Thank you Virginia Beach

Is it a goodbye or a see you soon?

We will always stay under the same moon

And while we’re apart,

This year will stay in my heart. – Antonia Lienhard, 4/11/2017

One week ago, I entered the airplane that made me leave the United States, my home for one year. Ten Months passed by extremely quickly but at the same time I feel like I have been living in Virginia Beach forever. Leaving is always hard, especially if you meet the amazing people that I can call my friends now.

Thank you, Virginia Beach. For an amazing year at the other side of the world. A second home, that I know I can always go back to and find people that will always have a special place in my heart.

Thank you, to those who always supported me. That wanted me to live the full American culture, with every restaurant, sports event, school activity or song choice. That are all part of the memories, which I could take home in the form of pictures and souvenirs.

This year maybe wasn’t always the easiest, sometimes I struggled, maybe I missed home, maybe I missed moments, people or places. But I know that it was the best experience you could possibly make. I know that I learnt a lot, of course I can say that I am pretty fluent in English now, but I also realized that sometimes you just have to make the best out of a situation. Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone and go for it, don’t hesitate if it’s the right decision, because I only had this one year to make it as great as possible, and if you don’t take the chance you lose it.

So again, thank you America and especially the Americans, for treating me well. I don’t know how my life would be without any of you and I am glad that I had the chance of getting to know you and your culture. Virginia Beach could never be my second home, without you guys there, but you gave the places a story.

I hope I can see you soon, if it is in Europe, America or anywhere on the world. Because life is not complete anymore without a little American sparkle in it.

The Last Days

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

10 months are coming to an end. In one week I will already be home again and start my life in Switzerland. This year has been so fast and at the same time I saw so many things. I went all over the East Coast and even had the chance to travel to Hawaii. But most importantly I met people that I can call my friends now and learnt about a different culture.

Saying bye is the worst. And that’s what I have to constantly think about now. “Is this the last time I will see them?” I already had to say goodbye to some of the first friends and to be honest, it sucks. You’re wondering if this is even the last time you will ever see them. Of course, I would like to travel back to the US one day, but you won’t see each and every one again. I tell people to visit me in Europe, but unfortunately there’s a whole ocean in between.

The only way I can describe the feeling is a total mixture between excitement to finally come home and sadness because you leave everything you called home this past year. Of course I don’t want to leave, of course I don’t want to say bye to the people I started to love this year and that also made it as great as it was. But if I am honest I am also extremely excited to go home again, to finally see everyone again and live the life I am used to.

The countdown is going down and the last week will be done in a minute. This leads to stressing about packing and last things I want to do. Now I just hope all the packing goes well and I have the time I need to do everything.

Stuck in the Airport

16 hours inside Charlotte Airport, North Carolina

Impatiently waiting for the airplane to get faster, until the point where we will take off. But this moment is not going to happen in the next hour. The pilot sends out a message: we are over one hour behind because of a storm over the East Coast. Well, that day we didn’t make it on our second flight from North Carolina to Norfolk. The planned way home from Orlando to Norfolk took us in the end 13 hours longer than expected.

We were stuck. In an airport. Over night. What an adventure, is what I would answer. If something goes wrong you should make the best out of it. And that’s what me and my hostsister did: dancing Zumba in front of a Mexican restaurant, going up and down the escalator, drink some coke, drink coffee, more coke… caffeine kept us awake. After stocking up on snacks that the airplane gave out to the guests that stayed overnight we wanted to talk to people. A lot of other passengers had to stay there so we thought we use this chance for Storytime.

We talked to two fishermen from North Carolina, that showed us pictures from all their trips all around the different waters in America. We told them about our exchange year, about where we went, where we want to go and where we are from. One of them was a little older and he told us about stories of his trips in Europe and how much he liked it.

1 a.m., we met a pilot. He joined our conversation with the others. We kept on asking him questions about flying and how he deals with the responsibility of it. He told us how everyone blames the airplane cancelations on him, even though it’s because of storms or technical difficulties. It only took him one year to become a pilot, and wouldn’t it be with all the responsibilty behind it I would definitely consider this job.

No matter what time it was, we were awake and we were never alone. Someone is always working, cleaning, building or preparing.

This was the perfect ending of my trip to Orlando. It showed me that sometimes things don’t work like you planned them, but it can be the challenge you were waiting for. After those 16 hours without sleep and inside the Charlotte Airport, the only thing I wanted to do was to finally leave it. But I will never regret not going inside a hotel, because once in life you just have to sleep in an airport.

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the bed for the night

A Night To Remember

It’s just all of us together and this one perfect moment.

