Karlsruhe, Germany: Katie R. an exchange student sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Nanaimo, B.C. has done quite a bit of traveling since arriving in Germany in the fall of 2017. She reports that in her first weeks she found herself in three different regions of the country. The first weekend after she arrived she traveled with her host family to a city called Münster, which is about a 5-hour drive from her host city. Enduring jet lag she still found the trip interesting. Katie said “Constantly being surrounded by a very close, very large German family brought about many headaches, lots of confusion, but also seemed to be the most welcoming way possible to spend my first days in Germany".
(Pictured: Downtown Münster)
“My first week was simple and relaxed, I got myself settled in and explored my city with my host family, and met some friends.”
“At the end of the week we took another family trip, this time in two parts:....
first to the mountains of central Germany to spend some time with my host Grandma, and after that we headed to Eastern Germany, to meet some friends in a city called Erfurt”.
Back for only one day Katie took off again to the Alps of southern Germany, to attend a language camp with the 11 other exchange students from her district, “the language school we attended had a very interesting story, it was built originally as a orphanage, but was used as a Nazi hospital during the Second World War. “
“Although we didn't learn as much German as we would've liked to that week, we had a chance to explore some of the German Alps, and get to know the other exchange students we'd be spending the rest of the year with”.
Language camp with other Exchange students from Katie’s district. 
“The following week I began school, which at the time, felt like the scariest thing that could possibly happen. But you'll be happy to hear, I survived that week just fine, actually, I survived my first 4 months of school just fine. Yes it's difficult, and no, I don't understand too much (even now, when I can actually speak German). But it's where I made all my friends, and it's one of the places I learned much of the language I now speak. School is not my favorite part of exchange but it's a very important part”.
“In October I went to France for the second time this year, but this time it was a little different. We had a very hot October, so we decided to take a bike trip to a little French city called Wissembourg. The bike ride was 45 kilometers (and for someone who is very new to riding a bike long distances, that's 43 kilometers too much). But it was one of the best days, my host family, a friend of mine, and I, spent the whole day cycling in Germany and over the border in France”.
A day spent cycling 
Katie reports that at the end of October Rotary organized a trip for the exchange students to the Black Forest, a beautiful region of southern Germany with some of the most interesting culture and nature she has ever experienced. There was a lot of hiking and spending time outdoors, “it was cold, and sometimes wet, but it was an amazing opportunity to spend time together as exchange students, and meet people from Rotary clubs all over the region. We also were introduced to some of the most amazing cultural aspects of Germany”
Central/North Black Forest Nature Park⁩, ⁨Gutach⁩, ⁨Germany⁩
October also was a difficult month for Katie, she tells us that she hadn’t developed any good friendships yet and her initial excitement of arriving had started to settle down. It forced her to get out of her comfort zone and take the initiative “to meet new people”. In the end Katie feels that was the start of her building her new life there in Germany and she has created some really good friendships.
In November Katie and her Club Youth Exchange Officer took her on climbing trip to Austria. “We are very close, and she has been very involved with me and my exchange. Her sons are both champion skiers so she has a little apartment in the famous ski village of Lech. We slept in the snowy mountains in the night, but during the day took advantage of the parts of the Austrian Glaciers that have not yet be snowed over, and climbed a mountain. It was 100% one of the craziest experiences I've had so far on exchange, I absolutely love rock climbing, and climbing in the Austrian Alps is definitely something to check off my bucket list”.
Lech Ski Area, Lech, Austria
“At the end of November the Christmas markets finally opened, something I've been waiting for, and was definitely another highlight. The first night of Christmas markets was definitely a story. I went Ice Skating with some friends of mine in front of my cities castle, and everything was going great (I'm from Canada so I have to be good at ice skating right?) but lucky me, fell and had a little hand-skate collision. It ended with a night in the hospital and a couple of stitches... but now it's a funny story and I have some scars to remember my exchange! (I'm ok now I promise!)”
Christmas time was different, but very good! December was a little tough because it was exams in Germany and my friends were always so busy studying, but I spent lots of time exploring as many Christmas markets as possible. I spent many weekend in new cities with my friends, and even had the opportunity to spend a night in the oldest Christmas market in France with some couples from my rotary club”.
Street scene
“Christmas itself was lots of fun! My host family was absolutely wonderful and made me feel so at home during the holidays. We spent Christmas Eve at home together as a family, opening presents and eating fondue. And spent Christmas morning with some friends of ours, before heading to the mountains of central Germany to my host Grandmas house”.
After a couple days of Christmas festivities in Central Germany with my host family, we headed back home to Karlsruhe where I spent the rest of Christmas break with my lovely group of friends. Almost every night we got together and hung out, and played a lot of card games (no matter the age, Germans LOVE card games)”.
“In February, our Rotex took the crazy 12 exchange students that make up our little district, to Paris for a weekend. We went to every possible tourist attraction, and ended up eating dinner in the tiny little (15 square foot) apartment, belonging to one of our Rotex. The weekend was a big perk of having a little district, there's really no way to bring a district of 80 exchange students on a trip like that”.
The Eiffel Tower
And the most recent events currently happening in Germany, is Faschings/Karnival. Everyone dresses ups and hits the streets for Festivals and Parades lasting weeks. Here in Southern Germany the festival is very traditional, with lots of witches and devils. The parades feature witches, with beautiful wooden masks, and in many neighborhoods you can find witches hung along the streets. We even get a week of school off to enjoy as many festivals as we can fit into a week”.
Faschings/Karnival, parade of witches & wooden masks
“One of the biggest reasons this year as fallen together so perfectly was definitely my Rotary club/district. I have had so many unique opportunities just from Rotary alone. I went on a tour of a Cezanne art show, featuring what seemed like an endless amount of Cézanne’s famous art work, our club also took a tour of the highest constitutional court of Germany (somewhere NOT open to public viewing), and as I said earlier, a lovely night at the Strasbourg Christmas Market. Our district has also been nothing but EXTREMELY involved with me, and the rest of the exchange students, planning tons of trips for us, and making sure we have every resource possible to learn German”.
“Speaking of German, after 5 months of living here my language skills have improved greatly, and I've become so much more confident. In the last months or so, things have really started to speed up, and I couldn't be happier with how the language is coming along”!
“That's a (not so) short update on the first half of my year here in Germany. I'm so thankful for all the opportunities I've had, and so grateful just to be here. Couldn't be happier I chose to go on exchange, and can't imagine being placed in any other country. Rotary has been treating me so well and I couldn't be happier.
Liebe Grüße von Deutschland
Katie R
Traditional Dress                                     Hello!
In front of Cathedral                                         Hohentübingen Castle⁩, ⁨Tübingen⁩, ⁨Germany⁩