Meet Moritz Hütgen, the German Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) German Participant of the Month for November 2019

Starting his exchange year in Missouri by becoming captain of his high school soccer team was easy for Moritz Hütgen. His can-do attitude has led to a dynamic “second life” as a CBYX participant. Following his Participant of the Month profile last November, we wanted to check in to see what’s been happening since Thanksgiving.

Congratulations, Moritz, on being named the CBYX German Participant of the Month in November 2019. What have been some of the highlights of your CBYX experience since last November?

Thank you so much for your congratulations. I’m spending a great time here in the United States and I experienced a lot in this relatively short time. With my host family and friends I had a lot of fun and according to that, I have a lot of highlights to talk about. A great experience for me has been Thanksgiving. I never participated in this national holiday because it‘s not a big deal in my home country, Germany. The food was delicious and it was great to come together with family and friends. Another highlight for me personally was Christmas. It was great to experience traditions of my host family and also to include some of my traditions in my host family’s Christmas this year. 

It’s truly impressive you became captain of your high school soccer team just weeks after arriving! How did you manage that? And how does youth soccer culture compare in Germany and the United States?

It was a great privilege for me to become captain of my high school soccer team. I‘ve been captain in some of my former soccer clubs in Germany as well and I was very happy to lead my team here in the U.S. Soccer culture in my opinion is very similar all over the world. You just need a ball, some people and it doesn’t matter where you are from or what language you speak. Soccer brings people together to interact with each other and to have a fun time. It was a great opportunity for me as well to find friends and to make connections in the beginning of my exchange year.

Continue reading “Meet Moritz Hütgen, the German Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) German Participant of the Month for November 2019”

Meet Paulina Heuss, the German Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Participant of the Month for January 2020

From “strangers” to friends in Philadelphia, and beyond: Being welcomed into the home of Eagles fans for Thanksgiving dinner was just one highlight of Paulina Heuss’s CBYX year so far. In our interview we wanted to know more about this encounter (described in her Participant of the Month profile), but also the broader cultural experiences of the custom tailor in the community of Endicott, NY and throughout the United States.

How did you find out about CBYX/PPP, and how did you decide to apply?

During my apprenticeship as a custom tailor my boss received information about the CBYX/PPP. She knew that I was interested in going abroad after my apprenticeship and told me about the program. I did some research on the CBYX and was immediately convinced that this is the perfect program for me and applied.

Could you tell us a little more about your training as a tailor in Germany, and how your professional background relates to what you’ve experienced in the United States? How do the systems differ in regards to training, qualifications, and other standards of the field?

I started the apprenticeship as a custom tailor shortly after my graduation. Part of this training is four workdays and 1 1/2 days at a trade school. I worked at a small bridal and evening couture shop, where my boss taught me how to manufacture bridal and evening gowns and also casual clothes for women from scratch. From what I’ve experienced, this kind of craftsmanship is more appreciated in Germany than in the US. Here, in most smaller towns and cities one barely finds a custom tailor. Mostly people are looking for someone who makes adjustments from already finished clothes. Spending time in New York City showed me that this is the place to go if you are interested in fashion. In this city with headquarters of many big fashion brands, craftsmanship and a practical oriented training like I have gone through in Germany, is highly appreciated. 

In the US there are several programs at colleges that open up a way into the fashion world. Since I am living in a small community I found a good way to expand my knowledge within the fashion industry and still be able to use what I’ve learned about fabrics and materials during my apprenticeship. Working for a small and local boutique in Binghamton, NY I find myself learning more and more about the business side of the fashion field.

What does community service mean to you as part of your CBYX experience? Any favorite moments so far?

As part of my CBYX experience community service means very much to me, since it enables me to participate in so many different ways in my community. Working with little kids, teaching them German and sewing was probably my favorite experience so far. Seeing how interested they were in another language, made teaching it so much easier. Although all of my volunteer experiences have brought so much joy and fun! No matter if working at local events, with kids, at the food pantry, everyone is so thankful and open-hearted, which makes this so special!

