Name: Tim Oswald
Grade: Junior / 11
Where you’re from: Weisenheim am Sand in the Palatinate region, close to Mannheim/Ludwigshafen in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Current location: Brentwood, CA – a suburb of San Francisco located in the East Bay region of the Bay Area in Northern California.
What motivated you to apply to the CBYX program?
What motivated me the most to apply for the CBYX program was my desire to leave Germany for a year and participate in an exchange year to learn more about a different culture, meet different people with different ideas and improve my English skills. When I found out about the CBYX program I was thrilled because I have been interested in politics since a very young age and the CBYX program combined all my interests including international politics, leadership, language and culture into one and therefore was the perfect program for me.
What reaction did you receive from friends and family when you decided to join CBYX?
Both my family and my friends were unbelievably happy for me and very supportive. However, they of course also were quite sad about me leaving for an entire year, especially my parents and close friends with whom I used to spend a lot of time.
What was your first impression of the US?
My first impression of the United States was very positive. I still remember my host dad picking me up after my nearly 20 hours journey from the San Francisco Airport and me being so surprised and astonished by the huge highway we got on. Going to my new home we had to pass through downtown San Francisco and I can still picture the moment we got over a hill and the whole city with its magnificent skyline lay in front of me with the Pacific in the background. It was a wonderful moment and I fell in love with the Bay Area and its people immediately.
What was your first impression of your new American school?
One word: BIG. Roughly 2,500 students attend my American High School compared to 900 in Germany. At the beginning, I actually got lost quite a bit in the huge open campus. But I was totally amazed by the beauty and size of the very green and neat campus. The first day was kind of scary because I did not know where my place was but after figuring that out I have only made positive experiences at my school with great friends and awesome teachers.
In your opinion, what are some of the major differences between living in the US and living in Germany?
The differences between the U.S. and Germany are of course very depended upon the region one is living in. For me, moving from a small, yet well connected town into a big suburb on the edge of the Bay Area the biggest difference is the need for a car in the United States. One does nearly get nowhere without a car here and even the next subway station is a 20-minute car ride away. This of course is hard for me as I am used to being quite independent with having a train connection to the big city 5 minutes away from my house in Germany.
What has been your favorite moment living in the US?
It is hard to point to an exact moment because I believe what makes an exchange year so great are the often-small moments that establish friendships or family relationships and just make you happy every day. If I had to point to something however, it would probably be the days I have spent in San Francisco with my friends or host family because I am completely in love with the city and its vibe.
What has been your biggest challenge about living in the US?
The biggest challenge probably is moving in with someone who you have never met before and spend every day with them – especially if these people are from a different culture. This means that you will have a lot of misunderstandings, questions and things to figure out, especially at the beginning and it sometimes means not putting yourself first but trying to understand one another. While many may think this is something repelling, I see this challenge as an opportunity to grow and strengthen my capability to better understand people from different backgrounds with different beliefs and values and truly value this opportunity to grow as a person.
How has CBYX helped you in your life?
The CBYX program has helped me in so many ways already and I am sure there are so many that I am not even aware of yet. Let’s start with the apparent one: My English improved so much and I feel so comfortable even giving speeches and presenting in English, even in front of native speakers. Second, it introduced me to so many great and wonderful people: from my host-family to my friends, to some of my teachers, fellow volunteers or workshop leaders in Washington, D.C. – the connections I have made during this year are priceless! Last but not least, CBYX offers me an opportunity to learn and grow every day. This is what I am especially grateful for, because it is hard to grasp how much I have already learned about American history, the society, how it works or just how to interact with people in this year. Looking back on the 8 months that have passed by so far, it is amazing to see how much I have done and learned.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying to CBYX?
DO IT! I promise you it will change your life forever. You will see the world with different eyes and come to appreciate so many things because you will discover the true meaning of life and are able to discover your true self. Sometimes you might face challenges and you question yourself, but if you take risks great things will come to you, so I encourage you to take the risks and face the challenges. They will make you learn and grow every single day and widen your horizon, which will give you an advantage wherever you go, at any point of your life. You have to experience it for yourself to understand what you are missing out on. So don’t wait, take your chance and become the best you can be!