Stepping away from your parents at a young age is something that most children would be leery about. However, Nicole Schäfer at the age of 15 hopped on a plane and said “see you later” to her parents and family for 10 months. Looking back, three years later Nicole recounts her adventures as an exchange student.
“I remember not being able to sleep that whole night. The feeling was a mix between being upset and extreme excitement. Saying goodbye to my family at the airport, I was filled so many different emotions that I couldn’t stop talking. I was so nervous I was crying but ready to take the first step in my new adventure,” remembers Nicole with a quiver in her voice.
Recalling the memories brought up old and new emotions. The look on her face told a story. Digging up those old emotions at the beginning of a grand new adventure and the new emotions of remembering and wishing she could go back.
What leads a person to pack up and leave the life they know behind? For Nicole, it has always been apart of her life. Her father, at the age of 17 set off on his very own adventure. He quickly realized the lessons learned and new outlook on life was something he wanted to pass down to his two daughters.
Jorge Schäfer states what he wanted for his girls, “I wanted my daughters to experience a new culture by becoming apart of that culture, then compare and see Germany through different eyes. To have a different view on different aspects on life, like politics. To see that different is not always bad, to be more accepting of different ways of life and thinking. Also to form their own opinion’s on what they think is better.”
Ultimately the decision was up to Nicole, there was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to experience what her dad had preached her whole life on her own and her older sister experienced the year before. She started her journey, with a ten-month application process.
“The moment I found out I was accepted, it hit me exactly what I was about to do.” The nerves and excitement swirled through her mind. “It was hard for me to realize that it would be a year before I’d get to see her again,” Nicole’s mother, Renata Schäfer says.
Nicole had seen what the movie portrayed the American school system as. How the lunchroom was set up with each different clique at there own table, homecoming and football games. Nicole wanted to play her own role in that diverse system.
Although nervous no one would want to be friends with the weird German girl that couldn’t speak English well, Nicole jumped into the American school system. To this day she remembers wanting to fly back to Germany the night after her first day of school. Moving schools is hard enough let alone a new school in a different country.
“I felt stupid, I didn’t understand the school system. The day was set up way different and I hated being the “new kid”. By far my worst memory,” explained Nicole.
Things started to look up the second day and continued upward until the day she left. Nicole went through the rest of the school year with a close knit group of friends and kept busy with many different activities.
“It (school) was just like the movies, I love my school, there in America. I had a feeling that no matter what would happen, we were all in this together, including the facility,” says Nicole.
Quickly the last semester was coming to a close. Nicole reminisces about her finals days at school, “My golf coach was the first person to say goodbye to me, and that’s when I realized everything was coming to an end. I can still hear her say that one word.”
The feelings while getting on to the plane to leave America mirror the feeling when she left Germany. “My host family was my second family. It was hard to understand that I would never live there again,” she said while tearing up. “It was hard to realize that.”
Categories : Uncategorized