Well, one of my resolutions for the year 2012 was to start a blog…so here it is. I haven’t ever blogged before, nor do I have mad writing skills, so please bare with me.
I am not really your typical American Girl. I really never have been. In 2000, my parents decided to move to Germany for my dad’s job, so it was goodbye USA and comfort zone and hello culture shock. I remember shortly after my parents had told me that we were moving to Germany, I looked for a book on Germany in the school library. It was full of pictures of people wearing Dirndl and Lederhosen and spinning on hilltops, like you see on the Sound of Music .
When we moved, I wasn’t even sure if there would even be television. You can imagine what that thought would do to a 9-year-old. When we arrived, I was surprised to find that Germany DID have TV…in German of course and people were just as up to date with the latest music hits as the US was. The first month and a half were spent living with colleagues of my Dad’s and with people from our new Church, while we searched for our new home. Once we found our apartment, we lived with no furniture but a few mattresses and donations from the church for months until the crate with our American furniture arrived. (You can probably imagine the cartwheels I did when I came home from school to my old furniture.)
Because of my Dad’s profession, my brother and I didn’t get to attend any of the international schools for free, so we were put into the German school system. The German school system is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, you will get an extremely good education in Germany, especially in Bavaria (The “State” we moved to), but you have to keep at it from first grade till finish. If you mess up in third grade, that could mean that you have a low income job for the rest of your life. And that is not an exaggeration. For those of you, who aren’t familiar with the German school system, it is explained in the post directly below this one, (which I would recommend reading right now) so that I don’t bore you to death with information you already know.
I had just finished up third grade in the US with fairly good grades. But since I could not speak a word of German and I’d be going into fourth grade, which, if you read the post about the German school systems, is a crucial year. So my parents decided it would be best to hold me back and have me repeat the third grade. Wonderful. But since I had always been the youngest in my class in the states, there would still be students older than me in my new class. I remember the first day of school as if it had been yesterday. I walked into a classroom full of kids speaking a language I didn’t know, wearing slippers/house shoes, which I found very odd and staring at me. I remember my teacher standing with me in the front of the room, holding my shoulders and talking to the class in gibberish. When I took my seat, everyone stood up and greeted the teacher with a snappy “Gu-ten-Mor-gen-Frau-War-li-mont!”. This was a routine, I was not aware, would follow me until my last year of school in Germany. Luckily, there was a handful of girls in the class happy to show me around, teach me German, introduce me to the culture and generally help me out. Without them, I swear I never would have learned German so quickly! At the end of third grade, I was wearing a borrowed dirndl, which ended up being a gift and playing a part in a play that our class did. I was also in the Orff Schulwerk, an approach to musical education and played xylophone and djimbe, which I enjoyed, especially because of the fact that it didn’t require speech. xD
I ended up in the Hauptschule in fifth grade, even though I had the language down. I am not saying that every Hauptschule is like this, but most end up being the school foreigners and kids with rough home lives attend. So I went through a lot of bullying that year, because of my accent and being American. But I worked hard and at the end of the year was recommended to attend a Gymnasium. Since my parents weren’t familiar with the area, they took the advice of my principal, who recommended a catholic all girl Gymnasium that was 45 minutes from where we lived. Because of moving schools, I was forced to repeat fifth grade. I lasted two years in the Gymnasium. I struggled in math (which has always been my weakest subject), had issues articulating myself in my German essays and had the most difficult time learning Latin in sixth grade in GERMAN. Besides that, there was the fact that I don’t get along with girls very well and was constantly in fights with girls in my class. Needless to say, I ended up going straight to seventh grade in the Realschule. By the time I got to that school, nobody noticed I was American until hearing my accent in English class. I chose the french track because of my heritage. I really wanted to be able to communicate with my Grandmother in her native language. Besides, I found the language beautiful. Unfortunately, this was before the art track was being offered at the school.
I did much better at this school; relationship- and grade-wise. But once I hit eighth grade, a lot of drama in my home started, which caused my school to be neglected. I missed a lot of class and failed several classes, causing me to repeat, for the first time that was actually my fault. So I was in a class with kids between two and three years younger than I was, which was a constant discouragement, which followed me through to tenth grade. In tenth grade, I was diagnosed with depression and was barely making it through school, being in an even worse state than I was in eighth grade. I failed tenth grade and watched all of my classmates receive their diplomas. This was in 2010. I got a part-time job at a clothing store at the mall in our town and was making minimum wage.
I knew I wasn’t happy in Germany and the only further school I had interest in going to was a graphic design school that was 9000 Euros a year (over ten grand) and offered no financial aid to anyone but German citizens. My aunt and uncle had been talking with my Mom and asked if I wanted to come and live with them in New Mexico. Even though my life basically sucked where I was at the time, I still had friends, a band and a relationship that were keeping me there. Not to mention a comfort zone, which I had built up for ten years.
