Ulricianer abroad [6/x]: “ You have to deal with culture shocks & more…“- Jana in Nebraska
My name is Jana Honczek and I am a student from the Gymnasium Ulricianum in Aurich who’s currently abroad. I am living in the USA for a year of my educational carreer. I live with a host family in Gretna, Nebraska, which is in the middle of the United States. I have a pretty normal life here – I go to school and have to do homework and I write tests. A year abroad is not a vacation. But still, it is something very special and it is SO much fun being here, making more friends every day and overcoming challenges. It was hard for the first weeks. You go to a country alone, you literally just have no friends. But after the first two weeks you are absolutely perfectly fine and enjoy every second of your new, „Americanized“ lifestyle!
I came here on September 11th, 2013. I flew from Frankfurt to Chicago (IL), from there to Des Moines (IA) and got picked up. There is a seven hour time difference from Germany so I had a major jetlag, but I was good after a couple days.
I’m living with Chuck, Shelly, and Nathan Schulte. Chuck and Shelly are my host parents and Nathan is my brother. I get along with everyone just fine. They have a German last name because their family came from Germany (East-Frisian area!) in the 1900s. My host dad even speaks a little German .
School’s different here and you really have to get used to it when you first arrive. I am a sophomore (10th grade) at Gretna High School. In Germany, my class teacher was Herr Engelbart and I had block-scheduling. Just as usual in Germany. In America, most schools don’t do block-scheduling. First thing in the morning is a 20 – 30 minute homeroom. Your homeroom teacher tells you what’s going on in school, just a little meeting before the day begins.
Then we have 45-60 min classes. I have courses, not a „main class“, which really helped me cause I got to know people way faster. When you take a look at my schedule, you’ll see there is no Monday through Friday. That’s because I have the same classes everyday.
First I thought it would get so boring after a short period of time but it didn’t! I really enjoy having subjects such as Spanish every day. You learn a lot more efficient by having classes everyday.
They dress up differently, too. Wearing sweatpants and a sweater, no makeup and slippers or house shoes to school is considered normal. In Germany, we like to dress up a little bit more for school. Here, we like comfy clothing the best. Prejudices against the USA are mostly true – yes, they are kind of stupid. But only in like general knowledge. Like when we were using a dictionary in Spanish class the other day. They were literally opening the book and wondering how they could find the Spanish word if the dictionary is only in Spanish – English and not English – Spanish. When do we learn in Germany that dictionaries are divided into both?
Another example would be Americans asking me questions about Germany. That ends up being hilarious most of the times! It’s very uncommon for them to being fluent in two languages so they are very entertained of the fact that I actually speak German. What I like about school in America is their system with for example locker usage. Every student has his or her own locker to keep stuff like books, food, money, coats etc. Everyone has a locker in the actual school building and a locker in the locker rooms at the gym.
Teachers have their own class rooms. Students have 5 minutes of passing time between the periods to get to their next room. I like that, because teachers decorate their rooms and I think it’s kinda cool for the teacher as well. We don’t get out early when a teacher is sick. We have school from 7:50am till 3:21pm every day. If a teacher is gone, we get a sub teacher for substitution and, unfortunately, they’re pretty rude most of the time.
Sports are a huge deal in America. The biggest is obviously football. Instead of community teams like in Germany, we have school teams here. High school teams and college teams. College teams are the ones that play in actual leagues, our team in Nebraska is from our University in Lincoln, NE and they’re called the Nebraska Huskers. They play against teams from other colleges in different states. In high school there are four sports seasons: fall, winter, spring and summer. High school is a fall sport so it’s already over.
This winter I joined the Basketball team. We had practice 6 times a week for 2-2.5 hours right after school. It was hard, but we had a lot of fun and I am pretty good at Basketball now, even though I never played it before.
Another thing I love about America is that students that go to the same school are so close. Schools have mascots, we are the Gretna Dragons. There are also names like the Burke Bulldogs and so on. We know we are fighting together, we can rely on one another. We go to games of our school teams and cheer. We also make up themes how we want to dress up for games, especially Gretna football games („pink out“, „costume“).
I was also part of the Gretna OneAct 2013 cast which is a play production. We won in three competitions against every single class A play production school in Nebraska, so we got 1st at state. There were days I had school from 7:50 to 15:21, from 15:30 to 18:00 Basketball practice, and from 18:00 – 22:00 o’clock one act rehearsals. This is what busy American schedules look like. Everyone just grows up with it and is fine.
I Skype my natural family about once a week and talk to them. It’s hard, of course, being so young and say goodbye for an entire year. But I love getting packages, or send packages, and keep in touch with my friends and family at home. Exchange students have two entirely different lives!
Soooo, this is about what the American way of life looks like. It’s a busy schedule, as I said. You have to deal with culture shocks, new people, weird Americans and prejudices. I love it though.