So far I could only judge these quotes from an outsider's perspective. However, I never really believed in them as they just sounded like another statement said by a “proud American citizen”. In short, it seemed like a very biased view of the United States, also keeping their history of patriotism in mind. However, as of right now, my life does seem like a movie- no, not like a movie, more like a dream. My dream. The dream I had over a year ago. The dream that turned into reality step by step, through hard work, persistence, countless hours of organizing, phone calls, appointments, and preparatory seminars. Thus, it wasn’t easy or simple- and for the most part, I didn’t even expect anything to come out of it, but in the end, it all worked out.
I am right now sitting in my room in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, sipping on my cold brew coffee while writing this blog entry, in which I will keep you updated about my life in the US. Over the time of my stay, I am planning on writing a blog entry once a month, so that you will get a scoop into my exchange experience. Maybe my reports can even inspire some young students to do a year abroad or to apply for the PPP (CBXY) program themselves as this experience wouldn’t be possible without it. Either way, I encourage everyone, playing with the idea of going abroad to go for it.
Okay now for today’s blog I am simply planning on introducing myself quickly and giving you some basic information concerning my year in the US. I will end with my first impression of my new home for the next 10 months.
So first up… a little bit about me and the PPP/ CBXY.
Hello everyone, my name is Anna Maron, I am a 16-year-old student at the Runge Gymnasium, who visited the 10th-grade last year. When I was in 8th grade, I got the amazing opportunity to go to the US for the first time with the German American Partnership Program provided by our school, short GAPP. Not only was this experience unique, but it also left an unforgettable impact on me and my life. It nurtured my curiosity and wish to go abroad, to experience new cultures, and to meet new people. It was due to this experience that I felt the courage and self-confidence to do a year abroad before continuing my education at Runge. Therefore, in 9th grade, after I heard of the PPP (Parlamentarische Partnerschafts Program) I decided to go for it and applied. It was a long process, which ended in February when the members of the parliament made their decisions. It was my father who told me the news, that Uwe Feiler, picked me to be the scholarship holder for the constituency Oberhavel-Havel. The program which was allocated to me was YFU, therefore, they guided me through all of the steps until my departure. Once I filled out all of my placement formulas, like a letter to the host family, patience was key. Months went by until on July 29th at 11 pm I got the long-awaited news… YFU had found a host family for me.
Let me fill you in. I am staying with an incredibly nice family of three, now with me, we make four. My family consists of my host mom Lorie, my host dad Ken, my little host sister Audrey and not to mention two guinea pigs and a cat, called Milo. We all live in Saint Paul, the capital of Minnesota, also called the land of 10,000 lakes (spoiler Minnesota has way more). Together with my host sister, I am going to the Upper Mississippi academy in downtown Saint Paul, where I will be attending school as a junior (11th grade).
When I arrived on August 19th I still got to enjoy one week without any school as school started on August 30th. Therefore, last week was my first day of school and I can already tell that UMA is not comparable to Runge high school or even other American high schools. UMA is a public charter school, a school that pays great focus on encouraging and promoting the individual abilities of the students. Right now, there are only about 500 students enrolled at UMA. However, while the number of students is rather low, UMA has a disproportionately large number of teachers, advisors, and counselors, to students. Those teachers and staff members are there to help guide the students. In every classroom, there are at least two teachers, no matter if the class is as big as 30 students or as small as four. Yes, you heard right, my math class called Pre-calculus consists of only three other students besides me. Furthermore, the school is the epitome of a woke high school. My first day of school didn’t start with the pledge of allegiance, it started with us being asked for our preferred pronouns and names we would like to be called. Additionally, instead of seeing a gigantic American flag in front of the building, I saw a black lives matter memorial/ art piece, made by students after the killing of George Floyd, just a few minutes away in Minneapolis. You need to know that Saint Paul and Minneapolis are very close together, so close even, that they are called the “twin cities”. They are the two biggest metropolises in Minnesota. In short, I can already tell how the events of the last year have shaped the community of not only UMA but also of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is a very woke, tolerant, and democratic/ liberal community in terms of political standpoints. It really is the complete opposite of Indiana and Alabama, which I visited with GAPP.
Already the first weeks have proven to me once more how the United States is a place of so much diversity and differences. Forming your opinion about the US while only having seen one place or the typical tourist hot spot will not bring it justice. Before my stay here, I honestly could see where people came from when they lashed out about the US, saying that the US is overrated and basically not worth visiting more than once as it is pretty dull/ boring. However, having already seen such a great difference between these few places, I hold the view that the US is a country with many layers and depths. Yes, I can understand that from afar the US can appear like a country having played “I am your hero” one too many times, but I encourage you to look closer and to keep an open mind.
I am going to keep an open mind to where this journey will take me and with this blog I will take you along with me.
Until next time.