Our first week in Chicago/Illinois
Fries, Burgers and Uncle Sam – these were only a few of the things we experienced during the three weeks in the US.
Our exchange trip to America started 6th September with a nine-hour flight to Chicago, the capital of Illinois.
Of course all members of the exchange group were very excited to get to know their American partners, but after having seen the friendly “Welcome”-signs, we forgot our doubts about whether we would have a good time.
We drove home with our host families, had our first American dinner and went to different kinds of events in the evening.
Getting up the next day was very hard because of our jetlag, but an amazing field trip to Chicago made it easy for us to overcome our fatigue.
The following day we visited Hoffman Estates High School for the first time and we were very impressed because of the huge building and the number of pupils (more than 2000).
The following days we went to school, went to Chicago and got to know life in an American family. Although there are some differences to German family life we felt great and were able to enjoy the first weekend in our host family spending time with different activities, like visiting Lake Michigan or relaxing at the pool: A successful finishing-off of the first week.
The second week ...
We went to Chicago again twice. There the highlight was definitely the Sears Tower (or as it is now called: Willis Tower), the tallest building in the USA. 527 metres above ground we had an amazing view of the skyline and Lake Michigan. The latest attraction at Willis Tower are two glass boxes which are glued to the building’s walls, where you can stand and see the city way under your feet. If you have no head for heights, this can become a really scary experience!
At school some people went to watch the „variety show“ one evening, which you can compare to our „Showtime“. The students had much to show, and we were all thrilled to see their talents!
Another evening we all watched a football game at school, including cheerleading and the school’s band. The „Hoffman Hawks“ lost, but yet it was a great evening just because of the German club’s „Brat stand“ supervised by the German teacher Mrs. Brew (or just „Frau“). We had great German Bratwursts in an American sweet bread bun.
Another highlight was the „White Sox“ baseball game at the big stadium in Chicago. We were all excited about this, even though the Sox lost...
The last evening with “our families” in Chicago, we had a Farewell Dinner at school, where we did our presentations about Munich, the Oktoberfest and so on which was quite a success...
The next morning we were all sad because we had to leave our families and partners whom we had really come to like a lot! But we had to hurry and it all went very fast, so we had not much time for tears and sadness.
Now something else exciting lay ahead of us: Washington!
The third week.... - Washington D.C.
After two weeks in Chicago we were allowed to have an extra one-week-trip to the capitol of the United States, Washington D.C.
We stayed in a hostel near the White House, in the government district, but most of the time we were outside to visit all the sights, which D.C. is famous for.
We went to all sorts of memorials and monuments and saw a lot of museums, galleries and some of the fourteen Smithsonian Institutes.
It didn’t take us long to realise that Washington is a completely different city than
Chicago. When you walk through Chicago Downtown, you feel so small with all the skyscrapers around you and it feels narrow. While Washington has no skyscrapers and much more space between the buildings, so you feel more free while walking through the city.
During our visit to D.C. we had a very tight schedule every day.
On the first day we had a walk of about 14 kilometres and we saw the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran Memorial and as a first-day highlight the famous Lincoln Memorial.
Our teachers made us visit some museums, starting on the second day. In the beginning we weren’t very happy about going to museums, but when we saw how big and impressive they were, we were pretty excited to get to know more.
One of the most impressive moments was to actually see the original documents of the American Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and some other important documents of American history shown in the National Archives.
Surely the highlight of this week was Thursday, when we could visit the White House and the Capitol.
During our visit to the White House we wore our “Lederhosen” and “Dirndl”, which was very funny, because everybody asked us where we were from and we got into conversation with the bored security officers; so we learned e.g. how big the presidential TV screen is.
Friday was our last day with the teachers’ program and we visited the famous Arlington cemetery with about 260.000 white gravestones of fallen soldiers and the tomb of John F. Kennedy.
On Saturday, our last day, we could do whatever we wanted to. Some used it for a final shopping tour, the others walked through the city, visited some memorials and museums, of which there are many in D.C.
At our farewell dinner in a fine restaurant we had a lot of fun, because during the three weeks we had all got to know each other better and some new friendships had been made.
On Sunday, our departure day, we went to the Dulles International Airport, where we took our flight home. After about a 6 hour flight we had a stopover in Copenhagen for three hours, until we could board our connecting flight home to Munich.
We will all miss the USA, both cities we visited, and our exchange students and their families a lot. But in the end we were all happy to come back home and catch up with our families and friends again.