I finally made the decision to leave after looking at all of my educational options. At that point, there was no way in hell I was going back to the Realschule to face another year of failure with little kids laughing at me. So, I packed up my things, booked a flight for 3 weeks from that day and said my goodbyes…and I left. Another part of the reason I decided to move was because I would be forced to quit the constant partying and do something constructive. I would also be able to afford my driver’s license (in Germany it costs 2000 Euros!) and a car AND school with help from financial aid.
The first five months in the States were very difficult. I cut my smoking in half and didn’t drink at all. The partying automatically came to an end, since I had no friends to party with. A few months after I moved here, I grabbed a GED book at the bookstore and started studying. I studied for a total of…maybe a few hours. I found it extremely easy compared to what I had been used to. I made the appointment to take my test and got all of them knocked out in two days. I passed with honors and got to take part in my first cap and gown graduation, which I was absolutely thrilled about!
I started my first semester of college in the Spring of 2011 and met a few new people including my boyfriend and currently fiancee. :) I experienced a happy feeling that I had been lacking for so many years, I had completely forgotten how to feel this way. I got a single B that semester and the rest were all A’s. I got my learner’s permit in the spring and practiced driving throughout the summer. I had sort of learned how to drive a stick with my Mom in Germany, but I hadn’t had much practice and it had been years earlier. My boyfriend and I got engaged in the summer, which seemed quick, but it was what my heart truly wanted. I knew for certain that I had found my soulmate. He is basically me, different gender. In the fall, I started my second semester, got my driver’s license and finally my first car; a red Chevy Cavalier, thanks to my awesome cousin. I passed my second semester with a 4.0 GPA, made honor roll and was accepted into the National Society of Leadership and Success.
I am extremely pleased with how far I have come since I moved. Sure, living here has definitely had it’s ups and downs, but I am certain, that this is where I am currently meant to be. Don’t get me wrong. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my parents, my brother and my close friends. I haven’t been back to Germany since my move and am constantly asked when I am coming to visit again. But I don’t regret the decision made. If I hadn’t made it, I would not be where I am today, would have never met my fiancee and would definitely not be as motivated and confident as I am now.
So why do I say that I am not a typical American Girl? I am a third culture kid…I don’t feel American and I don’t feel German. I am my own species, if you will. So if you ever speak to me and wonder why I sound like such a martian, this is why. ;)
Thanks for baring with me…I can guarantee this will be my longest post ever. :P
I have been asked so many times by so many people how exactly the German school systems work. I am sure it is a little different in every “Bezirk” (State), but this is how it was for me when I went to school there.
The public state-run schools are free, but charges and fees for books and general materials throughout the year do come up. Going to school from first to at least ninth grade is mandatory and there is no homeschooling in Germany. You generally start out with Kindergarten, which is more like Preschool in the United States. It is not required and you don’t really learn anything.
Then you enter the Grundschule (Primary School), which lasts from 1st to fourth grade. You begin to learn English from first grade all the way until graduation. In first and second grade, you don’t receive grades. In fourth grade, the grades you make will depend on which secondary school you are placed into for fifth grade until you graduate. If you grades aren’t good enough to make it into the higher schools, you can take qualifying exams. If you pass, you’re in, if not, you’re out. That simple.
Secondary education in Germany is split up into three levels. The Hauptschule (secondary general school: prepares you for employment and ends with the Hauptschulabschluss dipoma after ninth or tenth grade, depending on which type of diploma you are on track to getting), the Realschule (intermediate school: more intense and prepares you for either a further school to eventually lead to University or employment and leads to the Mittlere Reife after tenth grade) and the Gymnasium (grammar school: prepares you for University, ending with the Abitur diploma after twelfth or thirteenth grade).
If you end up in the Hauptschule, and your grades are good enough in the first year, you can be placed either in the Realschule or Gymnasium, which requires repeating the fifth grade. You also have the opportunity to take the exams again. If your grades are good in sixth grade, you have one last shot at the Realschule, but no longer the Gymnasium. Most people I know who got the general Hauptschulabschluss ended up working as craftsmen (mechanic, carpenter, brick layer etc.), but some also went on to the Berufsschule (job school), where you receive training and education at companies and part time vocational schools. However, there are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b.
In the Realschule, you are required to choose an education track in seventh grade: math, art, language and business, which will offer you specific classes to your interest. After graduation, you generally continue on to the Fachoberschule (Vocational upper secondary school), which can lead to University.
In the Gymnasium, you are required to chose a second foreign language (French, Latin, Italian etc.) in sixth grade, which you will take until you graduate.
