For those of you who have not heard of CBYX, it is an exchange program between Germany and the United States that is sponsored by the U.S. Congress and German Bundestag. For one year, youth age 15-18 live with a host family and attend German high school. Going the other way, German high school students do the same here in the U.S. Best part is that CBYX is a full scholarship! Sound intriguing? We hope so. We bring this scholarship up now as the deadline for applications looms in the distance–December 1st. In order to arrange the details and finish the app in time, now is the time for action if you want to throw your hat in the ring for this prestigious scholarship.
To help you conceptualize the before, during, and after of being a CBYXer, we asked our social media expert Claire, who completed her year in 2010, to talk with us about her experience.
What made you initially apply to CBYX?
I applied to CBYX for a few reasons. My uncle moved to Germany many decades ago, and I’d grown up hearing this mysterious language being spoken by him and my cousins when they visited. My brother and I would sit with our German-to-English dictionary trying to pick up what was being discussed. That interest combined with a natural sense of adventure led me to favoring the more untraditional path of doing a year abroad in high school and wanting to do it in Germany. Unfortunately, being an exchange student in high school isn’t as common in the U.S. (yet), so winning a full scholarship helped convince my parents and school to support it.
How did you arrange the year abroad with your school?
Arranging a year abroad in high school is difficult if your school hasn’t had a student do it before you. I was the first at my school, and so I had a meeting with my guidance counselor as soon as I could to discuss my options. I suggest bringing materials with you about the prestige of the program, and emphasizing your flexibility. For example, I took online courses for English and History before I left for the year as they wouldn’t be comparable in Germany. I also took the SAT’s abroad as to be on track for applying to college when I returned. Basically, I’d speak in statements with your school about how you will arrange the year rather than coming with questions–as it opens up the door for them saying it isn’t possible or that you would need to repeat a year.
Was it difficult to learn German? Did you speak it before you left?
I hadn’t traveled outside of the U.S. before CBYX, so for me it was shocking to get off the train in Berlin and suddenly everything was in German–signs, announcements, labels. I had two years of middle school/high school German at my disposal which gave me limited vocab to work with. At first, I prioritized what I said because it often required running into a word I didn’t know, which was exhausting. But word by word and day by day my German improved. I was very motivated to learn because with each word I learned my daily life became a little easier and I got to show my true colors a little more. It is a humbling experience to have to lean on people a little more for help speaking or to learn the words for things, but it’s all part of the growing pains of learning a new language and tons of people have done it before you so there is no shame in it.
What was living with a host family like?
I lived with a family in a residential part of Berlin. At home in Pennsylvania, I had a single parent, was the only girl, and was the youngest of four. In Berlin, I was the middle child and had two sisters. The family welcomed me as one of their own, and despite my preconceived notion of all Germans being tall and blonde, I found myself blending in in a family of short brown-haired females. My first day with the family, my host sisters and I played dress up– giggling as we threw leopard print bras over our shirts and wore big clown-like glasses. I knew then that I’d found myself in the right home.
At the same time, it isn’t all easy–nor is your normal family. Living in someone else’s home requires some flexibility to their set routine, and communicating why you do what you do–which your mom doesn’t have to ask because she has seen you since you were born– but your host family has not.
What were the biggest cultural differences you experienced?
As cliche as it is, I was shocked by how blunt Germans were. I was used to a lot of sugar coating and it took a while to appreciate how Germans communicate. I also had to get used to the independence given to people my age, as there was a lot more hand-holding and rules back in the states. In Germany, I was treated mostly like an adult, which was duly awesome and scary as it meant quickly taking on a lot of responsibility. Lastly, using public transport was a big difference from taking a school bus or being picked up in a car by your parents. It put a lot of new pressure on me to know how to get home or remember bus routes and schedules.
How is German school different than American school?
German school was WAY different than an American high school. At least in my school–which was an Oberschule, I ended and started at a different time almost every day, depending on which subjects I had. I had a class of about 20 kids who I had my core classes with and my teachers rotated to us instead of vise versa. Exams made up the majority of my grade rather than homework or participation and exams didn’t include multiple choice but rather short answers and essays. Also, there was no such thing as substitute teachers, rather if a teacher had vacation or was sick, you just didn’t have that class. This said, every school is different, so yours may resemble an American school more.
Is there a “good” year to do it?