The reason why people choose America as their exchange destination, the sparkling event that you admire: PROM (or in my case Junior Prom which is called Ringdance)

Everyone has their own expectations, some of the most popular movies give us a little taste of holy prom: from Footloose to High School Musical, Back to the Future or Twilight, Grease and Mean Girls. As you see there’s a big chickflix pattern on the list and maybe more girls look forward to show of makeup, hair and princess-like dresses.

But in the end if you buy your ticket it’s something you look forward to, no matter if you have a date or a good group of friends.

My day actually started the night before. To try curling and braiding versions we all slept over at a friends house and we ended up playing games and talking into the night. The next morning started early, because the time is gone faster than you think and after hair, makeup and dressing was finished, we already had to go for pictures. Before taking pictures me and another girl already lost lashes, which ended in a dramatic saving of the neighbor and fortunately we still had enough time to take the pictures, because if you don’t have pictures it didn’t happen (a wise saying of the Americans).

Dinner at the oceanfront and suddenly we were walking the steps into the Aquarium, a great place to have prom, because who doesn’t like to dance almost next to fish and stingrays? And there we were, in a room filled of everyone you see in school but at the same time we all looked so different. The popular crocs are now high heels or polished shoes, jeans and tshirt are switched with a suit or a long dress, everyone is shining (also with sweat because believe me, if you danced you were sweaty, there was no going back). Everyone looked great and everyone also knew they looked great, which left a nice confidence in everyone’s eyes. The songs were the most popular ones at the moment or some all-time favorites of America (like Kiss Me Thru the Phone, if you plan on singing at those dances this one is for sure there) and one where they sing the dancing steps you need to do. The high heels were outside from the first step into the Aquarium, so don’t buy expensive shoes you won’t need them. Of course you also have a king and queen (at Junior Prom it is prince and princess), that gets their title in the middle of the dance, followed by a slow dance.

Don’t go with high expectations, just enjoy the time and dance as if nobody looks at you, everyone will just feel the moment and not think about how others dance. Movies either show the picture perfect night or a horrible night. In real life it probably isn’t the best night of your life, but if you feel good, you will look good and you will dance good. The whole day was a blast, it’s not only prom itself, it’s everything around it that makes it a night to remember.

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Ringdance 2018
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Ringdance 2018

Exploring Hawaii

It all started with a sunrise in Norfolk, flying over cities, deserts and the endless ocean. Like a little child on Christmas, looking through the airplane window. And as I saw the first parts of Hawaii I wanted to scream and tell everyone to look. Excitement fills me and I can’t believe my eyes, I made it to a place I would normally only dream of. Can this be reality? (thoughts on the fight)

For one week I stayed in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and met a ton of new people, that are all in their exchange year in America. Hawaii is incredible and because I haven’t been to a tropical place before, I was gazing at everything when I first walked down Waikiki Beach and enjoyed the sunset. Next to making a lot of new friends, I had the chance to see one of my best friends from Switzerland after half a year, which meant there was a million things to talk about and believe me the moment when you speak your native language again is wonderful and you don’t want to stop.

The first proper day we went around the island of Oahu and made small stops all over the place. We started at the Iolani Palace, which is the only palace in America. Then we continued to visit the Dole Pineapple plantations, where they have the best ice cream I tasted before, that literally melts in your mouth. After drinking out of coconuts and eating on Turtle Bay Beach, tanning in the sun and taking pictures underneath palm trees, we visited the Northshore Beaches. The Northshore Beaches are extremely famous for all the surfers, that try to catch the high waves. In the moment of seeing the magic of riding on the water, I was sure that I need to learn this sport.

The next day started in the early morning and we visited the monument of Pearl Harbor. This visit was silent, as we were walking through the remaining ships of 1941. Before going on the old ship of the USS Arizona we watched a documentary, explaining carefully the whole tragedy. The monument was kept really light and as you had a look over the wrecks you saw colorful fish swimming through the clear water. The most surprising thing was though the remaining oil stains in the water, shimmering and floating the same way as right after the attack.

This blogpost only covers the first two days of my Hawaiian adventure and I hope you will have a look on all the following posts documenting this week.

 

 

Life as an Exchange Student pt.2

THE GOOD SIDE

Hi everyone!

Much later than expected I finally took the time to write down all the good things and amazing opportunities you get as an exchange student, because my last blogpost pointed out all the hard things that come with this adventure it’s now time for some positivity.

The most obvious point is of course living a completely different life on the other side of the world. I live in a different house, and even though I left my family in Switzerland and nothing could ever replace them, I can live with the sister I never had before. Of course, me and my hostsister annoy each other occasionally, but after living together for 5 months we never had a real fight, and I am pretty sure we will never do, because I am too thankful for having her by my side. With her I found a sister for a lifetime.

