On the 5th of September 2016 I was heading off to Ireland to stay there for one year and start over in a new country, taking responsibility for myself.
Now 9 months later, I’m sitting in the airplane again, heading back to Germany and it’s incredibly amazing how much can happen in one year; how much more mature you get, how you change and get influenced by a new culture, how much you can improve your language skills just by speaking it every day, how you learn to take responsibility for yourself and finally how close you get with completely new people and gather so many memories.
Arrival in Ireland
I came to Ireland with a lot of stereotypes: In Ireland everyone is ginger, drinks a lot of Guinness and believes in a gold-pot at the end of the rainbow.
But let me tell you, with every single day I learned something new, I improved and also don’t believe at all anymore in any of the stereotypes I told you I believed in before.
Fairly quick I settled in in a new home, a new school and a new country.
I was placed in 5th year and the first days were terrifying, I didn’t recognize any words in Math or Biology, I mean why would you study vocabulary like “standard deviation” in German English-classes? Even the way they are writing was completely different and I don’t actually realized the day when I really got used to it; I suppose it’s all about time and improvement everyday and now in the end of my year, I’m proud to look back and say that I studied Shakespear in an foreign language.
Over the year I actually learned to enjoy school and definitely that it’s so much more than just studying. Your school and your year is a community, having “the crack” with your friends every day.
Take responsibility for yourself
Another part of my year was definitely to take responsibility for yourself, organize things for yourself that you wouldn’t have to do in your home country. It starts with small things like doing your own washing, cleaning your room or cooking dinner for yourself. It even goes all the way up to asking people for help or making important phone calls and finally to achieve what you want, to work for what you really want to do like trips and staying somewhere else over night.
Every time I took a bus to somewhere, even if it was just to Dundalk or Drogheda (which was just half an hour away from Ardee, where I was staying) I felt like doing something really special since I had to organize myself for bus times and everything else, which isn’t that easy in Ireland.
I did also trips to Dublin, Belfast and Galway and it was brilliant every time. I explored the country and saw beautiful places and I couldn’t be happier being able to say that I organized it by myself and planned out days for sightseeing and attractions.
Back in September I wouldn’t have imagined actually wanting to go to famous buildings and take pictures as tourists do and just wanting to educate myself about places.
I became someone new
I suppose that’s another important point about your exchange year; the way you change and find yourself again and completely new. You become braver in case of just talking to strangers or not being ashamed to ask for advice if you don’t know what to do or where to go anymore.
Back in September I wouldn’t have imagined to actually become someone new.
Back then I was someone who cares a lot about school marks and loves to play volleyball and needs to be around people.
Now I love painting, although I really wasn’t good in the German Art classes, but since I was in Ireland my Art teacher always told me how much she likes my paintings. I love to speak English more than German and told myself I’ll never be ashamed to talk in English classes again. I now want to be even more a Journalist and follow my dream to Travel as much as I can.
I learned how to take responsibility for myself, how to not care what other people think about you. I learned how important it is to follow your dreams and do what YOU want to do and I learned how to survive without your closest people around you. I fought my fears and find out that it actually isn’t scary at all to be on your own and that there is always a way. I learned how amazing it can feel to take chances and be brave enough to talk to people or just stand up for yourself and what you believe in; to love yourself.
The people I got to know
I would say the most important part of my exchange year was definitely the people I got to know and how important they became to me in such a small amount of time.
You learn to see the small things in life and how big they actually can be. For example meeting up with friends, which I wouldn’t have considered as something really special back in Germany, but now I know how special it actually can be since I was so excited everyday that I got the opportunity to do something with Irish people and learned to see the meaning of small things.
The last few days I actually realized how much I’m going to miss people that I wouldn’t have imagined to miss and I’m going to miss them a lot. I’m going to miss that community I was talking about earlier at my school, I’m going to miss my host family even though I thought I’d get even closer to them as I did, but the most of all I will miss the friends that I got to know in just one year, but now I am as close to them as if it was a lifetime!
They are all so individual and I love them all so much, how they integrated me in their life and now let me go, but will never forget me, as they say and I feel the same: I will never forget these people and the memories we share, not for a lifetime.
Exchange is exactly about that. It’s about finding yourself and reinventing yourself. It’s something really special and the best thing I can imagine to do, if you love to travel, like I do. It helps you achieving your aims and also to process the past and already think about the future and new dreams.
It’s a special status and every day is something new, another enrichment.
I’m sad to leave but I’m looking back at this year and I never was so proud about what I can achieve by myself.
My exchange year: a year full of experiences, motivation, creativity, seeing yourself and of course about the people.
At the beginning of the year I couldn’t have imagined to actually be homesick after a second home, but now I can say that I am.
Ireland and the people became another home to me, a place where I’m loved and also love others and miss them like mad.
They all caused a small evolution in me and I couldn’t be any more thankful to be who I am now, always carrying that beautiful memory of my Irish experience and friends in my heart forever.