Could you tell us a bit about your trip to Niagara Falls with the International Student Organization? Have you had the chance to travel to other regions of the USA?

The Niagara Falls are about 4 hours away from my hometown Binghamton, which made this a one day trip. Visiting the Falls was amazing. When we took a boat to the bottom of the Falls, I knew that this is a unique experience! It also was a nice way of getting to know other members of the International Club. 

As I am very interested in the American culture and the whole country, I am trying to explore many other regions and places. Since Upstate New York has much of incredible nature to offer, when I am going on a trip outside that area, I try to visit bigger cities, such as Chicago or LA. Of course I make it to New York City relatively often, since it is not too far away and this city has so much to explore.  

At the Thanksgiving dinner with Eagles fans, you talked about German and American sports and cultural prejudices. Could you tell us a bit more about this, how the discussion developed, whether you reached any conclusions?

As a foreign exchange student, cultural prejudices are definitely part of the experience. Being able to set them aside or sometimes even finding some truth to it, is what makes an exchange special. During the conversation with our neighbors from the Eagles game, we obviously talked a lot about American football and what meaning it has for many people. For great athletes sport is often a way of getting into a college or a university, regardless of how much money you have. Talking about popular sports in Germany, we also realized that ‘handball’ has a totally different meaning in the US. What here often is being played at the schoolyard just for fun, in Germany is considered a competitive sport with a big audience. Talking about those similarities and differences made us notice that sports in the end brings people together, no matter which country it is played in.

What do you hope to take with you from your CBYX year, and how do you think it will shape your life?

So far the CBYX year taught me so much, I never really thought about before the year. Especially the experience of dealing with unexpected situations, which will be so valuable for my future as well. I am sure many of the skills I learn during this year, I will appreciate even more throughout my life when I am looking back to experiences I had here. This year has and will shape my life especially in a way of cultural exchange and the importance of a community. But most importantly, I am already thankful for the people I met, the places I saw and all the memories that’ve been made.

By Jacob Comenetz, German Embassy

CBYX student Alexander Locher says he gained “broader worldview”

Alexander Locher is participating in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a student exchange program jointly sponsored by the US Congress and the German Bundestag.

Name: Alexander Locher

Grade: 10th

Hometown: Düsseldorf, Germany

Current location: Albuquerque, New Mexico / Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School

What motivated you to apply to the CBYX program?

After my teacher told me about the CBYX program, I was really excited. So I asked my parents what they think about the idea and even they liked it. For me personally I wanted to experience a new culture and a new environment and I wanted to get to know new people!

What reaction did you receive from friends and family when you decided to join CBYX?

My parents were really sad that I decided to join CBYX, but at the same time really supportive because they wanted me to have this experience. My friends nevertheless were really shocked about my decision, but after a couple of days they became very supportive too.

What was your first impression of the US? What was your first day like?

I was just impressed. Everything was new to me – even the little things excited me. However, I had an awesome first day because my host family made it really easy for me to integrate and they were really friendly and patient.

What was your first impression of your new American school?

I really liked my school. It is a relatively small school, so I wasn’t shocked by the size or anything. But I was really happy how people cared about me when I first arrived at my school and how easy it was to fit in!

In your opinion, what are some of the major differences between living in the US and living in Germany?

Everything in the US is big! It shocked me at the first moment, but after the first impression you get used to it and see the advantage of it!

What has been your favorite moment living in the US?

That is a hard question. I think I had several great moments in the US, but my favorite one was Christmas. The whole Christmas season was just amazing and it was great experience to celebrate in a new culture and with my host family!

What has been your biggest challenge about living in the US?

I think the culture shock. In the first days I struggled a little bit with the different cultures. But after the first week I got used to it!

How has CBYX helped you in your life?

