Tips for Budgeting on Exchange

CBYX recommends you have a budget of 200-300 euros every month for the 10 months.

That is about 250-370 US dollars for things not included in the scholarship such as possible transportation and personal purchases.

Throughout my exchange, I would divide my budget by monthly sections. I would keep all of my savings on an excel worksheet because of the calculations that could be automatically completed with the “functions” of excel. Then I figured out how to cater the functions to what I wanted and then I decided the layout of my budget sheet. The great thing about using an excel sheet is the personalization.

You could decided to categorize your budget by type of items (foods, leisure, clothes and etc.), by type of payment (cash or card) or by something else that works for you.

I used the function to add all of my expenses and had a sum box for my monthly expenses and a separate box for my total grand expenses.

This is a sample of what my budget sheet looked liked (with fake values):

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 10.03.37 PM

I hope this helped!



Meeting my Host Family

“My host sister said that it was going to be awkward and awkward it kind of was.”

It was a hot and sweltering day in Bad Laasphe, Germany and many of my fellow CBYX-ers were anxious. And so was I. After several tearful goodbyes from other CBYX students that had to leave earlier because their host parents did not pick them up, I had a plethora of emotions inside of me. I was super excited, yet a tinge of uneasiness developed inside of me.

Other people shared the same sentiments as well, as we all discussed the possibilities of our host families, inspired from a one to two page booklet that detailed their interests and characteristics with photos of them.

I had been messaging my host sister since before I arrived in Germany on a popular messaging app called What’s App and we had similar interests relating to crafting and the arts. My host mom and dad owned an ice cream shop, so I was super excited to (hopefully) have free ice cream?

Slowly and steadily, some host families began to arrive at the camp and the families were split into groups as the host parents had to go to a quick seminar and the host siblings were involved in a fun activity outside on the benches. On the other hand, the CBYX students were waiting in one of the classrooms near the laundry room, some peering out at windows to take a peek at their host families. Some of us waited with our luggages that we had to drag down the many flights of stairs (that was an agonizing task). We were waiting for the moment for the host parents to finish up their seminar so we can start our next chapter.

It was time.

We rushed into the seminar room where we had our talent show and began looking for our host families.

I spotted my host mom, well, more like she spotted. She was alongside my host dad and she was quite tall. We greeted each other, shook hands and did an awkward hug. The weird thing was, my host sister was no where to be found, so I asked them about her whereabouts as I was texting her earlier and she said that she was coming.

She was waiting for us outside, away from everyone because she was not a fan of large crowds. So then I went to find her and we also completed another awkward hug.

It was then time to go to my host house! During the ride, I was a little nervous but remembered asking my host sister if I could take a nap since I tend to easily nap on car rides. The ride was two hours and it was two hours of silence. And then, we arrived to a village of a population of approximately 10,000.


My crying face after saying goodbye to some of my friends.


Video: Post CBYX Program of Summer 2017

After the CBYX program on June 15th, 2017, my family came to visit me and I gave them a tour of the gymnasium I attended and the village that I lived in for the past months in Germany. Then we traveled around Europe to cities such as Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Mannheim (Germany), Milan (Italy), Zurich, Geneva, Bern (Switzerland), Strasbourg, Paris (France) and London (England).

Mid-Year in Bonn (kind of)

Well, it has been awhile since I have updated my blog (I promise I will update you guys with what has happened in between language camp and mid-year, it has been an interesting journey).

Mid-year was nice.

It was a good time to see everyone again and how much growth (physically and mentally) everyone has developed.

On Thursday, I woke up to one hundred messages from other CBYX students about their journey to the mid-year location. Some were lucky and made it without any disruptions, others cursed the Deutsche Bahn for not allowing their trip to be smooth.

I personally, started my trip around 13:40 at the station and went on my first train at 14:08. Then, I was alone for the first hour and arrived in Mainz for another train switch. At this train, I had plans to meet up with Sophia, a CBYXer who lives near me. Then, halfway through the train ride, we found out that another CBYXer, Nick, was on the same train and in the same section as us when Sophia had to use the restroom. Then we united and chattered away throughout the two-hour train ride.

