First week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The time has finally come: StudyCamp has begun for us UHH students, and here is the first blog entry about our experiences during the first week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina! 

For the entire winter semester, the 11 students of us were eagerly awaiting our big trip across the pond. We arrived in Chapel Hill last Friday (02/09/2024) with all our excitement and anticipation in our luggage. Our host families all warmly welcomed us. After a restful night, we finally got to know all our American buddies and Taylor, the coordinator of the TTT in the USA, in a „soft“ kickoff on Saturday. Getting to know each other in the famous Chapel Hill bar „He’s Not Here!“ couldn’t have been nicer with 20 degrees Celsius and sunshine (& that in February!, which is so unusual for us Hamburg people)! (A little background to the name of the bar according to our host father: „He’s Not Here“ means the answer on the phone from the husband’s friends to the wife that her husband is „not here“ in the bar (although obviously, the whole group of boys is drinking beer there at the time) / fun fact: we only met young groups of students here, so not just husbands without their wives, either way, it was a perfect start to our time together!). 

On Sunday evening, another highlight followed as an authentic American Superbowl party was organized by Taylor with the whole UNC buddy group at one of the host families – it was a fantastic experience! There was pizza galore & it felt like we had all known each other for ages!

Then, our first week started with a delicious cup of coffee at the Epilogue Cafe. Afterwards, Taylor showed us around Chapel Hill, and it was our first time to see the beautiful university campus of UNC and the big football stadium where over 50.500 people cheer for the North Carolina Tar Heels (which is a small stadium compared to other university football stadiums in the USA – but for us, it was huge and impressive). It was also great to get together at the Welcome Event.

We also had the opportunity to visit the “Carolina Friends School,” a private school in Durham. We all agreed that this was a really interesting experience for all of us, and we enjoyed getting a tour of the different school buildings. The school is surrounded by trees. Being close to nature and having no grades plays a big role, as well as the principle that the students can change the world. 

On Wednesday, Taylor brought us coffee on campus. We had the opportunity to talk to the faculty of the UNC School of Education and ask them all our questions. Afterwards, a tour guide showed us many beautiful places on the campus, and he presented many interesting facts about the UNC campus – so it’s definitely a recommendation if you want to learn more about the universities and the buildings on campus.

On Thursday most of us got to shadow our buddies and gain first insights into public schools. For me that was so exciting! Visiting a kindergarden class was different from my previous experiences in german elementary schools. The students were just around 5 years old and had a really long school day from 8 AM to 3 PM. On the picture below you can see their school pledge, which is read by a student every day in the morning announcement (go little Tar Heels!). On the next day we visited our placement schools for the first time, which was, and I think we can speak for everyone here, very exciting. These are the schools we will spend most of our time in the next couple of weeks. Personally, I am placed in a spanish-english bilingual school which definitely is a special experience. My mentor teacher showed me around and introduced me to the class that welcomed me warmly. She really seems to love teaching and I am so looking forward to join her and gain new experiences and perspectives. Also I am looking forward to all upcoming conversations, since all of us will gain different insights.

Finally, after a long week with exciting experiences and a lot to process we all started into our weekend with our Buddies-Days, where all of our buddies arranged something for us to do. I heard about everything from fascinating board-games to  pottery painting and of course loads of good food. We spent our day at a baby goat festival (just look how cute they are!) and at target (that’s for sure an experience as well). Thanks to all of our buddies, Taylor, our mentor teachers and host families (and of course everyone else involved)  for welcoming us so warmly and making sure that we’re looking forward to the upcoming weeks!

Josephine, Celina & Mila

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