When I was in high school, it was very common in Germany, that you go abroad for 6 months or 1 year in your 11th year. (We used to have 13 years of school back then.)
Abroad meant wherever you wanted to go, but most people chose the US.
One year in the US was also my plan, but I chickened out at one point and when I decided to at least go for 5 months, it was too late to apply for the US, so I chose Canada. (Spoiler: I’m very glad I did!)
When going to the US, you can’t really choose where you end up, they basically place you anywhere around the States. My friend, for example, ended up in Alaska. (Which turned out to be the best year of her life, so it actually doesn’t really matter where you are placed.)
In Canada it works a bit differently, you can choose the town and even the school you want to go to. So I did. Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo, BC, Canada. I didn’t know much about Nanimo, I knew it was on Vancouver Island and I knew it was small. I didn’t know it was THAT small.
There’s not much to do in Nanaimo, there really isn’t. But it is beautiful and it has so much nature around. I wish I knew how (and was allowed) to drive back then and could have gone on hikes and camping trips with friends and just explore everything. But even though I was limited, I enjoyed my time a lot.
I left home at an age where you develop a lot. I remember talking to my friends back home about them going to clubs, dancing all night long and meeting cute guys. While I was sitting in a small town, where the latest I stayed out was around 10pm for a party at the lake. And sometimes I felt boring. But then I went back home at the end of it all and at a surprise party my mum threw me, everyone was there and I realised, how much I grew apart from the group of friends that went out every weekend. I stood there with my high school’s sweatpants and a loose shirt (and 10 kilos heavier as well), while they were sitting in my living room with high heels and lots of make-up on. They were still nice people and I really tried staying friends with them, but our lives just developed into completely different directions.
It was a tough time coming home, but I cherished my moments over there so much, I cherished the person I became so much (minus the extra kilos, I hated that haha), that it was okay. I just needed to find my way back into my Munich life and I did. It just took some time.
I guess there are two morals of that story for me and hopefully for everyone who reads this.
One: Even if you are young, if you have an opportunity like that, go for it. It changed my life and only for the better. I had a wonderful host family (RIP Dale), great friends and inspiring teachers. And I’ve changed a lot and learned new things about myself.
And two: Even if you feel lost, if you feel like you’ve disconnected from your friends after a long trip, make an effort. It might happen, that you’ve completely grew apart, like it happened with a few of my friends, but there are people in your life you might not be as close to at the point of your departure, that might be your new best friends afterwards. That’s what happened to me and I love how my life turned out because I made that change in my circle of friends. I still miss my old friends sometimes, but I know, everything happened the way it was supposed to.