With a new life in my age, High School and friends are of course in the middle of everything. I like my school in Switzerland a lot and it was always easy for me because I never moved before, so even after changing school last year, I saw a lot of familiar face. So believe me, the first time seeing people in the hallways of Landstown, that I knew and that said a simple “hi”, was a great moment. In general, I was lucky to meet tons of open and loving people that I can call my friends now. Those people make this experience great and I wish I could bring all of them with me to Switzerland.

For all the Americans reading this, I was so excited to come because I heard so much about America. All the stereotypical High School things like Cheerleaders and Footballplayers, being really excited to go to Target for the first time, to take the yellow school bus (not as great as I thought it will be) or driving in someone’s car that is not your parents.

About a week ago I started dreaming in English, a moment that was so overwhelming and unbelievable. English is of course not the hardest language existing, but to make this step, to think in English even in your sleep made me really happy.

Being an exchange student means getting to know a new culture and telling everyone about yours, it means seeing a new part of the world, but not as a tourist and still having a little bit of a tourist feeling for a year. Being an exchange student means making unforgettable memories and friends and it means having something new every day. To make it short, being an exchange student means that you will always have a part of you in another place of the world, where you can always go back to and find one completely different year of yours.

On Friday I will take my way to Hawaii, meeting one of my best friends from Switzerland and again living the most amazing life as an exchange student. So stay tuned for me showing you beautiful Oahu soon.

xx

Life as an Exchange Student pt.1

The Bad Side

“You build a life in 16 years and leave it for ten months, and then you build a life in ten months and leave it forever.”

Hi everyone!

So as you all know, I am not in Switzerland anymore. I am living in Virginia Beach as an exchange student, which means I will go to High School here for one year and then return home again.

A lot of people never really get how it is to be an exchange student, to live this whole new life, and leaving everything you’re used to far away.

This whole experience isn’t always as much fun as it seems. First of all, I always have the thought that this is my only chance to make my exchange year as amazing as possible. Every little trip or event is the first and last time that I will able to do this and even if a year sounds extremely long, time is constantly going and I already passed halftime.

The next thing is of course missing home. I wouldn’t say that I am homesick a lot, I really have fun. But every now and then I wish I was in my room, in my house, knowing my family is downstairs waiting for me with breakfast and that I could just text my friends at what time we are meeting. You don’t have the same support of your family or your friends because they are not physically next to you, so every bad day that you get is even worse. And of course, I don’t only miss the people, I miss the whole life I am used to. I miss biking to school, I miss my village and my city, I miss the food freshly cooked from my mom and every little tradition I took for granted. Oh and yes, I miss Switzerland.

I grew up with speaking Swiss German and started learning English in Grade 3, this is not my native language and although I think I can fluently speak and keep up a conversation, there are some difficulties. For example, there are some things that I just can’t say the way I want to or people won’t get the right thing, that I actually meant. And no matter how hard I would love to, I always have an accent and it makes me insecure to talk in front a lot of people or I just don’t have the same confidence. Somedays I just can’t speak English, the pronunciation won’t work, the words don’t come in my head and the grammar is horrible, but still I just have to.

Now you might think I hate my exchange year, or that I won’t stop complaining. This is for sure not the case, I love being here and living this experience and tomorrow you’ll find another blogpost about all the amazing things I get to do. But I feel like people only get to see the bright side of an exchange, which is sadly not the whole truth.

Cold Trip into Warm Colors

Cold days, saved by a fire, a blanket and endless hot chocolate. Doesn’t that sound like a dream?

Escaping the school and boring daily life, we went to a trip in the north-western part of Virginia, directly into the woods (near Charlottesville, VA).

No service, nothing around us, except millions of trees in the in the warmest colors.

I totally fell in love with our wooden cabin, where we stayed for the weekend with some friends of our hostfamily, which also had two exchange students from Germany.

What especially stole my heart was the conservatory, which led directly into the balcony, where you’re standing in a sea of trees and only listen to the different sounds of life in the forest. It was amazing and I couldn’t have been more thankful to be there. The atmosphere out there left me speechless and me and my hostsister couldn’t believe that we were staying here for the next two days. And what we often say it was “totally american…”.

To experience the beautiful landscape around us we hiked Saturday and Sunday. Personally, I preferred our second hike, where we went to the Humpback Rocks. After only one mile of walking up we found ourselves in front of a stunning view over the colorful tree’s of Virginia.

