It was the end of summer in Germany, precisely on the 6th of September 2003, as I set my feet for the first time in Hannover. I began the adventure with 3 other fellows from Indonesia (hello Kiki, Fiona & Yogha!). We flew in with Lufthansa and arrived early in the morning in Frankfurt. It felt like a class-trip and I was anxious of what would come.
After some hours waiting in the airport of Frankfurt, we were escorted by very nice german AFS volunteers to travel further to our final destinations. We were traveling in groups and got into the german fast train, ICE to different cities of Germany. I was the only indonesian student going to Hannover. The feeling was so overwhelming, that I really can’t put this into words. Just imagine a 17-year-old girl being put into a fast, modern train on the way to a city called Hannover. Hannover is not Berlin nor Cologne. As a high-schooler I never heard the name of the city. And so yes, I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach.
As the ICE approached Hannover, I was so extremely nervous and excited that I couldn’t move my feet out of my seat. Yet the nice volunteers were successful in calming me down. Everything would turn out fine, they said.
And so I stepped out of the ICE into a strange, rather cold city called Hannover. My German host family was already waiting on the platform, with the nicest and warmest smiles I can’t ever forget. They were strangers, who very soon then turned into one of the most important parts of my life. The city, which was totally strange in the beginning turned into a home. Hannover, which is in Germany always known to be a “boring”, “moderate”or “average” city becomes my home. And whenever I hear comments about how boring Hannover is, I would use all of my arguments to defend my lovely home city. Hannover, ich liebe Dich über alles. Ich liebe das Hochdeutsch. I love the Südstadt, the Oststadt, Kröpcke, Lister Meile, Eilenriede, Maschsee, Linden, even Roderbruch. I love Hannover so much, that I came back again for my medicine study. I love Hannover that much, that I can imagine growing old and spending my retirement there.
And that is the essence of an exchange program, that I hold dearly lifelong. You come as a stranger and meet strangers in a complete strange situation and place. Soon enough they will turn into family, home and a part of you. And in an eyeblink I turned to be an Indonesian-looking German.. I have found another part of me, which is oh so German and so-not-Indonesian. There was the time, that I realized, yes.. I have found my real home in Germany.
I can never thank God enough for that once in a lifetime opportunity called AFS or Bina Antar Budaya Indonesia..
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