CBYX really helped me in my life. Experiencing a new culture benefited my life in many ways – it gave me a broader worldview. Furthermore, the exchange changed my personality – I became more independent and open-minded.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying to CBYX?

Don’t be afraid of doing it. It is an experience that you can only gain once in your life. And even if you are afraid of leaving your family and friends at home, you will be supported as much as at home in the US by your host family and your American friends!

German exchange student Joshua Kemper discovers a love for American football and culture

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
Grade: 10th
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.

German exchange student Alexander Willers describes living in the US as a CBYX student

Alexander Wills is participating in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a student exchange program jointly sponsored by the US Congress and the German Bundestag. Name: Alexander Willers

Grade: 12th in the United States, 10th in Germany

Hometown: Hamburg, Germany.

Current location: I am living with my host family in Flint, Michigan.

What motivated you to apply to the CBYX program?

The CBYX program is an amazing opportunity to learn more about the culture of the United States and to meet new friends. The program allowed me to not only understand the culture and way of life in the US but to get in touch with interesting people from politics. I truly feel that within the program I can contribute to the understanding between Americans and Germans.

What reaction did you receive from friends and family when you decided to join CBYX?

We were all happy and sad at the same time. I was very proud and happy that I could join the program but I also felt sad because I was going to leave my family and friends soon for a full year. My family and my friends were also proud to hear that I have been elected for the CBYX program. Everybody is excited to learn about my experiences once I am back in Germany.

Continue reading “German exchange student Alexander Willers describes living in the US as a CBYX student”

German exchange student Tim Oswald shares his experience with CBYX

CBYX student Tim Oswald at the Golden Gate Bridge.

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.

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Julius Böhme represents Germany in World Brain Bee Championship

A 17-year old student from Germany is in Washington this week to compete against 24 other contestants in the World Brain Bee Championship – an annual neuroscience competition for youth. Julius Böhme, a student from Demen, Germany, is representing his country in a competition that tests students on their knowledge of the human brain, including intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations and various diseases.

A few months prior, Böhme won Germany’s Deutsche Neurowissenschaften-Olympiade (DNO e.V.), which hosts neuroscience Olympiads as part of the International Brain Bee Organization. By receiving first place, Böhme went on to represent Germany in the United States.

While in Washington, Böhme visited the German Embassy with his parents and girlfriend and spoke about his passion for neuroscience. His interest in the field was sparked about two years ago after his grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological condition that adversely affects the mind and the body, he said. Witnessing his grandfather’s suffering is what initially triggered Böhme’s quest for knowledge about the brain. As a young student, Böhme had not learned neuroscience in school, and what he knows now has been self-taught.

“The brain is so fascinating to me and many others because it is that organ that makes us who we really are and we don’t truly understand it,” Böhme said. “Everybody carries a brain. But the majority of people don’t think about the organ that we need to think. I would like for more people to think about how beautiful their organ is and that you really need it. You can live with one kidney, for example, but you can’t cut off half of your brain.”

Böhme is troubled that doctors and scientists understand so little about psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. After he graduates from secondary school next year, he hopes to attend a university and study medicine, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. His goal is to contribute new knowledge to the field, which would potentially help those who suffer from psychiatric disorders.

Winning the World Brain Bee Championship would “be amazing,” Böhme said. The $3000 scholarship prize would help him pay for university, which can be expensive, depending on where someone chooses to study. “It’s also nice to get feedback that you already know a lot about certain regions,” Böhme says.

The competition will feature six knowledge stations and tests will have various formats, including multiple choice questions and timed oral exams. But regardless of how Böhme fares, his interest in the brain will not waver – and he’s already thinking about the future of the field.

“Every brain is very unique and all the connections throughout the brain make a personality,” he said. “For me it would be great if humanity at some point in the future would be able to track all the connections in your brain and be able to store it in a computer or so, because you can really draw a personality from someone that way.”

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy