Joshua Kemper is participating in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a student exchange program jointly sponsored by the US Congress and the German Bundestag.
Name: Joshua Kemper
Hometown: Cologne, Germany
Current location: Alabama, Tuscaloosa
What motivated you to apply to the CBYX program?
Since I was a child I have been very interested in the US. CBYX gives students like me a chance to live in America for a whole year. Interacting with Americans and experiencing a new way of life has been a dream for me. The most important reason for me to apply was my desire to learn about the American culture and introduce Americans to German culture.
What was your first impression of your new American school?
My American school is way bigger than my German school and a little intimidating. I was sure I would get lost and have to ask for help. I actually did get lost and had to ask several people to find the right classrooms. My American school is very strict with rules on being late to class which was very surprising and new. All the students were very welcoming and approached me to introduce themselves. I was surrounded by friends from the start for which I was very grateful.
What was your first impression of the US?
My first impression was a very open-minded, friendly, and happy country. My first feelings were astounding. I felt immediately at home and welcomed. Another impression was that the people here are really interested in my home country and want to know more about our lifestyles. My new peers at school were very open about asking questions and listening to my answers. I experienced this during my International Education Week presentations as well. I was able to present about my county to over 500 students and teachers. It was an awesome experience to be able to share so much to so many people. After each presentation students would tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation and ask more questions.
In your opinion, what are some of the major differences between living in the US and living in Germany?
There are so many differences between living in the US and in Germany. The food is very different. The portions are way bigger here and most restaurants have unlimited refills on soda. Alabamians are known for eating large portions and lots of sugar whereas when I was able to travel to Washington this was not the case. It was also very different to see such school spirit and so much importance being placed on sports within school. I really enjoyed being part of my American high school’s football team and experience this first hand at pep rallies and games. Walking into a gym with the whole student body screaming and cheering is something I will never forget.
What has been your favorite moment living in the US?
Playing football has been part of my favorite moments living in the US. It was an amazing experience to see the stands full of people and students having so much fun. Playing for the school was great because the whole school and community supported you and embraced you!
What reaction did you receive from friends and family when you decided to join CBYX?
My family and friends were very supportive. My family was proud, happy, and a little bit upset at the same time. I am the baby of the family so leaving home while I am still in high school and going so far away was scary for them and for me.
What has been the biggest challenge about living in the US?
My biggest challenge was using the English language on a daily basis. It is one thing to know English, but a completely different thing to use it in everyday life and every class. It took time to get to use speaking English every day and to not speak German. My American school is big on writing essays and it has been a challenge to write essays in English in every class each semester. I am still improving my English skills as it is one of my main goals. I believe that you can never learn enough about another language. Being immersed in another language is incredibly challenging, but so rewarding!
How has CBYX helped you in your life?
CBYX helped to make me into the independent person I am today. I gained new friendships, knowledge and confidence in myself. I have improved so many different aspects of myself such as engaging others in conversations, being responsible and organization. CBYX is a great organization that gives students like myself a once in a lifetime experience. There are too many things to count that I have had the chance to see and do this year that without this opportunity I would never have experienced. Some of those experiences include visiting New Orleans, Louisiana; playing football; deep sea fishing; and visiting a variety of different churches. CBYX giving me this opportunity has definitely broadened my world view.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about applying to CBYX?
I would encourage them to take the opportunity and do it. From applying to coming to the US every step helps you grow as an individual. Try as hard as you can and try to make everyone proud, including yourself.