Each year at Black Forest Academy a group of seventeen and eighteen year old students graduate and leave Germany, most of them of them for good. Though I don't teach many seniors, I do from time to time try to fill those I do teach in on what life will be like after high school. After all, I once went through the process of leaving the land I grew up in to attend college in my "home" country. I should have something pertinent to say on the matter. The longer I am away from that time however, the more I wonder if my experience has any bearing on the reality BFA students will actually face when they leave. A quick glance at pictures circa 1996 is enough to remind me of how far removed I actually am from high school graduation. At that time a fax machine seemed like the most inventive machine human beings would ever create, and the idea of email vexed me: "So, when you are typing can the other people see you typing?", "How does the letter get over there". Okay, I have now officially veered into old man mode: "when I was your age..."The point is, even though every missionary kid's transition is different, the passage of years made me wonder if mine was anywhere close to what my students would experience. Nothing is more annoying than a pedantic teacher.
The process of temporarily leaving BFA for this year has now given me fresh insight into all of this. Here I am, attending a new school, learning how to drive in a new country, learning to throw all trash into one bin. Jokes. Suzanne and I are recycling here, so calm down. But the transition has not necessarily been an easy one. I spend most of my day in a small apartment working on graduate studies. I am having to write papers and turn in assignments and follow deadlines. I am trying to adjust to being in a completely secular school after being an an academic environment that is consciously and intentionally Christian. But I am by no means complaining! It's simply a fact that the transition from Europe to America, teacher to student and Christian to secular is one that involves a fair amount of reorientation. Which is where my students come in.
Even though my situation is in many ways different than theirs, I think many of our feelings are the same. The desire to fit in and not make mistakes is balanced with a consciousness of my unique identity that I very much want to share with people. I am trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian in an environment where many people are indifferent or even hostile to the faith. And I am both missing my friends and the places I once knew and enjoying the friends and family I have here. I thought that my study of history would be what would improve my teaching the most when I return to Black Forest Academy. It may turn out to be something else.