High School Exchange
Life Swap in Lindau
Year 12 college student Aneesa Delpachitra swapped summertime in New Zealand for a winter in Bavaria with a German family, host sister, new high school, and snow…
This year I decided to spend my summer holidays halfway across the world on a German cultural exchange: living in a host family, going to school with my host sister and learning about the culture. I’ve been here for a month so far, and I’ve already experienced more than I could have ever imagined.
As a New Zealander, I’ve never seen as much snow as the Alps had this winter. From the mountaintops, everything looks like a postcard, with trees covered in glistening snow and little warm little wooden houses decorated with icicles. For me, December means summer, but wandering through Christmas markets with friends and family made it feel as warm as home – surrounded by laughter, lights and life.
The history and beauty that lies embedded in castles, churches and old towns is also new and incredible for me. Now I finally understand why so many fairy tales come from Germany. There’s this magic in everything you see, from the deep green forests iced with snow to the majestic castles surrounded by lakes and white-tipped mountain ranges.
By living in a German family and living like a normal German teenager, I can truly live in the culture. I eat what they eat, including traditional Bavarian and Swabian food. Around Christmas there was a never-ending supply of “Plätzchen” – a kind of cookie that everyone bakes at that time of year. It was so strange for me to see the “bio” or “organic” label on just about every ingredient they had!
Going to a German school also allowed me to experience a different kind of pre-holiday Christmas fever: singing Christmas songs with the school big band, Christmas music flash mobs in the corridors, an economics teacher dressed up as Saint Nikolaus, and being given mandarins by the school principal.
The skies felt alive on New Year’s Eve, when we watched endless fireworks being lit in the four different countries surrounding Lake Constance.
I’m learning far more than on any family vacation or tourism tour. My German skills are improving every day through constant exposure to the German language, from classes to radio channels, newspapers and films. At the beginning of the exchange, it felt a bit like being a goldfish thrown into the sea, but one month in and I’m speaking German all the time, making countless grammatical mistakes but talking just as much as I do at home. Now I only find a couple of things hard, such as understanding the thick Bavarian and Swabian accents, or describing with my small collection of German adjectives how amazing my time here is.
I’m also gaining insights into life in Germany: how you can almost hear the gears turning in the organised daily routine, the Germans’ eco-conscious habits, and the way they lose themselves entirely to the festive spirit of anything they celebrate.
This hasn’t just been a language trip for me; it’s been an opportunity for me to fall in love with the German way of life. I’ve made amazing friends and a new loving family, who’ve constantly helped me with my German, shown me new things and filled every experience with laughter and kindness. The relationships I’ve made, the knowledge I’ve received and the experiences I’ve had will stick with me for life. Exchanging cultures has been a perfect way to get to know this fascinating country.