My German Exchange Year – Tiffany Chiang

| 17. Juni 2017

My name is Tiffany Chiang, I am 18 years old, and I am finishing up my gap year in Oberhausen, Germany where I attend Heinrich-Böll-Gesamtschule. I am fortunate enough to be here as a student ambassador through the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange. This program allows both German and American students to do an exchange year in the other country through a full scholarship. It is an excellent program and I am lucky enough to be a scholarship recipient.


Before coming to Germany, I was unsure of what the year would hold for me. I spoke absolutely no German and had little knowledge of German culture besides the common stereotypes that are portrayed in American media. In August, I could not imagine what I might experience, see, taste, and feel in the next 11 months. Many times, when seeing something different, I didn’t have so much of an, „Oh my goodness, that’s crazy!“ reaction but more often, „Huh, that’s interesting. We don’t do that in America.“

For example, we don’t have „Pfandflasche“ or pay a deposit for bottles when purchasing a drink. Many Americans do not recycle and it is quite a shame that the idea of environmental conservation is not as heavily stressed in the United States. Another example of this is the lack of „lüften“. There is no need to open windows for fresh air because we have air conditioning in every building. The idea of fresh air is not as important to the everyday American as it is to Germans. In fact, in America, I only open my room window at home twice a year to clean it. Otherwise, it needs to stay closed to keep the conditioned air inside the house.

At school, everyday interactions like these occurred. The first thing I noticed was that my schedule was different every day. Back home, I have the same classes and teachers every day. My schedule never changes and classes are never cancelled. Next, I noticed how many breaks there were. It felt as if we were taking too many breaks between classes. In my American school, we have a 5 minute break between each class. It’s just enough time to get to my next class. There are no large, 20 minute breaks. Another difference is that teachers in my school have their own classroom which makes it much easier to find them or get help. Despite all of these differences, I think both school systems each have their own benefits.

After this year of learning, I am grateful to have done a gap year. There is a lot of individual self learning to do before entering university and a gap year truly catalyzes that growth. Furthermore, I was able to gain broader view of the world and specifically of German culture. I’ve learned that the German language is nearly impossible, the food is delicious, and the people are completely unique.

I’d like to give a big thank you to my host mother, friends, teachers, and everybody else I met along the way. This year was incredibly memorable and I can’t to come back and visit!

Kategorie: Schulleben

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