A day in the life of a student:
School generally starts at around 8 AM. You go to your homeroom, where you will have all your classes with the same people in the same seat. (Acception: classes that can’t be taken in a homeroom such as chemistry or PE) Your class schedule is different every day and takes a little while to memorize. Each class is generally around 45 minutes. After your first three classes of the day, you have a “Pause” (recess and snack time). In the Grundschule, it is about half an hour long and it secondary school, it is about fifteen minutes. There is usually a small area where bread, sandwiches, pastries, snacks and drinks are sold during this time. After the Pause, you have between one and three more classes before going home. If extra curricular classes are offered after school, such as band, volleyball or french conversation, you have an hour lunch break where you can either bring your own lunch or eat in the cafeteria. After school, you come home, eat lunch (which in Germany is generally a hot meal, like the American dinner) and have an hour long “Ruhezeit” (quiet time). During this time, most stores are closed for a few hours and you aren’t allowed to play loud music or make a lot of noise and disturb your neighbors. This time is mainly used for resting and napping. Homework and studying takes about as much time as it would in America.
Other little differences about the school systems:
at the beginning of every class/day with a teacher, the whole class stands up and chants “Gu-ten-Mor-gen-Frau/Herr-___”.
in the Grundschule, you wear house shoes/slippers in the classroom. There is usually a place to hang coats and put shoes either inside or right outside the classroom
throughout school, you either have a Catholic, Evangelic or Ethic religion class, which is required.
when you raise your hand, you raise as if you were to tell your teacher you need to use the restroom; with one finger pointed up.
from first through fourth grade, you are required to use special lined paper, to teach you correct penmanship
from first through fourth grade, you are required to use only blue-inked fountain pen
pencil is not allowed for ANYTHING but art class in Germany. Even math. If you need to erase something, you are recommended to cross it through with a ruler or use a special fountain pen eraser. Wite-out is discouraged.
German school desks seat two people. They are long and have two spots underneath to put things under the desk. It is a smart thing to pair up with a pal quick or arrive early on the first day of school, because in most cases, you will be stuck there all year and not be allowed to switch.
dress code is not very strict in Germany. Of course, there are limits; you shouldn’t be walking to school in a mini skirt and a tube top on a daily basis, but you aren’t going to get in trouble for crazy hair, a lip ring or ripped jeans.
there are no hall passes. If you need to go to the bathroom, raise your hand and ask. Most teachers are okay with it.
there are no lockers. Since you are generally in the same room all day, you have no need for one. You can leave things under your desk or at your seat. The risk of anything being taken is very slim…theft is not bad an issue in Germany as it is in the states.
there is no student parking. Since you have to be eighteen to get a license in Europe, student parking isn’t very necessary. If you do, however, have your own transportation besides a bike, such as a scooter, you’re going to have to find your own parking spot.
chalkboards aren’t mounted to the wall. They can be adjusted up and down and even open up. Certain parts of the chalkboard are even with normal lines or graphing lines. They are not cleared off with American erasers. In Germany, you use a wet sponge and a squeegee. Most classrooms come with a sink and a mirror to clean the chalkboard and wash hands. (Germans are very hygienic people…and the girls love to crowd around the mirror between classes to retouch their makeup ;D)
"its like a never ending feeling, that nothing will ever get better. Theres so many things that are hidden behind the mask we wear everyday. </3"
"laying on my bed thinking about why something always has to go wrong."
"why does something always have to ruin my day?"
"fml. don’t bother txting me. cells off."
You all know those people. You see them all over Facebook. They tell all of their friends and their friends’ friends and their friends’ friends’ friends about how much their life sucks. They say things like “don’t text me. my phone is off.” or “nobody cares anyway…” etc. etc. etc. Then you read the comments underneath: “what happened?” “what’s wrong?” “are you okay?”. And then the person who created this depressing status update in the first place responds with either “I don’t want to talk about it” or “Text me.”
DEAREST PEOPLE OF FACEBOOK. IF YOU ARE GOING TO POST SOMETHING IN A STATUS YOU DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT OR YOU DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE SHARING, DON’T FUCKING POST IT! I mean, my GOD! And if all you are seeking is attention, which in most cases you probably are, post: “Facebook friends, I need attention as soon as possible. Please send me a text, a message or ask me what’s wrong so that I can add you to the list of lame ass things that boost my ego.”
"Bob Whatshisface is "in a relationship" with Tammy Talksalot."
two hours later.
"Bob Whatshisface went from being "in a relationship" to "single"."
one day later.
"Bob Whatshisface is in a relationship and "it’s complicated"."
rinse. lather. repeat.
People, it gets old. If you’ve just met the girl of your dreams while drunk at a party and you’ve decided right then and there that you want to begin a relationship with her, wait until the hangover has passed before getting on Facebook and sharing the peachy news.