I went to Germany when I was just 17. I applied to AFS Intercultural Programs, an organization which offers the opportunity to young people from 15 to 18 years old of studying abroad for three, six or ten months. It is all based on volunteering work, as it is a non-profit organization and there is all over the world. To know more about AFS (American Field Service) check it here.
With AFS you can only choose the country where you want to go, not the region, because you are going to be with a host family and it is the host family who chooses you, not the other way around, so you can go to any city, village or corner of the country you choose.
But first of all, why did I choose Germany? Three years before my exchange I went to Kiel with my school with the Comenius Project. It was my first time in the country and for me it was a surprise how kind all germans were to me (because I always had that prejudiced idea that german people were cold…). So I decided I wanted to visit the country again. Then I went to high school and one day I started listening two guys talking in English in the corridors! I had to ask what they were doing there! So I met Lenni and Jay, a german and a canadian students who were in Portugal with AFS, the organization which I didn’t know at the time. I was so excited that the same day I talked to my mom and we decided we were going to be a host family the following year! And I finally decided that I wouldn’t go to Germany just on holidays, I could actually study there for one year.
The next September my host sister Hannah, also german, was arriving and my AFS adventure began, as we have to subscribe one year prior do the departure, as there are mandatory camps and orientations. I also started learning german before departing, as the language isn’t as easy as others and in April 2009 I received the news I was going to live in Offenburg, Baden Wúrttemberg.
I didn’t choose it but I loved it, so now I will present some facts about the region that can make you want to move there! This region is the warmest in Germany, so the winter is not as bad and summer is like the south of Europe. In high school you have a lot of subjects, from all field studies, which is great, you learn a bit about everything, plus schools usually have a lot of extra curricular activities – I had paiting classes, I sang in the choir (and there was also an orchestra and a big band), I participated in the patchwork activities, there were different sports, etc. I felt super autonomous, as I had my bicycle and could go wherever I wanted to and the student transport pass was the best, I could take the train to Basel, Switzerland, which was 2hours away! I had the vineyards and the Black Forest just behind my house and it was amazing to walk there, to see the different colors throughout the year! As it was a small city there were few exchange students so you were known by everyone and you could easily make friends! The food is great and they organize a lot of barbecues during spring and summer, it is the best way to enjoy the heat with your friends! Well… I could stay here all day saying good things about this country and region, this is how much I love Germany!
If you were in Baden Württemberg or in Germany and you have any tips or reasons to add, specially if you were in Erasmus there, just comment bellow, if you are thinking about going there and still have doubts, don’t be afraid to write me!
So, reasons to go to Germany in exchange:
- Germans are actually much nicer than you think
- It isn’t as cold as you imagine, especially in the south (Baden Württemberg and Bayern)
- High schools there offer you almost any subject and any extracurricular activity
- You will learn a lot about European History and a lot about tolerance
- You can learn German, a great language to know specially if your country doesn’t have work for you
- You can ride a bike everywhere and be completely autonomous
- The students transportation monthly tickets are really cheap and include giant areas
- The contact with nature, the opportunity to go hiking in the mountains
- Sausages, beer and barbecues (I gained 7 kilos while there…)