I did my CBYX program during my junior year. This is arguably the most tricky year to do it, as colleges are looking closely at your grades and most people take the SAT’s that year. It is definitely possible though and I had no issue graduating or getting into a good college. There are pros to doing CBYX as a gap year between high school and college, in that you don’t have to stress out as much about your grades at your German school and can defer your college acceptance.
Did you get to travel during the year?
I got to travel a lot. Some host families will take you on their family vacations. With other CBYXers living across the country and the abundance of train options, it is easy to visit them too. Additionally, going back to young people being given more independence in Germany, it is not unusual to go with friends to other countries and stay in youth hostels or travel in general without parental supervision.
Have you returned to Germany since?
I have been lucky enough to have returned to Germany several times in the years after my program, and also to have had my host family visit me in Pennsylvania. My host family still refers to “my bedroom” and when I’m back I curl up on the couch eating Erdnussflips with my host sisters and watch German soap operas like no time has passed. There are certainly still things about Germany I don’t understand and words I haven’t learned yet, but CBYX solidified Germany as a second home.
How has having completed CBYX helped you in the years after?
CBYX truly changed my life course, academically and professionally. Seeing an entirely different tax, welfare, and education system in Germany inspired me to study economics in college. I’ve volunteered supporting high school exchange students ever since I returned to the U.S. and have helped choose new generations of CBYXers. Speaking German has connected me with Americans and Germans alike in my city which has been the core source of a lot of my friendships. I also eventually found myself working at the German Embassy, which obviously wouldn’t have been possible without my year living there, the German skills I acquired, and the connections that came out of that. There are people who walk away from CBYX and don’t use their German again or don’t feel the draw to return back to Germany, but if you do choose to keep involved in German relations, CBYX is a very supportive, diverse, and well-connected community.
What advice would you give those applying to or on the program?
The best advice I received was as I was leaving on the airplane. A chaperone told me to “say yes to everything”. This year is a chance to try out a new sport, a new way of talking, a new style, a new way of being–lots of things that wouldn’t be possible or easy back home where everyone knows you. It is a chance to ask questions and expose yourself to new viewpoints. So just say yes. Personally, doing so led me to visiting my first nuclear power plant (I did not know the word for this and said yes anyhow) or to a planetarium show that blasted nothing but Queen (which if you haven’t done before, I highly recommend). I tried cow’s tongue, which is surprisingly delicious on bread, and fell off my bike twice during a community bike tour. I exited my comfort zone more than I stayed in it and came back feeling like I’d lived years within just one. I’d broken outside the bubble of home and gained a new understanding of myself in the process.
Pairing: Jasmin x Anni, Hollstein, Reamy, Calzona, Pipex, Sophie x Sian, Paily, Astrid x Vivian, Astrid x Carey, Valkubus, Giani, Nico x Ivy, Otalia, Doccubus, Gail x Holly, Karmy, Lara x Ani, Clara x Marina, Cophine
Fav lesbian ships put into one. Use HD for best quality.
ships & shows: 0:00 - 0:08 : Jasmin & Anni : Gute Zeiten Schlechte Zeiten (german soap opera) 0:11 - 0:18 : Carmilla & Laura: Carmilla (web series on youtube) 0:19 - 0:28 : Amy & Reagan: Faking It (MTV Season 2) 0:29 - 0:44 : Callie & Arizona: Grey’s Anatomy 0:46 - 0:58 : Piper and Alex: Orange is The New Black ( Netflix) 0:59 - 1:08 : Sophie & Sian: Corronation Street (check out sophiesianchannel on youtube) 1:10 - 1:18 : Emily & Paige : Pretty Little Liars 1:19 - 1:29 : Astrid & Vivian : Anyone but me (web series on youtube) 1:30 - 1:43 : Astrid & Carey : Anyone but me ( web series on youtube) 1:45 - 2:01 : Tamsin & Bo : Lost Girl ( showcase ) 2:03 - 2:13 : Gina and Ani, Nico & Ivy, Otalia : Venice The Series (web series
on youtube); The Grove (webseries); Guiding Light (soap, check out
Otalia channel for more) 2:15 - 2:25 : Bo & Lauren : Lost Girl (showcase) 2:27 - 2:40 : Gail & Holly : Rookie Blue 2:39 - 2:44 : Amy & Karma : Faking It (MTV) 2:45 - 2:53 : Lara & Ani: Venice the Series (web series on youtube) 2:54 - 3:10 : Clara & Marina: Em Famila (brasilian telenovela, check out CLARINA tag on dailymotion.com for episodes) 3:12 - 3:25 : Cosima & Delphine : Orphan Black
