High School in USA

Pauline - Oklahoma, Putnam City West High School

Gewinnerin des Essaywetttbewerbs 2014/2015

Essay about my stay in Oklahoma - The story about how my American dream came true.

Even when I was little, I loved watching American movies and dreamed about the moment I would walk along the floors of a real American high school and support my own highschool's football team together with my dear friends all day long. And what I just could't believe back then: This dream would not just stay imagined, it would become reality!

At the beginning of summer holiday, I got a letter written by Carl Duisberg Centren in which they told me about my placing. I was so excited, because this single letter would decide about my future, the next 6 months of my life, but I knew it would not be important where I would go to, because every part of the US is special and impressive and I was sure I would love to go anywhere.

A little later it was sure: My trip would go to an elderly single lady named Sherry living in Oklahoma - a state half as big as our whole country. Moreover, I was not going there alone but together with a second exchange student from Australia. Her name was Jordy. Staying with her was really the best that could have happened to me, because another place I wanted to go to as badly as I wanted to go to the US was the land down under. Thanks to Jordy, I was able to get to know two of these incredible cultures and she helped me a lot to improve my English even though she told me Australian and American English were like two different languages haha.

I was so excited to start this adventure because I wanted to see something new, something I did not know anything about but stereotypes: The only people living in Oklahoma were cowboys, Native Americans and those who listen to country music all day, but I knew these people were proud of their nation and were supposed to be the loveliest folk you could have ever dreamed of. Also, I heard about the many thunder storms and the unstable weather. That was all I heard about this place.

Looking back now, yes, some of that is true, but a lot isn't.

I want to start telling you about my actual trip to the fascinating land of dreams: Just carrying a camera, my diary, I wrote in about every single day of my adventure, and a pen to write, I flew out in the middle of august. You might think it was hot in Germany, but I can tell you the opposite: The weather was rainy and cold. That just made me want to go to America even more.

When I took my first step out of the airport, I couldn't believe that should be real: 105 degrees Fahrenheit! At first, I didn't know how to calculate Fahrenheit into Celsius, but I got better and better at it. That's actually how it was with my whole stay in the US: It got better and better so that I ended up not wanting to go back to my hometown in Germany...

The first words my awesome host sister Jordy welcomed me with were „hey sister“ and I knew we were going to become friends really fast, and we did! Well, actually we didn't become friends, we became sisters! Even though I'm already back in Germany for half a year now, we're still constantly texting and already planned Jordy's trip to Germany in January 2016.

Unfortunately, I didn't have an equally perfect relationship to my host mom, but after I had changed to another host family, which worked very fast and without any complications, I had the time of my life.

And the story of how I got to know the new family couldn't be more typically American: It underlines the great teacher-student relationship over there (It felt like the teachers treat you like their own kids).

Anyway, my host sisters science teacher Mr. White was the one who ended up offering us to live with him, his wife and his 5 dogs. Since then the time flew by so fast I did not realized I had to go back home that soon.

They were the friendliest people one can imagine and we had a lot in common.

We explored so much new: A new country, a new only slightly known language, a new family, new friends, a new school and especially, a completely different system and of cause, two new cultures! That sounds a lot at once, doesn't it? But not any of these was a problem.

The first day I went to my school, the Putnam City West High School, I already made tons of new friends, because everyone was just so interested and open-hearted. Some even asked me the first day I met them if I wanted to go to the Oklahoma State Fair with them and I did.

We adventured so much together: We shopped dresses for Homecoming and once, Jordy and I got invited to make a big bonfire to hold some marshmallows into it and to make Smores out of it - could not be sweeter and more American.

It was the beginning of a time I will never forget in my whole life, I promise, just like I will never forget my friends and family over there. I still skype with a lot of them pretty often.

Learning the language was not hard either. Some weeks after I arrived, I sometimes found myself thinking or dreaming in English. That was a bit confusing, but it's just normal and it also made me even more feel like a part of my new home.

