For many exchange students the time after the exchange year - for parents as well of course - is not easy, sometimes it may really make your heart ache.
When I rode to the airport with my family in August 1999 I still believed that one year would be a long time, a long time in which one can do a lot of things. It was not easy to say good-bye to my parents, siblings and friends. I felt an incredible mixture of joy and anxiety.Of course I knew from the beginning that the year sometime would come to an end and that I would be back in Germany someday. This thought accompanied me the whole stay and whenever I felt homesick I remembered that I only had this one year and that I should use it to its full extend.I spent a wonderful time in Michigan. The members of my family quickly became special persons in my life. We did lots of things. I had a good relationship with them, we got along so well. I travelled around and throughout my exchange year I collected tons of new experiences.Very quickly I got used to the different life. It did not take long until I couldn't even really imagine to live in Germany again. Everything seemed so far away - not only because of the distance. I became aware of how much I loved my family in Germany and how much certain things mean to me. But I liked all the new things in my life, too. The year that seemed so long at the beginning soon vanished. It went by so fast for me. When I found myself on the airport again, I finally realized that this would be a good-bye for a long time. I got on the airplane with mixed feelings.Of course I was happy to see my family and friends in Germany, but yet I didn't want to leave the new, the magnificent experience. I was confused and didn't understand the world around me anymore.The world seemed o.k. when I was able to embrace my family in Germany. But I didn't know exactly – where do I belong now? On the way home from the airport the country seemed strange. Consciously and unconsciously I refused everything that was "German". I did not eat a lot and only at "American times". I did not want to change my watch to European time and I hardly slept. I often called my US family and friends. I just wanted to go on as I had done for one year. I hardly ever talked at all about my experiences in the US.Now I know that I really hurt my family and friends in this time. I got into lots of conflicts with my parents and I opposed everything they offered. It was a really difficult time for them and they had to let me go a second time. They say that it was easier for them to let me go than to watch me suffer when I came back.But I just didn't get along in my life which had changed so suddenly. I wanted a mixture of both lives. But that does not work and I realized that I had to readjust again. It was not easy for me and I still have problems today. With the help from my family and some nice people from YFU, who mean a lot to me by now, I found some support and now I am getting used to everything again. Of course I have kept some of my American habits in my life, but I know that I have to settle with less.I am still in touch with my family and friends in the US and I don't want this to change. The last 2 weeks in the US and the first 2 months here in Germany were very complicated for everybody. But I learned a lot from this time.I want to thank everybody who helped with their advice, who enabled me this great experience and who helped to get my life in order again. I changed a lot, I grew in lots of domains and I see many things from a different point of view now. The time in the US was and will be a very special time in my life.I just want to encourage those who experience the same. Don't see your return as a problem, but focus on the opportunity you get to grow and get to know yourself better! Enjoy your life and use what you have learned and experienced in your exchange year! And always learn something new!