Decide why you want to learn a language Too often I see posts on Tumblr or Instagram with someone saying “I wanna learn a language, what language shall I learn?”. This is more than likely gonna lead to you giving up after a few weeks of study. You need a set reason for learning a language and for investing so much time and effort into its acquisition. It doesn’t need to be academic or for career-related purposes, it could be that you really love the culture of the area where that language is spoken. As long as you have a clear idea in your head why, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
Realise from the outset that it’s going to be different from English Languages are not 1:1 ciphers with English. Consider the colour red. In English it’s just Red, in Hungarian there are two distinct words for what we in English call the same colour, but in Hungarian they’re not shades of the same colour, they’re distinct colours. Conversely, in Russian and Welsh, the same word is used to describe what we in English call blue and green. Isn’t that wonderful? There are often complaints about this on the internet, “Ugh, French verbs wtf!?” or that stupid picture of the German articles compared to the English, “German articles, because fuck you, that’s why”… All languages are different and there will be difficulties, but it’s very rewarding to be able to begin to think in another language, especially if it deviates particularly from English. There are also theories that the language(s) you’re learning can shape the way and the extent to which you think!
Be realistic about how you’ll do it All too often, I see pictures of a phrasebook or a dictionary for a language on Tumblr or Instagram with someone saying “Learning X language”. It’s cool that the motivation is there, but you have to be realistic that this isn’t language learning. A phrasebook gives you set things you’re likely to say when travelling the country or countries of that language, are heavily formulaic and make no excuses for not covering grammar. If you’re travelling it’s often find to ask something like “where are shirt?” in a store because you’ll be understood. If you’re learning a language to approach fluency, this obviously isn’t acceptable and the resources you’ll need will therefore be different.
And about how long it’s going to take Yes, there are people who are capable of learning many, many languages exceptionally quickly, but for the most part it’s going to be a long slog and you need to be prepared for that when you start. But don’t see it as climbing Mount Everest in a blizzard, see it more as walking coast to coast on a sunny day: long and tiring but wonderful and rewarding.
Figure out how best you learn and retain I don’t like learning with things like Duolingo or websites or games, I prefer books and paper that I can write on and in and annotate and print things out and highlight etc. But that’s just me, I know several people who swear by YouTube lessons and Duolingo etc. You have to find out what is best for you. Through constantly adapting the way I learn, I also found out the best process for me, when I sit down in my allotted time for learning a language. Don’t feel constrained to follow the learning advice of others because it works for them.
Maximise exposure Of course your language study will only go so far without exposure to your target language. For this, Spotify and YouTube are wonderful and there’s a breadth of TV, music and radio there and on the internet as a whole and some quick Internet searches bring up list after list of internet-based resources in your target language. Some people swear by listening to music. I don’t swear by it, because I think by their very nature, songs tend to be written in a stilted round-about way that doesn’t truly reflect the flow of a language, but they can be useful for pronunciation and vocabulary. It goes without saying that you should watch and listen to stuff that’s appropriate for your level and reflects your interests. I watch political discussions in French, but in German I watch soap-operas subtitled in English, so I can listen, but check the subtitles if I miss something.
If you want to learn more than one language, don’t start them at the same time Through learning multiple languages simultaneously, I can tell you that you’ll honestly achieve so much more if you stagger starting them. Start one, and once you’ve reached a level you’re comfortable with, start the next one. This will reduce the initial load of language learning when you get used to spelling, pronunciation and basic grammar to just one language. It’s like building two sandcastles. You only have one bucket to fill with sand at any one time.
Also, with multiple languages consider other options One thing I always recommend is to switch to resources in your target language once you reach an intermediate level of proficiency. If, like me, you’re learning two languages that are quite similar, consider getting a book for speakers of one of those languages learning the other. For example, I have a little book for German speakers about typical problems with Dutch (als/toen or als/dan for example) which helps a lot which declouding confusing issues or things that get muddled in my head.
