By Christine Zopf
On July 3, I woke up to find my room cleaner than the night before. My roommates, Rachel and Chloe, looked like zombies as they stumbled around the room getting their things together at the last minute. As a team we took our bedding to be washed, emptied our trash, and left the room almost as it was when we arrived. All was in place except the picture we had taken from my brother Philip’s room for decoration.
After gathering in the lobby, the GAPP students boarded a bus that would take us to Munich’s airport. We quickly went through security before waiting for our plane at the gate. Most of us sat in near silence, listening to music or just waiting patiently.
The realization that we were really leaving happened when the plane was taking off. We made ourselves comfortable and switched seats so we could be close to our friends. I took a window seat. I wanted to see what the ground looked like from 30,000 feet.
The plane ride home was almost two hours longer than the ride to Germany. This normally wouldn’t have bothered me, but I had a throbbing migraine and my compartment of the plane had four infant passengers. They cried for the entire eight hours, and no amount of Advil could alleviate my headache. It got to the point where when one baby would start to cry, I almost cried. The plane ride dragged out, and I tried to drown out the sound of infants screaming with movies and music.
When our plane finally touched down in Newark, I was relieved. We made our way through customs, and out of all twenty-seven of us, my brother was the only one who needed his bags searched. Our bus was waiting out front to take us home, a short drive compared to the ones we had taken in Germany. Since I didn’t have my phone, I used my friend Steph’s phone to text my mom, telling her how long until we arrived in Northampton, and to bring Foxy, my dog, to the school when they picked us up.
As the bus pulled up in front of the high school I looked around the parking lot, searching for my parent’s car. It wasn’t there. I can’t say I was surprised, we arrived five minutes earlier than we expected, and my parents are the type of people to be right on time. When they did pull up, I saw my dog, with her head out the window, waiting for us. My family and I embraced, and the car ride home was full of questions about the trip. Although it was 3 a.m. German time, I wasn’t as tired as I had expected to be.
Over the next few days I tried to get back into the swing of American life. The biggest challenge I faced was readjusting to the time difference. By 5 p.m. I would be ready to go to bed, but I forced myself to stay awake. I also had to readjust to working. For three weeks, I hadn’t taken a single order, but I quickly learned I hadn’t forgotten anything while I was gone. After a few days I had completely readjusted to American life. It was as though I had never been gone.
Looking back on my time in Germany, I believe I made the most of it. I took every opportunity and although at times I missed things about America, I never once felt overwhelmed by the German culture or language. If anything, I became caught up in it, and embraced it as my own. The GAPP program has given me so much: fond memories, new friendships, and a more open mind to new things. One day I hope I make it back to Germany, whether it be a vacation or an extended stay as a resident. For as long as I live, I will always have a special place in my heart for the German family who took me in, and a small town called Gladenbach.
So readers, our journey together has come to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Maybe I’ve even inspired you to take a tour of Germany yourself. If so, I wish you the best of luck and happy travels, and if not, well, maybe someday. So that’s all for now and until we meet again, Auf Wiedersehen!