Near the end of 2016, a thought popped into my head that I should go on an exchange. The idea was sound-, I’d get to see great places SOMEWHERE in the world, without the massive expense. At the time, I had three options: Kakadu National Park?: No thanks. Pretty it might be, but it included lots of hiking and the potential for crocodiles. Yikes. Next choice was Greece and Italy: VERY pretty, but it was the most expensive tour relative to its length ($6,000 for two weeks, and - that’s without spending money!)
Lastly, the third option, and the one I chose. France and Germany. The choice was made, supported by my basic German speaking and writing skills. The first week was a sight-seeing tour of the sights around Switzerland, Germany and France. And yes, it was pretty. Very pretty, and very cold (SO cold). Cobbled pathways, old cathedrals and green countryside. Only downside is, you pay for the beauty. Switzerland is very expensive. I think the best time there was the first day in Zürich. We went on a walking tour through the old city. It started to snow, church bells were ringing, and I cried. Good times. The Alps were beautiful too - with the views from Mt Titlis on a clear day being much worth braving the icy weather.
Paris, on the other hand, is very different. I didn’t think much of ‘the city of love’ when I first arrived. I definitely wasn’t in love. I had imagined a grand, yet quaint city with cafes and small boutiques everywhere. I didn’t see it straight away. What I saw instead was dirty, noisy and rather cheap looking. Only later did I start to find the Paris that everyone imagines. But despite the beautiful old buildings, (e.g. Notre Dame, The Louvre, etc) there was still a feeling that something was going on. This unease came from a state of emergency, declared by France after a series of terror attacks. It sounds scary, but it’s important to understand and accept that ‘that’s just how it is’.
For the most part all it meant was that there were more police about. In fact, the day we visited the Louvre, I saw police on rollerblades chasing away peddlers- not something you see every day! After leaving Paris, we said goodbye to half of our group (who stayed in France) and headed out on a TGV towards our new home for the remaining five weeks,
Stockach. The tour group, myself and the families that we were staying with host families all got along really fantastically, but one word of advice. In my 19 years of life and all that goes along with it, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The feelings of loneliness and isolation that Ii just couldn’t shake, the language barrier, and the changes to daily life (such as a lack of independence and or good coffee) made things difficult. But the sights of regional Germany made it worth every cent. If you get the chance to go to Europe, be aware, take some time to learn the languages, and do it. You won’t forget it!
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