Senior Chloe Szyc reflects on her Junior year in Germany

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TOWAMENCIN-Chloe Syzc, a senior at North Penn, is adjusting to life in the United States after spending the entirety of her junior year in Germany. Her year was filled with exciting adventures and memories she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

While abroad, she traveled to many places around Europe with her host family and friends. Travel is more accessible in Germany than in the United States due to public transportation and the close proximity of major cities and towns. This was one of the biggest differences between the two countries, and was something she had to adjust to.

Here I have homework, clubs, and things to do after school. Over there after school I could just hop on a train and go to the closest city and go shopping for the rest of the day. It was easily accessible, and as an exchange student I did not have as much responsibility as a regular student”

— Chloe Szyc

“It is not that my parents here are less lenient, it’s the fact that we have less modes of transportation. I took public transportation everywhere. Also, I did not have responsibilities like I do here. Here I have homework, clubs, and things to do after school. Over there after school I could just hop on a train and go to the closest city and go shopping for the rest of the day. It was easily accessible, and as an exchange student I did not have as much responsibility as a regular student,” remenisced Syzc.

Syzc was able to visit many unique cities in Germany like Berlin, Munster, Dresdan, and others. Not only did she travel throughout Germany, but also to other countries like England, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the Czech Republic.

“My first break I went to Munich for Oktoberfest. We toured around the city of Munich and then went to Oktoberfest, of course. Then we went to the Zugspitze, which is the highest mountain in Germany. It is right on the border or Germany and Austria. Then on that trip towards the tail end we went to Nuremberg,” said Syzc.

Since Syzc was in Germany for a full year, she had to spend important days like her birthday and holidays immersed in another culture. Her birthday was one of the first German celebration she experienced, and it was overwhelming to say the least.

“For my birthday I had a big party with a bunch of family I did not know at the time. Everyone was talking all around me and giving me gifts. I was like ‘I don’t know who these people are, I don’t know what you are saying, this is so overwhelming.’ But then I went out with my friends later that night and it was much better,” explained Syzc.

The language barrier was something Syzc had to break down. It takes time, patience, and some failure to be fluent in any language. However, after the help of her new friends and host family, she was able to become a part of the Germany community and speak fluently. She has many funny stories of misunderstandings and mistranslations from the beginning of her life as a German speaker.

“I went to the movie theater, it was still at the beginning of my exchange year, so it was probably in October. It was one of the first movies I actually saw in a movie theater, and it was Bohemian Rhapsody. The main character was a gay man, but he was not sure about his sexuality, so he dated a woman. They broke up because of his sexuality, and the word for ‘gay’ in German is ‘schwul’. Basically, later on in the movie, the girl comes back and tells him she is pregnant, or ‘schwanger.’ I did not know that, so I thought she said the word ‘schwul’ and it was this big commotion in the movie, so I was like ‘what is the big deal? If she is gay that is fine, he is also gay.’ And my friends looked at me like I was crazy. They all made a bunch of jokes about that,” narrated Syzc.

Another time early on in the school year, she went out to eat with her new friends. Like in the United States, there are certain social rules the German people follow in public places. What is polite in America has a totally different meaning in Germany, as Chloe discovered.

“If you want to say no to someone, you say ‘nein,’ but sometimes you can say things like ‘nuh’ or ‘neh,’ like how we say ‘nah.’ But, you do not say that in a restaurant, and I made that mistake. The waitress asked me if I wanted a small when I ordered a Fanta and I said ‘nuh’ but you are not supposed to say that. My friends were joking about it so much, it was so embarrassing,” explained Syzc.

Chloe not only was able to travel and make tons of fun memories, but she learned so many valuable lessons that will stick with her for the rest of her life. She was able to figure out who she was as a person since she was without her parents. She had her new host family, but being that far away from her family catapulted her into adulthood. She took a step most highschoolers do not make until they are going to college, but Szyc experienced this at sixteen years old.

“I learned my independence and self-confidence. I have grown as a person in the fact that I know myself better now and what I stand for and my views on certain things.”

— Chloe Syzc

“I learned my independence and self-confidence. I have grown as a person in the fact that I know myself better now and what I stand for and my views on certain things. My political views, as in what is most important to me, has changed because I have seen the world now. I have gone to Fridays for Future protests which is about saving the environment. The environment was never one of my top priorities before, but now it is. I know now that I can do it. I had never flown before, and my first flight was to Germany by myself with a layover in Frankfurt, the busiest airport in Europe. My confidence has blossomed,” said Syzc.

It has been hard for Syzc, adjusting back to life in the States. However, she uses what she learned from her year abroad in her everyday life. She is the president of German club, the historian of International Friendship club, and is trying to get more involved in helping the environment. She misses her German friends and family, but she is ready to embark on this new chapter of her life: adulthood.