What Started Everything

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I’m obsessed interested in education, culture, and the world. But what started this obsession interest?

I’ve always been drawn to other languages and cultures.  But I sure didn’t have that affinity towards school. I was the kid who, when asked my favorite school subjects, answered lunch and recess. I was more devoted to fun than grades. I always assumed I’d leave school, become a journalist, and just be glad I didn’t have to take anymore tests.

suitcases2photo by Malias

Until I spent my senior year of high school in Germany. I went to a school so very different from my U.S. high school. Over and over each day, in often embarrassing ways, I discovered how deeply culture influences us. How deeply culture influences our ideas about school and education.

The things that had seemed important at North Eugene High School (senior pictures, decorating lockers, SAT exams, football games, prom, AP English) were non-existent at my German school.

And what was normal at Helene-Lange Gymnasium (students staying in their classroom while the teachers came and went, going to a cafe when a class was canceled, choosing Leistungskurse to focus on in the final two years of school) I couldn’t ever imagine being part of U.S. high school education.

Exactly 19 years ago today (I’m writing this on Sunday, July 19) I left everything that was familiar and moved to a country where I spoke almost none of the local language.

I’d never been out of the U.S. before. I spent the first few months so doubled-over with homesickness that I almost went home. I had no idea what culture was, much less what my own cultural perspectives were.

After a couple months, though, things got better. I began to love living in another country. By December, I didn’t want to go home. When I returned to the U.S. the following July, I immediately began looking into college study abroad programs.

Because of that life-changing year as a high school exchange student, I became absolutely fascinated with the school experience and how and why education can vary so dramatically from country to country.

To the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship program and Youth for Understanding: Thank you, thank you, thank you for making my exchange year in Germany possible 19 years ago.

What sparked your interest in culture and education?

Subscribe to our RSS feed and get notified of the next post in this series.

About the Author: Cate Brubaker

Dr. Cate Brubaker is a re-entry/repatriation coach, consultant, and author of the Re-Entry Roadmap creative workbook and the Study Abroad Re-entry Toolkit. Cate has lived in Germany, worked and traveled in 36 countries on four continents, and has helped all kinds of globetrotters successfully navigate global transitions for over 20 years.

1 thought on “What Started Everything

Leave a Comment