins is a lot of fun and I am definitely going to carve my own pumpkin this year too! In my foods class we even had a carving contest and Jenn (one of my friends from foods class) and I made a skull, but we didn’t win. ;)
On Thanksgiving my host family and I had a big turkey dinner and in November we left for a trip to Tofino, a beautiful little town up north on Vancouver Island. We stayed in a little wooden cottage, which was surrounded by the old trees of the rain forest and we even had a little hot tub to ourselves. We spent the days walking on the gorgeous beaches, watching the tides come in and go out again and we got really wet log jumping at Long Beach too!J
After our trip to Tofino everybody really focused on school and things around the house. By the end of November my good friend Sascha and I decided to see each other. Sascha and I had been in the same class in Germany for many years and we even spent our exchange student years in the same country. With his organization he could not chose where to go, so they had sent him to Maple Rich, a little town about 2.5 hours away from Vancouver by public transport. We met in Vancouver and since it was the beginning of the Christmas season, lights were shining EVERYWHERE and even though it rained the entire time, the lights made the city look very romantic.
As Christmas Day was coming closer, I got two huge packages from my parents at home. They had sent all kinds of Christmas chocolates and cookies and of course all the Xmas presents for the whole family. The kids were so excited when I told them about “St. Nikolaus Day’ and all three of them polished their boots and neatly set them up in font of the door! J My little host sister Keira often made ginger bread cookies and once we made a giant maple leaf cookie together and put red and white icing on top of it. It looked really nice! A week before Christmas I was kind of sad for a day or two, but that quickly passed. There were so many things going on everywhere. There was simply no time for being homesick! Unfortunately, two days before Xmas my boyfriend from Germany told me that he had been cheating on me for a while. I broke up with him one day after Christmas after calling my mom and best friend at home. I have to say, that even with being sooo far away from home and from all the traditions that I was used to and with just having gone through a stupid break-up, I still had an amazing Christmas with a lot of fun. My entire host family met up at Nan’s place (the house of my host grandma) and so we were 6 adults and 8 kids, which was quite the experience. J For the first time I met my host cousins and my host aunt and uncle and they are really sweet people. After they overcame their first shyness, the little ones and I got along very well and we all played fun games together. On Christmas Morning they all came running down the stairs to wake me up and then we got to look into our stockings. My host grandma had got the most beautiful silk stocking for me and it was filled with so many nice things. I was surprised when I noticed that children in Canada get presents not only from Santa, but from their parents, too, but I was happy to hear that most of them still believed in the old man with the long white beard.
After Christmas my host family and I went up to Mount Washington to go snowboarding even though there was only a tiny little bit of snow. For some reason the entire season stayed snow-free, which apparently is really unusual for that area. They all joked around that it was my fault when we couldn’t go snowboarding anymore after that. But we did get three days of snowboarding and it was great! Sunshine, Sunshine, Sunshine only! It was gorgeous and so we spent our New Year’s Eve cheering with water in the condo and after that we went right outside to do some midnight tobogganing. It was a quiet New Year, but a good one!
After the excitement of the holidays I got really sad again, because I was still kind of heart-broken, but Caroline and Brandon just kept looking out for me and each time they managed to cheer me up again. I have seldom met such loyal and loving people and they have become two of my dearest friends by now. Vicky, my best friend from Germany also had a big surprise for me. She decided to come out to see me in her winter break and so in the beginning of February she arrived at the airport and I could finally hold her in my arms again. She stayed with me at my host family’s house and they got along really well, even though she was a little scared the first couple of days. ! It was really sad when Vicky left, but we knew that we were going to see each other again in half a year and that things would not have changed between us. Around then I was also taking “Formal Ballroom Dance Classes” with some friends of mine. Justin, who was my partner and I always had a fun time dancing together and so did the others. Together we all had our little adventure each Monday night.
At the beginning of February I had to take my first two Provincial Exams and so I studied hard and experienced the real “graduation feeling”. I took my Provincials in Math and Biology and they went ok.
In the period between January and February I had also started volunteering for two elderly ladies, who I have come to love very much. Dr. Juanita Harris and her slightly handicapped sister Carol have a big house and so they regularly needed some help with the household or some organizational things. So every week I would be at their place, helping out a little bit and learning many fascinating things about life. They taught me many wonderful things and soon we became good friends and I could always go to them when I had problems or when I wasn’t feeling well. Juanita and Carol are the two most amazing women I have ever met in my life and if there were more people on this world, who were like them, then there would be unconditional love everywhere. I learnt to have huge respect for them and what they have accomplished in their lives and I can call myself very lucky to have them as my friends. Without them my stay in Canada would not have been quite the same and I will always hold our friendship in my heart.
