Anna Lisas Aufenthalt an der Virginia Episcopal School (2012/13)

Lynchburg, Virginia, USA

My name is Anna Lisa. I spend my year at VES in Virginia.

Before I decided to go to VES, there was a lot of paper work to do. SSB helped me, and showed me different schools. All of the schools looked really good, but I had visited VES before and my brother went there two years ago, so my decision came soon and pretty fast. After I decided to go to VES, SSB gave me a lot of writing to do, which helps me now while I am here to write papers for my classes. And at the end of May, I had the meeting with SSB and all the other students who also decided to go to America for one year. The meeting was the best possibility to learn everything about what to expect about life in America. They made us speak English a lot and be on time or run early in the morning through Dortmund City. All these things confronted me already in the first couple of days here at VES. They did not just make us do a lot of things, they also taught and explained important information and rules. Alumni told us about their experiences and their challenges at boarding school in America.

Soon after the meeting it was time to leave my family and friends; my school, my basketball team and my home. It was actually easier for me than I thought, but the three other students who flew with me, and came to VES, too, had a hard time saying good-bye to their families. So we were four German students going to America without an adult, to a life we didn’t know yet, just from the meetings we had with SSB.

We got picked up by a teacher. She is really nice, and works a lot with the international students. It was late in the night when we first arrived at school and no one was back from summer break, except us and a few other international students. We got our rooms, the girls all in the same dorm, and we just went straight to bed for the night. The first day we had early camp where we played sports and had a lot of international meetings with all the Asians we didn’t know yet. My first sport was volleyball and I never played it before, but my coach was really nice and she explained everything to me and the other students helped me, too.  At my first school day I met my roommate for the first time and I had so much luck, I don’t know what I would have done without her. My classes didn’t really start that day, I just got to know a lot of people, and I didn’t remember any of their names.

 After a couple of days of orientation in all of my classes, which were really hard for me because they were all in English, we started covering all the things we had to. And the first quizzes started, but the teacher made it easy to understand everything. A lot of weeks later I already had a lot of new friends, volleyball season went over with a lot of fun and there was no single time when I wanted to go back to Germany.

VES, my school, felt like my home. My classes got easier to understand. And it felt like the perfect new life for me. Thanksgiving break came soon, and all of the international students went to their host families we got in the first weeks of school. They were our ‘second’ family where we could spend a lot of time, but by that time our first family here was the VES community. You get to know everybody and you always have someone to talk to at a small school like VES. So I went to my host family in West Virginia, and I knew them already before I came to VES through my brother. They made my Thanksgiving break unforgettable; they made me feel like their house was my new home. And everybody I met in this whole year was really nice to me.

After Thanksgiving break the next sport season started and for me that was basketball, my favorite sport. They made try-outs for the Varsity and JV teams, and I luckily got into Varsity (erste Mannschaft) and had the best time with the girls and the coaches in my team. We didn’t win every game, but we had a lot of fun, and learned a lot of new things. Right before Christmas break I had the first exams which I had to study a lot for, but your teachers help you as much as they can, so that you get a good grade. And if you sit down and actually do something, study for every single class, you can get a good grade in the exams. Then there was Christmas break, where you could go to a friend’s or maybe to your host family  again, or maybe home, but I would encourage you to stay, and celebrate an American Christmas - it is really nice and a lot of fun.

After Christmas Break, everything starts from the beginning, new stuff in your classes to learn, but still the same nice people, who help you with everything. And they are all part of the experience boarding school, which helped me to have the best year of my life. My basketball girls were all really nice, and I could talk to all of them when I had problems. My classmates are the same, I can talk to them all the time, whenever I want, and I found a lot of new friends.

But there is not just school and athletics all the time, we also go shopping with our school buses, or I also went to a NBA game with a few other students. My dorm went to dinner all together, and the teachers always try to make it as comfortable for you as they can. VES is my home after seven months; I never regret coming here for a second. It taught me a lot. It made me more self-confident. I was always a loud girl, it taught me when it is time to focus and when it is time to do what I want, to be the old loud girl. I never had any problems with any of the students here or with any teachers. This year is the best year I have ever had, and probably one of the best I am ever going to have. It is because I came to the perfect school for me through SSB and through my parents. I am so thankful for all of the people who made this year happen.

I still have a little bit more than three months to go and the soccer season ahead of me. I will never forget any of what I experienced here. And I already know that I am going to leave VES with tears in my eyes after I say good-bye to all of my new friends. I know I am going to stay in contact with a lot of them, and they will be friends for life, and I know I am going to come back as soon as possible.

My basketball story

In August 2012 I finally left to go to America for one year. One reason that I went was to learn English and to meet new people, to make friendships for life. Another reason was basketball. In Germany, especially in my little town, is it not as common to play basketball as it is in the United States. I wanted to learn a lot of new things, and to see how it is to play with another team other than my old team I had for five years.

So I arrived at VES, my new school for a whole year. The first thing was Early Camp, I had to do a sport, but there was no basketball, because the first season in America started for me with Volleyball. I never played Volleyball before, and I had actually no idea what to do. I just looked what the other girls did and so I tried to copy what they did. After a few weeks volleyball practice I felt pretty comfortable and I also had a little bit fun with it, but I couldn’t wait for basketball season, so I went in the gym, every single day after dinner to play basketball and to get ready for the season.

A few weeks later we finally started practicing for basketball, and the coaches had to decide which girls were in which team. I was scared not to come into Varsity, and no one could take away my fear. So finally when I got the email that I was in the Varsity team I was happy, but at the same time I didn’t know how it would be. A lot of good girls were with me in my team, all Americans, and then there was me, the German girl. What would I do when I was not as good as the others, when I wouldn’t understand what the coaches showed to us? Everything felt so different, one of the reasons I came to America was that I wanted to play basketball, to improve my skills and to show that also German girls can play well.

At the first Varsity practices I was quiet, I never said anything. I just did what the coaches told us to do, also if I didn’t really understand what I actually had to do. After a while I changed, got more confident, I started asking questions if something didn’t seem familiar to me. One or two practices before our first game our coaches showed us a defense for the game, which girls in Germany are not even allowed to play, and so I was the only who didn’t know what was going on. They put me on the side to run the drill without me. That was the first time I thought I would never play in any of the games. After that drill we started one I knew, too. But I completely messed it up, because I was thinking about the first game, me sitting on the bench, doing absolutely nothing.

So before our first game we met in our coaches’ office and we talked about the starting girls, and I looked on the board, where the five names of the five girls were written down, and the second name was mine, I was surprised but happy at the same time, and I started getting nervous. I was so nervous that I almost cried. I played a good first game, and a good second one. And the other games in the season were good, too. I was always one of the starting girls, which made me really proud. The season was really good; the team had a lot of fun and hard practices. A few weeks later, after Christmas break and winter break the end of the season there, I couldn’t believe it. It went so fast, and all the girls form the team became really good friends, friends for life.

And faster than any of us wanted to believe, it was finally time for the last game. One more chance to do what you love to do, especially for the four seniors on our team, and also for me, because it was maybe my last basketball game in America forever... It was one more chance to show what kind of team we were in the whole season, one more chance to play for the seniors, to play for our coaches, just one more chance to show them what they accomplished with their team of the season 2012/2013.

We, the VES Bishops Girls Varsity team, didn’t have a chance to win against Miller, but we had the possibility to use the one more chance to play basketball with the girls we got to know in this great season. And we did a great job. It wasn’t my best game, but I learned a lot, and two seniors and I cried after the game, because we knew it was over, but we also knew we used our One More Chance.