From your Counselors, in Review

July 30th, 2018

By Jan Nowak, Maddy Keating, Julia Gaus, and Tim Mori

Now that everyone has returned home and settled back into their routines, we hope that all of what you have experienced during the time we shared in Germany will continue to have an impact on your everyday life. We have learned from each other that the way a person views global events greatly depends on one’s political and cultural context, and that there is never just one correct interpretation.

These past weeks, as impactful as we hope they were for each of you, were also an opportunity for us to get to know all of you; for that we feel truly grateful. As counselors, we had envisioned the kind of community we hoped would develop, but it was each of you that helped uniquely shape this group’s identity. It was one with undeniable character and wit, filled with diverse thinking and reasoning.

We all hope you will continue to stay involved in AFS’s global community and we hope that you can continue to integrate your skills in understanding and finding the truth into your everyday lives.


In whatever comes next for you, we wish you way more than luck.


Exchanging Letters Goodbye

Dear Americans,

These past two weeks have been so much fun and we don’t think we would have wanted to spend it anywhere else. The camp was a combination of great activities, loud karaoke, cool people and lots of fun. Our favorite memory was last night when we enjoyed the fireworks and sang along to great tunes like Mr. Brightside, Timber, Stay, etc. The reason why is because we all sang the lyrics together as a team while everyone cheered us on and three strangers even joined! But sadly, all good things must come to an end and some of us woke up at 5:40AM to say our final goodbyes to the Americans, some even stayed up until then. What we are trying to say in this letter is thank you for being such great and open people who are very easy and fun to talk to. It’s a shame that y’all live so far away, but I know for a fact that this will not be the last time we see each other.

Auf wiedersehen!

Clara, Emily, Jonathan, Julian, Luis F., Luis S., Martin, Oskar, Selim, and Sinan

Dear Germans,

Thank you. The last two weeks have been unforgettable for more reasons than one, and that can largely be contributed to you. Your kindness, readiness to learn, and hospitality have made us feel so welcome in your country. It was amazing to see how well you all spoke english. Having personal native tour guides to explore everywhere from Berlin to Bonn with has been invaluable, not to mention a ton of fun. We will hold the memories we made together dear to our hearts, and will continue to look back fondly on our time together. From our first activities in the circus, to exploring Cologne’s historic district, to watching the fireworks together on our last night, we have so enjoyed getting to know each of you on such a personal level, and creating the family unit we are lucky to have today! The friendships that we made throughout the program will most definitely last a lifetime. It was and will be a bond that none of us can ever forget and all of that was possible thanks to the workshops and dive sessions that took us out of our comfort zones. Even after the sessions or after hanging out in the city, the memories of all of us, hanging out in someone’s room at 1 in the morning, will stay in our hearts. We got to know each other on a more personal level when it was just ourselves. Thank you for being there and accepting us. Without you we wouldn’t been able to create amazing memories, you made us feel like we were home throughout the two weeks that when it came to an end saying ‘goodbye’ was hardest we could’ve done. Glad to be living in a day in age where we can all keep in touch easily with technology because the friendship that we created is far to great to neglect it. Thank you so much for your kindness and friendship; we are not saying goodbye, we are saying see you again!

Until next time!

Alyssa, Josie, Juana, Katia, Landen, Liangely, Maggie, Natalie, Valerie



AFS Studies Social Media & Games

By Oskar

July 20th, 2018

We started off the day with a nice lay in as the workshop started at 10:00AM. Today we did a workshop on games and social media. The workshop started with a quick game where the teachers laid photos of famous people and we had to pick one which was quite important to us. As a German National Football fan I chose Mario Götze because he got Germany their fourth star. The teachers then proceeded to give a selection of games (Helix Jump, Rayman Adventures and Speed Runner) which we would be able to try out and rate. Personally I found a deep disliking for the game Helix Jump as it had an annoying sound and I was not able to get the hang of it. I found Speed Runner a highly entertaining game as it had controls that were very easy to get the hang of and created a tense and fun atmosphere.

