EF High School Year – Sweet Home Alabama 2009/10
By: Lisa Bullerjahn
Have you ever had the dream to go abroad and experience the Way of the American Dream? It sounds c
razy for some people. Especially people in Alabama asked me: How can you do that and how come that you wanted to do it. That’s crazy! But it was my dream since 5th class to spend 10 months in a foreign country, experience a new culture and traditions and get to know other people. Not just that was my reason: I wanted to become more independent and improve my English. When I was sitting on the plane, I just realized: What am I doing? Am I crazy?
After spending two amazing loaded two weeks in the Language and Culture Camp with international friends, I was checking in
my baggage at Boston airport. There they asked me where I am going to spend my exchange year and I told them Alabama. So, they said: Oh my gosh! I’m sorry for you. So I was more scared than I was before. I mean I didn’t know anything else about Alabama than the song and the movie Sweet Home Alabama. Hartselle, where I stayed for ten months, was a small town close to Huntsville, Alabama.
This became my second home pretty fast. The Southern people were taking in a really weird Southern accent, but they were so friendly and had a great hospitality. My host mom worked as a school nurse at my high school and my host dad was a psychiatrist. I lived with three host sisters: one was 19, who went to college, one was 16, who was in my grade, a junior, and one was 12 and went to Junior High. It was a small town where everybody knew everybody. So people asked me the first day when they saw me: Are you the German girl?
That name became my nickname later. My high school was pretty famous for a good school and had 600 students going there. Hartselle Tigers were pretty good at American football. So every Friday night I met my friends at el Portal, a Mexican restaurant and went to the games with them. Every break, I met my friends at my locker and we talked. My classes were different and fun, because the relationship between student and teacher was great. I took Journalism, Dance, Spanish, Drama and Health, where I learned how to do first help. I loved my classes. We had performances with the Drama class which was more fun than I could ever imagine. Journalism helped me with my English, because every month we wrote articles and created a school newspaper. The school spirit was bigger, too. Everywhere hung signs with cheers on it. We had many teams and after-school clubs. Events like masquerade ball and prom were awesome, too. Dressing up, going in a group and riding in a limo to prom and dance till midnight was like a girl’s dream. Graduation at the end of this year was like in High School Musical.
The seniors were together for the last time and they sang and finally they threw their hats up in the air, what was a wonderful look. At that point I knew I would miss my American friends a lot. It was easy to make friends, even thought you don’t have the same classes as everybody, you know a lot of people and my host sister could tell me who were good and bad kids.
One of my great experiences was the Girls soccer team of the high school. All the girls became my friends and every day after school we had practice for two hours and in spring we had big games. Thirty girls were a lot the coach had to manage, because we didn’t like to practice sometimes. I could never imagine that I would be able to play soccer someday. So I tried it, because a friend told me about it and it was great. We also did a great trip to the beach of Alabama I will never forget.
I really enjoyed the life with my host family, too especially the holiday like Christmas, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving there was so much food and we ate together with the huge family. Before Christmas I went to New York with my host family and it was the best trip ever. The surprise for us was that it snowed and it looked like in an American movie. Christmas day and morning felt like I was just put in an American movie. But I also got homesick especially this time. It is normal and of course I had to get used to it. Nothing can be perfect. There are always problems and we make mistakes, but then I had to be not scared and talk with my friends and my host family about it.
Church was a big deal especially in the Southern states, too. I loved church. Here in Germany I go to church once a year and in Alabama, I went three times a week. Everybody was religious and meet up at church. Wednesday night I always went to a huge church with two of my friends. There they had a youth group of 30 teenagers our age. It was amazing. I go to know new people, we learned about god and sang church songs with the youth band. Afterwards everybody met up at Dairy Queen. It was the best. On Sunday morning I went to church with my host family for bible study and church service which was so different than in Germany. I always met my friends there, too. On Sunday night I always went with my best friend and her family to their church where we had a missionary class. I recommend everybody to just go to church there and you will love it, I promise.
My best friend and her family showed me a lot of Southern things: they went with me to a Southern restaurant, made me listening to country music which was pretty good (I didn’t expect that) and they took me to a Civil War Re-enactment, where they react the big war between North and Southern states. We dressed up and learned more about it; I also got to learn the Virginia Real dance and how to shoot a gun.
Also the EF trips were so much fun. I went to Washington D.C. and to Florida, Disney World with the Northern Alabama EF group. I got to know exchange students from all over the world and made friends for life. Now I have a Danish friend who will come during fall break to Germany. I learned many words in different languages and about the culture. Our coordinator organized pretty good meetings and we cooked Norwegian and German food. My potato salad won the second place. It was interesting.
I think EF High School Year was the best year of my life. It is true. You will know when you experience it. I have learned more for life in this one year than ever. I became independent, self-confident, more open-minded and I just see America different, because it is like a second home for me now. Don’t be afraid of it, there are always some problems, but this year is worth it and you will never get this chance again to experience this culture from this point. Just live your dreams and don’t dream your life!
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