Forty-one hours, if you really want to know. But this story begins way before that. Thurday morning, September 6th, I rolled out of bed with crushing dread on my heart, knowing what my final task before my trip would be. My mom drove me to my best friend’s house to say our final goodbyes. I wasn’t in the door a minute before we started bawling. I gave him back his sweatshirt I was wearing and had slept in. We exchanged parting gifts, both symbols of what we had gone through as friends and our hopes for each other’s futures. I’ll spare the more gruesome details of what our goodbye looked like, because I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.
It was bittersweet that the day I was driven to NY was the first day of school at my district. My best friend’s mom hugged me tight and took a first day of school photo of us, as if I was going with him, and we parted ways. Mom and I went back to the house, grabbed my suitcase, my father, and a last goodbye to my four cats, and we drove to NYC. We stopped at Panera briefly, but other than that we drove it without breaks. When we got to the hotel, I refused help from my parents with my luggage (to get used to carrying them around) and we found the AFS table in the lobby. With my parents’ and I’s signitures, I was officially on program with AFS. I quickly said goodbye to my parents and went up to the 9th floor to start my journey.
The next day and a half I spent with the seventeen other students from all over the U.S. going to Germany. We introduced ourselves and found out that we had a lot of things in common. We switched nametags to confuse the staff and generally had a really good time. The orientation consisted of AFS videos, group activities, cultural discussions, and free time filled with foot ninja and wandering about the hotel. I made a lot of friends throughout the orientation and can’t wait to see them all again at the end of our stay in Germany.
The start of my fourty one hour day starts at 8 AM on Friday, which kicked off the end of the orientation, complete with a pledge and toast. The flight itself was only six hours and twenty minutes from JFK to Frankfurt. I met two German couples, both who were excited for our group and spoke German to me. I was seated next to a German couple who gratiously allowed me to practice my German skills on them. We flew with Singapore Airlines, who provided hot towels and an abundance of food during the flight. I watched “The Book Thief” and tried to sleep, to no avail. We got off the plane and ended up in purgatory, so to speak. We were put in a section of the airport with AFS volunteers and other countries going on exchange in Germany. A short list of the countries I met (or came close to meeting): Mexico, France, Chile, Brazil, Iceland, Russia, Poland, and Norway. A great international adventure without ever leaving a room.
We all were assigned a color, corresponding to when you left to get on a train that would take you to your host family. Luckily, since my group (going to Northern Germany, mostly Hamburg area) was the largest and farthest away, we got to leave purgatory first and say goodbye to our new friends. The train ride was beautiful, the Pennsylvania-like landscape flowing by my window as I struggled to stay awake. The AFS volunteers that accompanied us were very kind and knowledgable, most if not all having studied abroad themselves. I finally got off the train at the very last stop, after watching others meet their host families, and met with my new family. We ate in Hamburg and drove to Husum (on the autobahn with no speed limit! woo!) and now I’m currently in my new room, fully unpacked and ready to go to bed after fourty one hours of no sleep and 3.747 miles of travel. I start school on Monday! A mixture of nerves and excitement, but mostly excitement.
-Abby aus Husum