Eight weeks ago, I had nothing in common with 12 students from five universities, except for an interest in German and the courage to spend two months in a foreign country.
Fast-forward to now.
I have more global perspective, more lessons in patience and a group of friends with whom I’ll always share memories of an amazing summer.
On Friday night, I said Auf Wiedersehen to the town I’ve called “home,” the people I’ve called “family” and the new students I’ve called “friends.”
Naturally, this evoked a twinge of sadness. More overwhelming, though, was the contentment that I’ll always share fond memories with a great group of people.
The night began, as any celebration should, with champagne.
Besides, I wanted to be fully able to appreciate our fabulous entertainment for the night. Oh, how I’ll miss German polka bands…
Note: I may be going out on a limb, but I’m pretty sure that “buffet” is just an abbreviated way to say “proof that your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
Lucky for me, there was a huge selection of salad toppings. I ended up bypassing the lettuce and went straight for corn, green beans, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and mozzarella.
With a little space yet to fill on my plate, I rounded out my meal with a spinach, feta and pasta dish, a slice of cantaloupe and a small bretz’n roll. It was a German meal, after all…
I enjoyed every delectable bite of the goodness, give or take a little extra fruit.
But, really, what is a buffet without dessert? (Answer: Like a book without words. Just pointless.)
Even after narrowing down the options to two, I still couldn’t decide on what I wanted. As a logical thinker, I decided the obvious solution was to go for two desserts.
I split a piece of love in cake form chocolate mousse cake in half and had a piece of good ol’ German apple strudel. And since they weren’t already rich enough, I topped both with a little vanilla crème sauce.
After dessert was served and my figurative belt was loosened, it was time for business.
Despite fears, the crowd seemed genuinely amused in a “laughing with you, not at you” kind of way. I even got a few accolades for my convincing performance as a schoolteacher, although I refused any autographs.
My professors then bestowed goofy certificates to the students, based on personalities or memorable moments from the summer.
Even with eight weeks of classes, I’m still convinced my teachers thought Rebecca and I are interchangeable. So it was no surprise that we received identical awards.
It said, “Joggen, joggen über alles, über alles in die Welt,” to parody the German national anthem and our habit of running every morning.
The icing on the cake was that our professors actually gave Rebecca’s certificate to me and mine to her. Guess they’ll never learn who’s who…
My moment of sadness came when we played a slideshow of pictures and videos from the trip.
Even with 25 minutes of film, the show was unable to capture all that we had done.
The official program concluded with all of the students singing the rewritten “Sweet Home Holzkirchen.”
Afterward, everyone stuck around for a while, chatting and slowly saying goodbye.
It was well past 10 o’clock before the crowd really started filtering out. Still, for the sake of getting the most out of the last night in Germany, I went by a pub with a couple of the students and my host-sister for a bit.
That night, as I finally lay down to sleep, it struck me how strange it will be not to see the same people every day.
Just as with any close group of people, there were ups, downs and moments of tension. But, at the end of the day trip, I am thankful for it all.
Some of the students I’ll see again. Others will only exist in memories and Facebook.
However, forever we’ll share a summer to growth, happiness and memories.
That’s something to be thankful for.