Paris Conner on Life in Germany

The Following article is our latest installment in the series “Ashland High School Abroad”, and is written by AHS junior Paris Conner from her host school in Germany.

I live in a small town in the western part of Germany called Alsdorf.  Only about 40,000 people live here, but it’s a suburb of a bigger city, Aachen. Aachen is the western-most city in Germany, so I live about 15 minutes from the Netherlands and Belgium. My host family consists of my host-mom and dad, and two younger brothers, ages 12 and 9.

I go to a Gymnasium which is one type of high school here. But because of the different curriculum, I’m in the 10th grade again. That is definitely a little bit weird. In general, school here is very different from school in America. My Gymnasium starts at the 5th grade, so having little children running around sure took some getting used to! I also thought it would be a lot stricter than it is. In fact, a lot of the time, class is really loud and chaotic- a huge surprise to me. Despite the

differences, I do really enjoy school here. However, I wish there were sports or clubs here at school. They don’t have anything like that. And school spirit is practically non-existent. There’s nothing like Spirit Week; there are no assemblies, and no school dances either.

I’ve noticed that the German people aren’t generally outwardly friendly but they’re not outwardly mean either. When you pass someone on the street you won’t get a nice smile, and when you’re at the grocery store the cashiers don’t engage you in friendly conversation. Germans also treat exchange students differently than Americans do. I always saw the kids at Ashland High School introduce themselves to the exchange students or invite them to lunch. Even if the friendship didn’t last, Ashland kids still made an effort to make exchange students feel welcome. Here, it’s not like that. Don’t get me wrong, the Germans are nice, but only after you’ve gotten to know them. First, you have to go up to them, introduce yourself and try to make a connection.

In February, we have Carnival. I’m having a blast. It’s basically 7 days of parades and parties. Everyone dresses up in costumes and goes to the disco or to other parties. It’s the celebration before Lent, so it’s a bit like our Mardi Gras. But Carnival is longer and much more of an occasion. It’s great to be able to celebrate holidays I would never get to in America.

A Carnival parade in Alsdorf, Paris' host town

Even if German is a ridiculously hard language to learn, I’m having such an awesome time. It’s so hard to believe I’ve already been here almost 7 months. Time flies when you’re having fun!