After that we worked in groups to create an addicting game. After many fantastic ideas were presented the students were able to vote for their favourite game. The name of this game was Basketball Catch and in the game you had to catch as many falling basketballs as possible as they were falling down. Then we had a well deserved lunch break.
After our initial work on video games we would talk about different social media platforms and how many people used which. After that we played the social game which was a game where we had to create our own social media accounts, not on the internet but on a piece of paper, and fulfil a set of tasks such as liking another persons post by placing a sticker on it or commenting on another post. After this we talked about how we all wrote positive and not rude comments unlike other groups this company have taught. Having finished 45 minutes early the teachers enabled us to play the games they had shown us earlier in the day. I worked on my Helix Jump, which came to no avail!

After this we had 5 and a half hours of free time where some of us would go into town and others went to the communal swimming pool. I went swimming which was awesome as there was a water slide where we were able to do fun tricks. One trick we did, my favourite, was when we slid down the slide on our knees and then on the last bump we jumped up 5cm which may not seem like a lot but was so much fun. On our way back to the hostel we enjoyed a delicious and cheap 5€ pizza at a restaurant right next to the swimming pools. Sadly during our wait for the pizzas it started to rain and we got a bit wet. Luckily the pizzas were done quickly and we rushed to the metro station to avoid getting wetter. On the metro we would then enjoy the nice pizza.
Then, after finishing our pizza, we finished the day with a DIVE session.


Sweet, Vintage Views

By Juana

July 19th, 2018

One of our last days together was spent taking in the beauty and culture of Cologne, starting off in an old Prussian police station turned board game museum. Even though it sounds a little unorthodox, it ended up being very entertaining. We started off with our guide giving us examples of the first board games ever, one of which was from Roman times. There were eleven “game spaces” total, and as we moved further through them we made it closer to the examples of games we have today. Our guide did a great job of keeping us integrated in the tour, and I think it was a pleasant surprise for a bulk of the group.

Following the tour, some of us girls who created a party committee split off to start shopping for our last day festivities. We’ve got some cute little surprises up our sleeve, so stay tuned for our Saturday updates too! Then we made our way back to the group, slowly crowding together in front of a nice little restaurant while we waited for our counselors. It seemed as though we were multiplying like hungry little bunnies and finally getting some typical German food definitely calmed us down. Adding in the almost mandatory ice cream afterwards was the perfect cherry on top.

As we finished our first dose of sugar, we hopped on the Rheinfahrt boat tour. The cruise speed gave us some great views of the city in a completely new perspective, a great background for pictures and a healthy dose of Vitamin D. We wrapped that up around 16:00, just in time to make it to the famous Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum. Even though we looked forward mostly to the complimentary chocolate, seeing the interactive exhibits got us quickly interested. Our little group played a game with the Lindt bunny and beat the previous group, getting him through a maze within a minute and ten seconds. With our stomachs happy and our clothes smelling like sweet heaven, we left the museum floating.

Our little chocolate group walked back to the train station in time for dinner at the hostel, topped off by a session of DIVE. We talked about our day, colored in little tree people and sort of grieved our last few moments together. I definitely felt the sadness of parting (which is not sweet sorrow), but I’m happy to end my blog post by saying I’ve made some wonderful friendships.

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Learning About Bullying

By Valerie

July 18th, 2018


After a weekend getaway in Berlin, the AFS students focus on the topic of cybermobbing, also known as cyber bullying in America. We received a memorable and informative presentation by Nancy K. She informed us about what cyberbullying means and three interrelated types of violence: physical, emotional, and verbal.

Nancy played multiple “ice-breakers” and games with the group, with of course a kind of motivation, or goal, behind each of them. Our first “ice breaker” was a game called “Whatsapp?” where we sat in a circle surrounding one person (don’t worry, we weren’t summoning spirits). The person in the center of the circle would state something that they might have in common with the people sitting around them, and if they shared that thing in common they would have to stand up and try to find a new seat. The goal was to steal another person’s chair leaving someone new in the circle to think of a shared trait. The reason we did this “ice breaker” was for Nancy to determine who was more polite or selfish/competitive. She concluded that we were all very polite, sometimes giving up our seat for the other person just so that one would not face defeat.