Enjoy it as much as possible! After all this is something you’re doing in your free time so make it worthwhile and enjoy yourself, it’s immensely rewarding a fulfilling after all :)
Imagine... You And Peter Stay Up To Watch Kurt's German Soap Opera's As He Is Your Roommate
*Not my gifs
Tv: Danke Gott. Sie sind nach all dieser Zeit in Ordnung. Ich habe vergessen, Ihnen zu sagen, wie sehr ich dich liebe. (Thank god. You’re alright after all this time. I forgot to tell you how much I love you.)
(Y/N): How many times is she going to say that?
Peter: That’s like the fifth time she’s said I love you.
S/m most embarrassing story you have about ur bros
Shu- This is more like a bunch of moments.. Kino keeps trying to kill me, but it’s in the most stupid ways possible. Once he just came up, straddled me, and started pressing a cross to my cheeks, neck and chest. After two minutes he gave up. I don’t know why he thought that would work.. since he can touch a cross… So I have no idea. He probably was high or something.
Reiji- I once saw Ayato singing Get Your Head in the Game while playing basketball… It was scary.
Ayato- One time, Subaru fell asleep in class and school ended, so Shu came in, threw him over his shoulder and left. The girls started flipping out, and once Subaru woke up, he punched Shu in the face. The car ride home was so awkward..
Laito- I once saw Reiji watching German soap operas and he was crying…
Kanato- I once saw Shu hitting on some girl, and she looked extremely uncomfortable and then she told him she was a lesbian. His face was priceless… Hehe…
Subaru- Laito once let Ayato pick his contact photo and while Ayato was going through the pictures, he found a ton of dick pics and now-… Well, I’m still concerned..
Kino- Kanato once was having a fit about one thing or another, but tripped over his own shoe laces and fell on his face. It was hilarious, but when he got up and I was laughing still… Oh god…
This is Denmark, my love kitty. Whenever I feel bad she comes and lays down on my toes. I love here. Also, here’s a letter I will be sending to my parents in the next few days:
Dear Mom and Dad:
Before you read any further, I want you to know that I love you. I always have, and always will. No matter the outcome of this interaction, I will always be your baby. All I can ask of you is to be patient and calm and attempt to understand me for who I am. I am not sorry for this, only sorry that it took me so long to ge the courage to tell you that I am a transgender man. I hope that you can forgive my being scared, and that you can understand that I am terrified of how you will react.
I have never been a traditional girl. I was never happy wearing a dress or a flowery shirt, disliked playing with dolls and vastly preferred the mud and puzzles. As early as elementary school, I could hardly consider myself a girl. I never hung out with them, and was always either on my own, or chilling with boys. I’ve been made incredibly uncomfortable by toys, clothes, activities that imply specific gender roles. I’ve always chosen to wear pants and a polo over a skirt and blouse for formal events whenever possible, for example. I do not consider myself a girl, and on some level, I never have.
When I started watching the German soap opera, Verbotene Liebe, I began questioning sexuality in general. The show made reference to the general homophobia of society, how it can be overcome, and those who identify outside of the heteronormativity can be just as accepted in society, though with a bit more work. I started to look into the idea of being something other than heterosexual, and I found a lot more than I bargained for. I learned the differences between romantic and sexual orientation, and how they can conflict, parallel or coincide with each other. But what I really found that struck a chord with me was Gender Identity.
On Tumblr, there is a term known as “Binary Cisheteronormativity,” which refers to the instance in which a man or woman who identifies without question as their assigned gender and finds themselves both sexually and romantically attracted to someone who identifies purely as the opposite sex. I have been exposed to, and have accepted the idea that Gender and Sex are not the same thing, and that there are far more Genders than the Man and Woman labels that the Binary Gender system allow us. The Gender System I have come to accept as truth in my own view is not two solid colours, but instead a gradient of many.
While most people choose to identify along with their assigned gender, there are so very many who do not. Some chose to adopt a gender that is somewhere between male and female, some opt to completely reject the social construct of man or woman. And some wish to continue adhering to the Gender Binary, but wish to be on the other side.
That is where I fall.
I have been experimenting online, and at school, with my gender expression. I dress in more masculine clothing, attempt to speak in lower tones, brush my hair a certain way, and in general present as a man. I ask my friends and professors at school to refer to me as either neutral or masculine pronouns, and to call me by the name Alfred instead of Anna. I’ve been doing this for over a year now, and have at some point come to the decision that this is truly who I am. I do not wish to be a woman any longer. I never was. I want to seek professional help. I need medical, emotional, financial and familial support. I cannot carry the burden of being this way alone.