Ben Trust: The Epic
A Sage Creek Senior’s Year Studying Abroad.
October 3, 2017
Ben Trust is a senior attending Sage Creek High School who transferred to Germany for the entirety of his junior year. Every journey has a beginning, every journey has a middle, and every journey has an end. Everyone has hobbies; it’s a good place to start.
Trust says that it was his interests that drove him to make the decision to study abroad during high school.
“I make jewelry, and I like to learn about languages. Not just German, other ones too. I think it’s really interesting to learn about languages, not just to learn the languages themselves,” Trust said.
These interests drove Trust on to pursue the study of languages, but what actually drove Ben to participate in the transfer program was hearing about the experiences of others.
“My cousin went to South America during her senior year, and she said it was the best thing she’d ever done. I talked to my aunt (her mother) and she kind of planted the idea of doing an exchange year in my head. From then on, I found the program I went with through a girl who graduated last year, Naomi. She went to Sweden during her Junior year, and it’s really because of her that I found the program I went with,” Trust said.
All Trust had to do now was to plan his trip. But first, he had to get through sophomore year with good grades to entice the group to let him join on the trip to Germany.
“I really wanted to study up on as much German as I could before getting there, and with school, that was pretty hard to do. I also had to figure out which classes I wanted to take online, which was a lot of work, but it was also totally worth it,” Trust said.
Having already gone through the Spanish course, he now had German— which would be his third language— to learn. The English language takes many cues from its predecessors such as German, but at the same time Trust felt that being immersed would be a more efficient way to learn.
“Compared to other languages, German would be pretty hard to learn out of a textbook. Really though, being surrounded by it literally everyday while I was in Germany really helped me to grow my knowledge of the language. I didn’t really speak much for the first month or so of my time there, but I definitely absorbed a lot more than I realized during that time.”
The stage was set as the end of his sophomore year arrived, and Trust was off. His transition into a new country had its challenges.
“It was pretty difficult for me. I didn’t know anyone at all, I was living with a totally new family, and I didn’t really know the language. While I did try to study up on it before I left, I honestly could barely speak a word when I got there. I used English at first to communicate with people, but once I was confident, I told everyone in my class to only speak German with me. My host family also only spoke German with me, because they understood that my goal was to learn the language. The students at my school weren’t all so aware of my intentions, so a lot of them spoke English with me throughout the year. Still, once I made friends, it was much easier to go about daily life,” Trust said.
He continued to adapt to his new environment.
“Learning the language was really my main goal. I also wanted to experience the culture and see as much as I could, so I did a lot of traveling within the country, as well as outside of it. I did a lot of activities with the exchange students in my area, as well as with the friends I made in Germany,” Trust said.
He was prepared and ready to face new challenges. Germany is a large country: 137,983 square miles, to be exact. It’s not quite the melting pot the United States is, since about 91.2% of the population is German, 2.4% is Turkish and the other 6.1% are other ethnicities. Trust landed in the south of Germany.
Trust lived with a host family in a small town.
“I lived with my host family in a town called Vaihingen an der Enz. Vaihingen is divided into multiple, smaller subsections. The village I lived in (which was still technically Vaihingen) is called Ensingen, and only has around 2,000 people. Compare that to Carlsbad’s population of about 120,000 and you’ll understand how small Ensingen was. Even though it was so little, I really loved the feel of Ensingen, and all of Vaihingen, for that matter. I liked the smallness of it, you know? But I could still go to big cities using the public transport system- I could be in Stuttgart in 30 minutes. Stuttgart is the capital of the province I was in, and it’s about half the size of San Diego. Stuttgart is also a really nice city, with art galleries, history museums, and a bunch of other things to see,” Trust recalled.
Now that the initial journey begun, he faced an entire year of European schooling.
Europe has a variety of school teaching methods and each is very unique. Finland and Norway give out little to no homework while other European Union (EU) nations are constantly experimenting with new methods. Additionally, university is free around the EU.
Trust faced an unfamiliar system, unfamiliar language, and different social standards. He began to cope with the new standards.
“At first, I was with a German as a Second Language class (Vorbereitungsklasse, meaning preparatory class (VKL)). It was here that I met and befriended a lot of other foreigners. I also learned a great deal of German here, and I’m really thankful I had the VKL. I made friends from all over the world, and to me, it was awesome. After two weeks, I joined a class of regular, German students. There I had quite a few classes, but not all of them. I took English, Chemistry, Biology, Spanish, Art, Math, and Geography. I also took History with the VKL,” Trust said.