Our day continued with valuable lessons and fun games that kept us entertained and awake! We truly appreciate Nancy coming to teach us about violence and how to prevent it from starting or continuing.

The AFS group realized how everyone’s energy seemed a bit distant. We took Nancy’s lesson into serious consideration, so the counselors decided to uplift our moods and ease the tension with a day at the pool. Each of us sped to our rooms and gathered our belongings and headed straight for the train station and towards the community pool. We were all very excited and could not wait to splash into the refreshing water! Let me inform you that it has been very warm in Cologne. We were all ready to take advantage of this opportunity to cool off!

Our DIVE session was truly different today. There were two groups of students who performed a short play about an American or German holiday (whichever was opposite from their own nationality). The skits were written by the students, with the goal of the performance being to illustrate to the opposite culture the similarities and differences in each of our celebrations of holidays. This concludes the point of this camp: learning about another culture, celebrating it, and respecting it!


Back to Cologne!

By Josie

July 17th, 2018

Our last day in Berlin quickly came to an end and we unfortunately had to get ready to leave. We started our day bright and early at the dreaded time of 08:15. Since we were going to the U.S. Embassy, most of us woke up at 07:00 to get dolled up for our tour. Everyone was dressed in very nice clothes and, while waiting for people to finish, the others were spending time in the lobby either sleepily eating or complementing everyone’s outfits.

We left our beloved hostel, grabbed our bags and said goodbye to the wifi. While carrying our bags, that were way overpacked, we started our journey to the Embassy. After we went through security and were seated in a boardroom, we met our speakers. We talked about how the Embassy uses social media. The speakers mentioned how hard it was to start their platform on social media and the problems they face because of the media. The speakers answered everyone’s questions and were very informative, particularly when it came to the how the news and media environment has been changing so quickly, and therefore how their jobs have evolved as well.

Once we left the Embassy, we rushed to the train station to eat lunch before our train arrived. We all separated into different groups and went to different places to grab some food. My group went into Mcdonald’s and we had a blast trying to figure out who ordered what. Other groups went to bakeries in the train station or a turkish shop to order Döner. We all grabbed our food and moved to a place where everyone met to eat as a group one last time in Berlin.

As we got in the the train we prepared for our 4 hour long train ride and said goodbye to Berlin. The train ride back was tiring and most people napped, while others worked on the scripts for our plays to be performed in tomorrows DIVE session. Oskar, Maggie, and I worked on different scripts with everyone else’s help. Once we got back to Cologne, everyone changed out of their fancy clothes and we ended our day with a wonderful DIVE session.

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A (Less Than) Boring Day In Berlin

By Liangely

July 16th, 2018

The day started off with a great tour of lobbyism where we walked in a small area where lobbyist stick around. We had a women who was kind enough to give us a tour around and explain us some of the tactics that lobbyist use to make themselves look good for example, the beer companies make good friends with the politicians so they can be protected with good reputation. As she said lobbyists tend to settle next to government buildings, yet some we don’t know about because they are not registered. The tour was nice informational from the negative side of lobbyism although I wished she would acknowledge the positive side. The sun made this tour felt boring because we were outside for most of the tour and the heat can make anyone tired and not want to move. She could’ve made it a bit more entertaining.

After a long tour we went out to eat with the group in Vapiano’s. Vapiano’s is an Italian restaurant were you can order pizza, salads, and pasta. The wait for pizza was unbearable almost an half an hour wait, but it was definitely worth it when my margarita pizza was fresh out the oven.

Finishing up our filling lunch we went to the film museum. From there we walked around learning about Berlin’s famous actors and actresses. Towards the end of the tour we went to the a small dark room called the screening room where we compared old war movies trailers to modern trailers including superheros. The first one we compared was Top gun and Black Panther and we compared it based on language, technology/ effects and what kind of music was played. The man showed us a lot of two- three minutes videos about how different Americans and Germans portray war movies from old to morden that after awhile he gave us a thirty minutes break to refresh yourself.
We ended the tour by commenting our new thoughts on the videos taking in what we had learned. After a long sunny day filled with tours and learning it was finally break. When our big group fall into smaller groups so people can shop, explore the city of Berlin and enjoyed the remainder of the day.