How it all began – High School Exchange Student in Louisiana

Traveling the US in a motorhome

I thought I give you a short intro about myself MariaAbroad and why I am where I am… Well, it all started in 1986… (don’t worry, I will not write about every detail) My family went on vacation in the US: 4 children, 2 adults, 6 weeks, from San Francisco to New York and all in one wreck of a motor home… Even though I cannot remember much of it, I am still amazed that my parents decided to go again the following year, and the year after and after… We travelled all over the place, from San Francisco to the New York, Los Angeles to Florida, Yosemite, Yellowstone, San Diego to Seattle and back. We really got around quite a bit and I began to love this country more every year. I always told my parents that I would live in the US when I am grown up… When I was a little bit older, my dad kept on telling me that I don’t have an objective point of view about America, because I only experienced it  on vacation and vacation is always very different from everyday life. How true that is… Nevertheless, he gave me unknowingly the best argument to persuade him that an exchange year in the US would give me the best objective insights I could get… If he had known…

High School Exchange Year in Louisiana

So I packed my bags for the first time on August 7, 1999 at the sweet age of 16 and went off to live in Bachelor, Louisiana. I had signed up for a one year High School Exchange program and I was ready to experience how life in the US was really like. I arrived at Baton Rouge International Airport, was picked up by my host family and we started driving. After about an hour drive we made it to the small town of New Roads where my school was located. New Roads is a very neat city located at the “False River”, a cut off branch of the Mississippi. The problem was that we kept on driving for another 45 minutes. The streets got smaller and smaller and the houses fewer and fewer. We stopped at a small house in the middle of nowhere. I asked the stupid question where our neighbors are and my host family just started laughing… What a paradise for a teenager!

As you can tell, this part of the USA was not  exactly what I was used to. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great experience and I learned a lot in this time. I never regretted going there, but many things were just oh so different from home. My host family, well, how should I put it, let’s just say that compared to them, All Bundy is an expert of manners and good behavior… Just one little example: They used to play a game called FIB (farting in bed – my host mom and dad covered themselves with their bedding and started farting and the one who had to throw up first was the loser!) The good thing about this was that it really motivated me to study really hard, as I never wanted to end up like this. Even though I had complained several times to my organization about the behavior of my host family, they just ignored the problem.

After several months, I finally found another host family on my own and I was able to truly enjoy the rest of my High School Exchange year in Louisiana. I moved in with one of my teachers, who was only a few years older. I moved to Baton Rouge and I had a really great time there. My host mom and I became the best friends  and we did some crazy things together. We went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, toured several plantation homes and if we were lucky, my host mom did not wreck the car on the way! (She managed to have 3 minor accidents during the 3 ½ month period I was living with them… Her husband just called her “My little trouble”) I really had a good time while living with them and I even visited them twice after I left, once in good ol’ Baton Rouge and once in Rome, where my host dad was working at the time. Unfortunately, we lost contact, but I am currently looking to find out more about their whereabouts. Wish me luck, y’all!

This was my first outbreak of this incurable travel disease. You can’t cure it, but you can learn to live with it. It took me quite some time to get readjusted to Germany again. The so-called reverse culture shock hit me pretty badly. I had grown up very much and learned a lot about what I can accomplish and what I expect from life. The problem was that my family still saw the little girl in me that I was  before I had left. After a while, things got back to normal, I went to a new school, finished my German High School and decided to study American Studies, Law and Politics in Germany. Unfortunately, I could not complete my studies, as I was the only student there and they could not offer me all the courses that were required. So after one year at the university, I started an apprenticeship to become a European Secretary. The program includes 3 foreign languages (English, French, and Spanish), business, and office management. During all those years, I was always trying to figure out a way to come back to the US. I even stalked some of the American Army guys that were stationed in my area… Even that didn’t work!!! You want to know how I finally managed to come back to the US without getting married, well, keep on reading…

Want to read what happened next?

My China Experience 1

My China Experience 2-11

My China Experience 12-21

My China Experience 21-31

High School Exchange Student USA – Post image source