And even back in Germany at the first day of school, my dad came in to wake me up and, because I was still half asleep, I told him to leave me alone and how tired I was. In English. He found that hilarious and still imitates me doing it. It has become a running gag…

School is also a very big part of the experience you make while staying somewhere else. The American school system is completely different: You have the same classes everyday and except for maths, history, a science subject and English, you were allowed to pick any class you wanted to. They call these classes electives. That's how I took sociology and cooking which was my favorite one! My teacher often asked me to bring some German recipes and I did, so we sometimes cooked typical German food like Reibekuchen and so on. Once a week, Jordy and I also made national food for our host family. That's how I did not only get to know American baked beans or mac and cheese. I also learned to prepare typical Australian food, as for example Australian pastries.

Moreover, I took Spanish as a school subject to learn the language which 50% of the 1800 students there spoke because they came from Mexico. That was a big advantage for me, because that's how I got to know even more different cultures. One of my best friends even took me out to celebrate „dia de los muertos“ with them - a very happy Mexican festival (even thought it's meant to be a day to remember the dead people) and they celebrate it with a lot of food, dancing and singing.

Other electives were dancing, choir, drama club, newspaper and many more. One time, the newspaper club wanted to interview me. That's how I got into the newspaper and I loved it. Everyone was like „hey you're the student from Germany, right? I saw you in the newspaper. It's just so cool you came here.“ What can I say? They all were the most friendliest people I have ever met.

Other incredible activities we did were going to Frontier City, an amusement park, a museum about „Chickasaw“, the Native Americans from Oklahoma, which was very interesting, the Tulsa Zoo or visiting a real rodeo with real Oklahoma cowboys. They were exactly the way I imagined them and after taking a picture with them, I just could not hide my smile the whole day long. That's actually what everyone I show the pictures of my exchange to says: „Wow. You look so happy!“

And I really was!

Sometimes I also went to church with a friend, but church was also different! They built up a stage with light effects and a live band and also, there was a huge screen and they showed videos instead of reading out from the bible for 5 hours like it is in Germany... I loved going there because you also always met friends from school and you got free donuts and drinks. By the way, did you know the Americans sell their drinks in huge containers? The first time I went to a supermarket I was looking for 1l bottles of milk for hours till I asserted they don't have any. The smallest size you can get is 5l!

Anyway, the lake Hafner was right behind our back yard and we loved taking long walks along the water. We also went to a typical baseball game of the Redhawks and a real basketball game of the Thunders! That was so much fun! The supporting spirit there was as great as the one you could feel while watching your own school teams American football, baseball or basketball game. The whole day before the game starts, the students would run around wearing your schools colors. Mine were blue and gold. The audience would sing songs and would get supported by the step team, the cheerleaders and the band, which creates an awesome school spirit! The first time I went there I was flashed and fascinated because I was still thinking all this might only be a dream and I would wake up the next day smiling and hoping I could fall back asleep and continue dreaming my American dream, but I did not have to, because my dream was reality!

In addition to all these great things, I celebrated the well known American festivals like Halloween when we cut out some pumpkins and did trick or treating. That's when you go around in your neighborhood and ask for candy. It was a lot of fun! Since Halloween is also about scaring others, Jordy and I went over to some little kids and I just started talking German to them which made them get really scared. That was just so funny.

Some time later, there was the popular Thanksgiving festival. Together with my new host family, I went to their brothers house and the main goal of the day was: Eat as much as you can! Even at breakfast time they ate turkey. And let me tell you a little secret which is kind of funny. I'm actually a vegetarian for about nine years now, but when I saw this huge turkey standing on the table I could not stop me. Just by looking at it, I felt like I had to try it and let me tell you: it tasted sooo good! The whole family treated us (just like any other person I met) like we were old time friends. That's probably also why I never got homesick.

The third friday in October is a day every single store in Oklahoma is on sale! I bought so much stuff so that I had to buy a second suitcase before I could get back to Germany. But I did not only bring clothes and souvenirs back home. Something which is so big that it would never fit in any suitcase is my experience!

Thank you Oklahoma for letting me make this great experience and thank you for having me. My stay could not have been any better. Here's what I wrote in my diary the day before leaving:

(…) I know this is the end of the big dream I always had. Tomorrow I am going to wake up being in Germany. I will see my family, but only one of them. The other family will always stay more than 8.000 km away, but one day I know we will meet up again and I can't wait for this exciting moment I'm looking forward to so much! (…)