He had nine classes total, four more than the Sage Creek Trimester system. And it wasn’t easy. If science was difficult at Sage Creek, Trust had to now learn Chemistry in a completely new language.
“Chemistry was really hard, but I think that was really just because of the super complex vocabulary you need to understand [in] a science class like Chem. Spanish was also really difficult, because translating between two foreign languages is really hard. We’d be given texts in German, and I’d have to translate them to Spanish. That was seriously challenging. Luckily, my Spanish teacher understood how hard it was and tried to help me as much as she could. I had really good teachers there that all really helped me out with learning the language and the inner workings of the school system,” Trust said.
One must think that with all of that challenge, where is the fun?
The United States is the size of an entire continent. While Europe is home to a plethora of nations, North America only has three. To Trust’s surprise he found German students were very interested in not only him but where he came from.
“I feel like a lot of people there really wanted to talk to me all of the time because I was from the United States. A lot of young people there really seem to enjoy the ‘American culture—’ listening to everything we do, wearing what we do, doing what we do. As silly as it may sound, they all caption their Instagram posts in English. Why? Because they see it as ‘cool.’ To me, this was really strange at first, but after a while, I think I understood it. The Internet has brought a lot of people to be more in touch with the U.S., and the huge amount of media (movies, T.V. shows, etc) that comes out of the U.S. gives an impression to people there and around the world that I’m sure many of us aren’t even aware of. I travelled around with my friends a lot more than I’ve ever done with any of my friends here. Be it out of necessity, or out of opportunity, it was still quite a big difference to go to such a large city as Stuttgart just to walk around for a couple hours,” Trust said.
Even with these developments, Trust began to feel a tad bit homesick.
“I certainly did miss my friends here, as well as other aspects of life here, like the weather. I kept up with most of my friends, but I think my time away did make me lose a little something. Relationships between people have changed, and while this is to be expected, I just kind of missed a lot of it. Still, I’m on good terms with all of my friends here, and I think that’s awesome.”
Trust’s stay for the 2016-2017 school year coincided with many world events, and gaining new perspectives would definitely help. More importantly, the United States had the 2016 Presidential election and Trust found a very unique way of viewing it.
“I was in Germany during the U.S. election, which was very interesting. I went to a convention in an amphitheater in Stuttgart where we watched live coverage of the election. 800 people came, and because of the time difference, it went from around 11 p.m. to like 6:00 or 7 a.m.. I fell asleep of course, but the reaction of the people at the convention woke me right up. It was very interesting to see the amount of emphasis placed on American events around the world. I was almost 6,000 miles away from Carlsbad, but I watched along with the rest of you, and so did thousands of people across the country.” Trust said.
With this, Trust’s journey came to a conclusion. Months passed and Trust prepared to come home.
“I was excited to see my friends, yes. I was also really sad to leave my life in Germany behind, though. I knew I would be sad to leave, but coming back was also really nice. Being welcomed with open arms has been really reassuring as to the strength of my friendships here, and that’s great.”
Senior, Kyle Jennings, one of Trust’s long-time friends, was also quite enthused to have his long-time friend back.
“It felt like he was gone forever; in the time he was gone, so many major things happened that it has taken some getting used to to remember that he is back. Also, he speaks German.”
Senior, Caden Nicholson, was also excited to have his friend back.
“I was excited, and I mean I thought he would have changed more than he did, but it’s not like I was worried about it.”
Soon, Trust was on his way home and ready to face the new school year with a renewed confidence.
The journey is not over yet, however; it is simply just a cycle in the journey of life. Senior year still remains and Trust has many plans.
“This year, I’m planning on taking a German proficiency exam. I’d like to go to college in Germany if I can, and I’d have the best chances of getting in with some sort of verification of my skill level. While my German isn’t perfect, it’s still improving, even here. I’m taking an AP German course outside of Sage Creek, which will also help me prepare for the proficiency exam I’ll be taking this December. I’m also going through the process of founding Sage Creek’s Foreign Language Club, where we learn about languages and how they differ from one another,” he said.
To catch up with Trust, he can still be found doing many of his hobbies. After all, he is just another one of Sage Creek’s many students that can be found just by searching. So let the journey continue and along with it the cycle of time.
*(n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.indexmundi.com/germany/demographics_profile.html