I have never seen a view like this and can fully recommend a visit up there, and we chose the exact right time for it. The cold and fresh air is perfect to walk but also made us look forward to snuggle up in front of our fireplace back in the cabin. And how should we take a camping trip without S’mores?

S’mores, a sweet dream to eat:

S’mores are the easiest classic camping snack, made out of two crackers, chocolate and a marshmallow.

To do S’mores you just have to…

  • prepare a marshamallow over the fire
  • put it on a cracker with a little piece of chocolate
  • and put second cracker on top of everything
  • done!

on our first hike

 

A weekend in Washington DC

In the heart of America.

Thanks to my hostfamily I had the chance to visit another big city of the US and experience the lovely atmosphere of Washington DC. The city is around 3 hours away of my house and after this little roadtrip we started the sightseeing.

So to give you a little overview, there is the so called mall in Washington, now you might think of a shopping mall, but actually it is an area next to a park. In this area there are so many museums and they are all so different, there’s an art museum, a natural history one, the museum of American history and so on. On one end there is the immense Washington Monument, which is in the form of a white obelisk, at the other end there is the Capitol, which is a huge white house but it’s not the White House, it’s where the laws get discussed and built.

And now the actual White House. When we went to see the home of the president, I was a little bit disappointed. We found it because there was a big group of people in front of a barrier, trying to get the best selfie with a house, far away. After giving our best to take a photo, we got kicked out of our spot. A crazy experience as the police sends everyone away and we spot several snipers on a building next to this area looking out for danger. Apparently, the president or another important person, was flying in with his helicopter, because of that everyone had to leave.

I really wanted to go inside the White House, but that’s only possible if you ask your embassy 2-3 months before the visit, so we were too late. And from the outside it’s not that special, I definitey preferred the Capitol. And can we take a moment to realize that “casablanca” sounds so much better than “the White House”, so thanks to my spanish hostsister for introducing me into some spansish vocabulary.

We visited also three museums, which two of them are in the mall area and one of them was a little bit outside, but definitely recommended!

And that was the Holocaust Museum, it’s very dark and cold but it documents the whole tragedy of world war II and it made me want to read a lot more about the victims in this time, and finishing the diary of Anne Frank. The other to museums were first the Museum of American History, which I didn’t like too much, and it was kind of dry, and second the National Museum of the American Indian, which I liked more and I thought we should visit it, because it’s a big part of America’s culture and I don’t know a lot about it.

Washington is full of parks and memorials, and I totally fell in love with the park around the Lincoln Memorial. There is a big reflection pool, acting as a mirror for the Washington Monument and a wonderful park around it.

Because we only were there for one weekend, we couldn’t take a lot of time to just be in the city and enjoy an afternoon in the park, which to be honest is my favorite thing to do. Just sitting in maybe a coffeeshop or on a bench, writing some cards and taking your time.

 

My Exchange Year Bucketlist

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

Hi everyone!

Time flies by and now I’m already one month in America. I love it here and the people are very kind. To make this exchange year unforgettable and to create the most amazing memories, I decided to write my Bucketlist for the next nine months and of course to share it with you!

For those who don’t know what a “bucketlist” is, it’s actually only a list with experiences or achievements you want to do before you die. A lot of people do one for their whole life, I think it makes more sense to write one for every year. Because the things I want to do now, I probably don’t want to do them when I’m older and I have no idea in what kind of situation I will be then. Still there’s a nice idea behind it, especially if you create the list in your teenage years, because when you grow up you’ll see the dreams you had and you can realize experiences you might already forgot.

I decided to write a bucketlist for my exchange year, to make sure that it will be as amazing as I imagine it, and I am so sure it will be. Before you think “this is just another boring list, from an unrealistic dreamer”, no it’s not. Some of those things are already fully planned, the others are in planned in my head (and call me optimistic, but I think I can complete the list).

I am so thankful and happy to live this experience and to create a year full of memories, polaroids and new friendships.

So after this little introduction here’s my bucketlist and with this you may get some ideas what you want to do and you see what will follow on this blog.

Bucketlist

  1. Visit Washington D.C.
  2. Bonfire at the beach
  3. Surfing
  4. Parasailing with my sister from Spain
  5. Picnic in the parc
  6. Homecoming
  7. Ringdance
  8. Baseballgame
  9. Hiking
  10. Walk at the beach in Christmas time
  11. Be part of the school’s musical
  12. Celebrate Halloween
  13. Celebrate Thanksgiving
  14. Go crazy on Black Friday
  15. Find a small beach
  16. Sunset and sunrise at the beach
  17. Driving without a roof and good music
  18. Doing a big BBQ
  19. Going swimming in a lake
  20. Having the time of my life

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost and here are some pictures of the last weeks.