Over The Atlantic

Over+The+Atlantic


By Dominic Gavan
LEESBURG, VA-I wake up late. I have to sprint out the door and down the steps to even be close to catching the bus. My brother and I arrive just in time. It is three Euros for the ride to school, and when I sit down all I hear is a foreign language. It’s safe to say I’m not in Kansas anymore.
From November 18th to December 3rd, I spend my time in a small German town called Hoffhiem. This experience, for most kids, would seem like a vacation, but this was an eye opening and educational trip for me.
Main-Taunaus-Kries is a county in Germany right near Frankfurt. This county is very similar to Loudoun County, and for this reason we are sister counties. This connection was set up by the George Marshall Society. This connection has several benefits for county officials, including being able to see how each other’s county government works. It also is very beneficial for 16-year-olds in both counties, due to a foreign exchange program under the name of SPEP. I was lucky enough to be part of the 10th SPEP trip, and it was a truly amazing exchange.
I spent my stay with a host family. All of its members were fluent in more than two languages. The first thing I noticed about Germany was how educated all of its citizens were. My host brother spoke German, English, and Japanese fluently. He’s sixteen and he’s taking Calculus BC. Oh yeah, did I mention he skipped a grade? I thought students like this were an anomaly until I spent two days at his school and learned how much more intelligent than me the average German was.
The school, however, was not where I spent most of my time. Every student was required to work at an internship they believed matched their potential career options. I was an intern in the Media Relations department of the county. Obviously I am a member of the newspaper, so this job showed me a lot about being extremely timely and having an immense workload.  
My trip wasn’t all about work though; there was a healthy amount of play and exploration. As a group we got to visit several castles and Christmas markets all around the Frankfurt-Rhein-Mein area.
Each castle felt so unique and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my entire life. However, the Germans didn’t seem as much in awe at how interesting these castles were. This is because of the enormous amount of history and culture found in all of Europe. It makes me so envious of all the ancient history found everywhere in Germany. The US is such a young country that we just don’t have access to that kind of ancient history. The Native America also did not leave many permanent settlements, so no ancient temples for us.
Christmas markets are also an extremely German tradition. There are markets in almost every town in Germany. They sell traditional food and lots of Christmas related items.  These markets also have carousels and street performers. They were one of the most frequented places I went in Germany because of how festive and cultural they are.
German culture is similar enough to ours to make you feel at home, yet different enough to be a treat. I urge anyone interested in the rest of the world to visit the other side of the Atlantic. Experience Germany though a foreign exchange program or just a vacation, and it will open your mind to how their side of the world works.