This postcard is from Bettina, a girl I met in Germany many, many years ago. I was an exchange student there and didn’t mesh well with Cornelia, the girl who was my host. She’d stayed at my house during April of 1982 and then I went to her house for a month in July. We knew in April that we didn’t have much in common, and that didn’t change once I was in Germany.
Fortunately, her father was eager to practice his English and took great pride in showing me all over Germany. I absolutely loved it! It was my first exposure to the “great big world out there” and I think it spawned my eternal wanderlust.
Cornelia did take me along when she did things with friends. It was one such night that I met Bettina. A group of us girls were getting ready at Bettina’s house, doing our hair, make-up, and trying on different clothes to go to a disco. I hit it off with Bettina and we became fast friends during the rest of my stay with Cornelia. (Believe me, Cornelia was just as happy about this as I was.)
Later that year, Bettina traveled to Kansas for a study-abroad program and sent this postcard to me. I don’t know if you can make out the words, but her last sentence is inviting me to stay with her and her family if I ever returned to Germany.
I have returned there many times. I lost track of Bettina by the end of high school, but remember her every time I look through my collection of postcards and see this one. And though it doesn’t sound like I had a good experience with the Exchange Student program, I loved it. I hoped that my children would take advantage of opportunities like this and later, my son did. He participated in the very same program to Germany. But unlike me and Cornelia, he and his exchange-mate, Thomas, hit it off big time! In fact, we all loved Thomas and were thrilled that he and Mac signed up to do the same exchange again the following year. In fact, they’re still in touch.
If email and facebook had been around back then, Bettina and I might have kept in contact. Cornelia and I, too — maybe. Even though we didn’t quite become friends, it was an experience that changed my life.
What was your first exposure to the “great big world out there?”