On the 12th of February a couple of friends and I celebrated Caroline’s birthday at her house and I also went out with my current boyfriend on our first ‘date’. I had met Keith in my foods class and we usually only joked around and saw each other in class, but one night when Vicky and I waited at the bus stop, he was there too and we started talking. After that we talked more often and I noticed that I really liked him a lot. We decided to go watch a movie and we went to Caroline’s birthday party together. We got along so well that we decided to start going out and after only a short time we completely fell in love with each other. J Keith is a redheaded guy, who loves his country and never fails to tell everybody that he is Canadian, Irish, Welsh and Scottish., haha. He is a hilarious and adorable guy and always very kind and loving. Meeting him obviously made my stay perfect and it was he, who tried making me become a true Canadian…J Together we went camping on the little islands around Sidney and sometimes he would take me out for dinner and we always had a lot of fun together. He also got along really well with my host family. They loved him soo much and were always happy to have him over. After a while he would just come along when we went somewhere and it was completely normal to have him around, or me being at his place. Anne, my host Mom, thought very positively about our relationship and she was really happy for me. Just like I said, I am feeling extremely lucky to have had the best host family in the world!!!!
By the time it started to get warmer and sunnier out, I had pretty much forgot about my daily life in Germany and had completely integrated into the Canadian life style. My boyfriend had taught me so much slang and I was enjoying myself immensely just living my life as a ‘Canadian’ girl. My best friend Caroline often even forgot that I was from Germany. Sometimes when we would talk about something and I’d start comparing it with something that I knew from Germany, she would look at me all puzzled remarking that I indeed was coming from Germany and that she had completely forgot about that! ;)
On the phone with my Mom were the only times, where I would be reminded of my home in Magdeburg. While my family was all getting excited about me coming back soon, I was feeling more and more depressed about the same fact. I really really really did not want to leave at all.
If it had been for me, I would have stayed in Canada forever. I love the people there and their attitude towards life and everything that has to do with it. I love the friendliness there and I love how people smile at each other so much more than they do here in ‘Deutschland’. It was perfectly normal to just start talking to a complete stranger at the bus stop, so that you didn’t have to wait for the bus all by yourself. Or how natural it was for everybody to be really optimistic about a new project, instead of looking at all the faults and difficulties at first. What I found is that here people are very negative about things like that. They always see the bad parts of something first. Over there it’s the opposite way. When you are planning something new, then people will always be supportive and see all the wonderful opportunities you get with that new project at first. And then they will try to find a way to overcome the present difficulties. When you think this way nothing seems to be impossible and in my opinion you can reach so much more with a positive attitude.
No matter how badly I wanted to stay in Canada, the day when I had to pick up my parents from the airport in Victoria did come sooner than I had ever thought. They were coming to spend two weeks in B.C. with me and then take me home. It was really weird seeing them again, but also it was like I had never been away from them. Keith actually saw them first and so they got to know their new “Canadian son” right away. To my relief they get along superb and sometimes I still think my Mom loves him more than she loves me J
I showed them around in Victoria and the area where I lived and I had to say goodbye to so many people I loved. The goodbye dinner with my host family was really nice at first, but it ended up in an ocean of tears. We all couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t be with them anymore and since I had already moved into the B&B where my parents stayed, Anne and the kids kept telling me how empty the house felt without messy Henny in it. ;) I knew I was going to miss them soooo much and I would have given anything to take them home with me. Especially since I am an only child and I always loved the trouble around the house with us four “siblings”! Saying goodbye to Juanita and Carol was very hard, too. We always had such inspiring and interesting conversations and I loved them like I was their grand daughter and their best friend. But there was no way around saying goodbye and with today’s high tech communication systems, we knew we were going to stay in touch.
The hardest part was saying goodbye to my friends and Keith. After my parents and I were finished touring around B.C. we stayed one more night in Vancouver before the flight, and they all came to see me one last time. Caroline and Brandon and Rachel and Nick took a hotel suite together and Keith stayed with my parents and me in our hotel. So Keith and I got to spend one last night together and in the morning we all left for the airport, where we met up with the others and waited for the horrible moment when I had to leave.
There is no point in writing down how terrible it felt and I can tell you that there wouldn’t have been enough tissues in the entire airport to stop the tears we were crying. It tore my heart apart to leave them there and walk through that gate and I would have loved to run back, take Keith’s hand and run away with him forever. But I didn’t. Instead I went on the plane and I didn’t stop bawling until I fell asleep from exhaustion.
Back home everything was extremely strange. I felt like I really didn’t belong here anymore and I laid in my bed feeling like I was a stranger in a foreign place. Seeing my old friends was weird, too and until today I don’t get along with them as well as I did before I left for Canada. But I learnt to accept these things and now I found new people who I like a lot and who I hang out with. I talked to Keith almost every day during the summer break and we write emails back and forth. Now that we have to go to school again, we don’t get to talk to each other very often, but we still try to find a good time that is suitable for both of us on the weekends. A time difference of 9 hours and a distance of approximately 8000km aren’t really the best conditions for a healthy relationship you might point out. But you know, if you really found someone who you love and deeply care about, then even that is not impossible. In fact Keith is coming out to Germany on December the 19th and he is going to stay with me and my family for the Christmas holidays. I am very excited and already counting the days. In February I am planning to fly out to Canada again and see all the people who I love and miss so much. By now I have just realized how great it is to be so international and keep up friendships of all over the world. I hope I didn’t bore you with my little Canada ‘novel’ and wherever you might go someday; Always remember: When you are open to new things and tolerant of other cultures then you will conquer the world and people’s hearts. So KEEP SMILING and Good Luck!
Henny (Henrike Schuster)