Updated: Jul 21
Hey, you! 🇩🇪
A few weeks ago, I talked all about our Foreign Exchange Program experience (click here for the post) but that was only half of it.
Now's the time to talk about my daughter's experience.
Up until the last minute of this trip, we had to deal with bad luck and stress. Thanks (or no thanks!) to the ongoing protests and strikes, our daughter's train to Germany from France was cancelled so in fact they had to be driven to a German city (by the border of France) and from there, they took a train to their final destination in Germany.
Thankfully, the organisers and parents were quite reactive. This, by the way, also happened on the way back home. Stress much? Oh yeah.
Before leaving, I made sure that our daughter, S, had a small bag full of snacks (candies, cookies, biscuits, etc ...) in her luggage. Call me crazy, but I had a feeling she would need it. I also made sure to get nice things for her host family as gifts. French things like local food specialties and body care products. They absolutely loved it!
The morning that she left was absolute hell. After working out the transportation changes, the meeting place was moved from the train station to the school. S usually walks to school, so that was the plan with the Husband. Except that ... it started snowing a lot just as they were about to leave.
We were afraid of slippery sidewalks, so we called a taxi. But, for the love of all that is good in this world, I do not know why he didn't give me a call (which they usually do) when he arrived at our home. Instead, he came and then left after waiting a minute or two. So we had to call another one. Thankfully, the second taxi came pretty quickly and I was keeping a close watch by the window because I was afraid he would leave too! But while waiting, S suddenly needed help - her phone was not working! Something was up with the network. I panicked because I needed to be able to contact her during her week in Germany. But the taxi was there and I didn't want him to leave, so I rushed them out of the house and in the taxi. When they were on the way to school, I called my husband's phone to tell S to exchange phones with her dad so I could contact her, but she didn't have the charger. Aaaaaahhhh I want so stressed. To top it all off, Bogart the Pug was completely devastated so he was howling and crying. There were literally tears in his eyes. So here I was pacing around our home cradling Bogart the Pug in my arms, consoling him, while holding the phone in another talking to S and trying to find a solution to her phone problem. It was only 8am , but if there was any time to have a strong drink, this was it!
But that wasn't all. The Husband actually had a meeting after dropping S at school, but of course things didn't go exactly the way they should have. Of course! LOL After dropping S, he went to the bus stop and he was soaked because of course, he wasn't wearing a raincoat with a hoodie and had no umbrella. I told him to just take a taxi to his meeting place but nooooooo he didn't want to. One of my close friend actually bumped into him at the bus stop and she sent me a message saying that he looked miserable and stressed. Awwww. Anyways, he waited for his bus for like 30 minutes and this is a bus that only comes once an hour, so he could not miss it! But guess what? The bus didn't stop to pick him up!!! The driver saw him, but he didn't stop! I have no words. Well no nice words that is. In the end, after all that waiting, he took a taxi and was 5 minutes late. Thankfully, everything went really well for him. But man were we exhausted and it wasn't even mid-day yet! LOL
Our daughter's overall experience in Germany was good. She learned that most schools in Germany end at around 1pm every day, then several times a week students have an extra curricular activity which is usually sports after school. I believe that her host family's daughter had dance lessons which S was able to join. S really enjoyed this because in fact, she ends her school days at around 5pm and most days she's exhausted.
The biggest cultural shock S had was the fact that they don't eat lunch. This is fine, but we weren't told about this. So when the host family offered to make a sandwich and a banana for S on her first school day there, she declined the offer, unaware that this was to be eaten as a lunch substitute in the middle of the morning. So come lunch time, she was really really hungry.
We thought that this was only on school days, but same thing happened during the weekend. This is why I was so happy that I had packed her some food in her suitcase in case of emergency. Needless to say, there wasn't much left when she came back home. Haha.
I don't want to come off as ignorant and arrogant because that is totally fine. This is the whole point of this experience. To learn other cultures. I expect to adapt to the country I'm going to and not vice versa. I just wished we were told especially about the lunch thing, so we could anticipate.
For example, a friend of my daughter's ended up drinking lemonade and only lemonade for a week because that is the only thing his host family drank. Boy am I lucky that S wasn't with that host family. She's a big water drinker - not really a fan of juice, syrups, iced teas, lemonade, and soda. She would have been miserable with them.
But instead, S had the time of her life. Don't you worry about her lol No lunch, but man did she eat well for dinner! Burgers, twice Pizza, Cheese Fondue, Kebab, Sausage, Pasta - what any adolescent dreams are made of. Where were the veggies? I don't know! She was happy not to eat rice everyday contrary to here at home, but this was pure heaven. Hahaha
The host family was adorable - the mom even apologised for what happened here. Click here for the post. I thought that this was really thoughtful of her.
So this is it. This was our first foreign exchange program. I think we were very lucky and I'm so happy that our daughter was able to experience something like this. Regarding the cost? I paid around 80 Euros. I thought it would cost more but because of the cancelled trains perhaps the organisers were able to get reimbursement for that.
I can't think of anything else to add. Any questions, maybe?