2023-24 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Vocational Scholars Share Highlights

CBYX group in Weimar with their Parlimentarisches Patenschafts-Programm bags

As a wrap-up to the holidays and New Year celebrations, the 2023-24 CBYX Vocational group has been in Weimar for their mid-year seminar. They are enjoying a mini-reunion as they reflect upon their experiences in Germany thus far, and they are setting goals for the second half of their program. We’re excited to share some of their insights and holiday photos as they conclude this gathering and prepare for their next adventures.

What was unique about celebrating the holidays this year?

Something that many people don’t realize is that a lot of American Christmas traditions originate from Germany: advent calendars, advent wreaths, Christmas trees, gingerbread, even many songs like “Silent Night” and “O Christmas Tree.” That being said, even the similar traditions were all slightly different from those that I grew up with. One completely new tradition, however, was going to the Weihnachtszirkus (Christmas circus) the day after Christmas. Katie

A longer Christmas celebration was definitely nice. I got to visit a few different Christmas markets, which aren't in my state often, so it was really nice. We also visited all the host family's relatives. Abigail

Personally, being around the Southern part of Germany it was the food that was unique, like raclette and that they opened the presents earlier. I also had a lot of fun going to see the Christmas markets, and I even got to work at one selling sausages. So, I had a lot of new experiences! Sol

There was a lot more singing during the holidays. Also, private firework usage is very new to me, and New Year’s Eve is definitely more celebrated in Germany. Rutger

Experiencing the first Christmas tree I've seen with actual candles! William

I went to a family friend’s house and ate/played some games. We then ate dinner and played some card games, and after we went to a church service upon my request. We also went to a Christmas circus. Griffen

Abigail Christmas market in Lubeck  William Christmas tree with real candles  Katie Post-Christmas Weihnachtszirkus at Europa Park

What has surprised you about living and studying in Germany?   

I spend a lot more time socializing than I did in the US. The public transportation is way more accessible than it was in Pennsylvania for me. Abigail

I think what most surprised me was the school experience. It was always explained to me how they work but I just wasn't prepared or expecting the huge differences in school life and the courses. Sol

German people are far friendlier than stereotypes led me to believe. While typically harder to crack than Americans, Germans are very genuine and loyal once you become acquainted. Ella

Too many things to list here, but the density of Germany is certainly surprising. Rutger

Rutger and host family at the Christmas singing in Berlin's FC Union StadiumHow has the experience of living with a host family impacted you?

I've gotten a lot more patience. And heard from different perspectives about the German culture. Abigail

It has helped me see and understand how they live their lives differently. The contrasts that exist and how they live based on economic
circumstances…what they do at the table and the very exercise-based lifestyle. It has opened up my mind on living. Sol

They are very adventurous, so I have become much more outgoing. Rutger

What would you tell someone who was considering studying abroad?

Do it! But be sure you're prepared for a large change and to adapt to it. Abigail

Simply that it would be the best choice ever made. Sol

It‘s a wonderful experience! I highly recommend it. Rutger

Sol in Kappel, Freiburg after cutting a Christmas tree   Ella Christmas market   Kiel holiday market