Saturday, February 11, 2006

In the beginning

I first heard about the Radial Youth Exchange Program (not it's real name) when I was in my junior year of high school. A woman from the program came to my German class and pitched the program to us. Most of the kids in the class weren't particularly interested, but I knew from that moment that I would be in Germany in a year.

When the time came around, I was an easy recommendation for my German teacher to make. I exceled at German, was a great student, and most importantly, I really wanted it.

The application process was fairly involved; I was required to fill out an application more formidable than the application for ASU. It entailed an essay explaining why I was a good candidate for the program, a survey about my habits, preferences and interests, and an interview with several Important People (TM) with the program.

In other countries where youth exchanges are more popular, this process is highly competitive, with 10-15 people applying for 1-2 slots. In the United States, however, programs struggle to get participants. Of the 10 people applying in my district (there are 2 districts in my state, 9 clubs in my district, each of whom sponsored 1 student) 9 were accepted. I had applied in January, and by March, I knew I was one of the 9.

Towards the beginning of the summer, things really started to pick up. By June my girlfriend and I had broken up, both over the exchange and other issues. By July, my plane ticket was purchased and I was packed to go. In mid-August of 2003, I said good bye to my family, hugged my crying sister, played pool one last time with the guys, and boarded a plane to Hamburg, Germany.

Well, technically to London, England, but that doesn't sound nearly as dramatic now, does it?


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