As we were departing the train for our next train, we met up with another CBYXer, Zac, at the door unexpectedly. And when we finally exited the train, screams were heard as we saw a few other CBYXers. We had a brief reunion with hugs and screams.

It was time to embark on our final train to Ahreweiler and then we put up with another group of CBYX students surprisingly as well, along with two Experiment staff members.

Our walk was approximately 17 minutes to the youth hostel and we were greeted by CBYX students that had arrived earlier. At the Experiment desk, we were asked to choose our rooms and write our names on letters for sugar cubes.

At night we had Plenum in German and played a game to get reacquainted with each other. Then we had dinner and set off to our rooms.

The next morning, we ate breakfast in the morning, had plenum and small groups with our original groups at language camp and we named our group OG KG (Original Small Group). Then we had plenum again and after we went to Bonn, which was about a 30-minute train ride. We were split into groups of five for tickets. The train ride was quite interesting. My group was met with a group of middle school students (8th graders) that asked my friend Noah to read and help with their English workbook, they were mocking us but we all had a good laugh. We had a small conversation with the group of students and as I shared my orange Tic-Tacs with my friends, a kid said that he was hungry, I offered some to him and he accepted. And finally, we said our farewells.

Bonn was great. We arrived around 14:30 and stopped at the museum of history. When we all first arrived at Bonn, it was a little confusing because we were separated for a short period of time and we had no clue (besides the teamers) of what was happening. We then went onto a subway and made our way up into the museum with escalators. Our coats and bags were collected into a room. We were given two hours to browse and inspect the detailed artifacts and historic events of WWII.

Then, around 17:00, we met up at one place and everyone was gathered there. After we were released, my group ran to find a subway to the Bonn HBF and we ran to our destination of Mexican food, Sausalitos. Sadly, they did not allow us to eat there anymore because they were transforming into a bar in 30 minutes. So we went and found another Mexican restaurant. Ten minutes after arriving, a large group of CBYX students entered and were seated in front of us, it was a great coincidence. My group ordered mainly tacos and I got the BBQ Chicken Taco (it was my first experience with tacos). We had a great time and as we left, we saw the group of teamers also eating at the same restaurant!

We decided to split our group briefly for A. Candy and B. Clothes and I went with the first group. We made plans to go to both Lindt and Haribo and I was so excited for Haribo. We first went to Lindt as it was closer and then we made our trek across the street to Haribo. Sadly, we were late by three minutes.

On our journey to find our remaining group members, we went to H&M and Zara, where they said they would be and failed. We checked Zara twice and the salespeople were probably like what are these kids doing. Then we saw a Karneval parade practice and it was exciting.

We made plans to go to McDonalds for ice cream and McFlurries and then we set off to the HBF.

It was Jasmine’s birthday the next day, so Kris made a nice little gathering for her in their room. It was so sweet and mostly everyone was there to celebrate at 0:00.

The next day was routine, filled with plenum, small group chats, and food. We also went to Ahrweiler for an hour or so and I got waffles and a hot chocolate. At night, we were given a task to made a skit with American cultural differences from German. And it was a night filled with a lot of laughs.

Sunday was a little sad. I packed up my backpack quickly. We had breakfast and cleaned our rooms. I remember that my friends and I made plans to meet up at 12:45 as we had the same train. And as two other CBYXers were saying their goodbyes the earliest. I checked the phone and it was 12:40 and had a little freakout. I quickly went and got my things and set off to say my goodbyes.

The trek to the Ahrweiler station for one final time was memorable. We all were in this small group filled with students from different states in the U.S. with different interests and some similar, brought together by CBYX. It was unplanned that we met with two teamers at the station and after checking our tickets, we found out that seven of us were on the same train for two hours. I originally would have gotten off at Mainz but decided to stay on the train for thirty more minutes to go with Michelle at Mannheim and extend my trip by two hours (as I had a Maxx Ticket). We were the first ones off the train from the group and decided to wave bye to the rest as the train left. As we arrived at the station, we bought McDonalds (second time buying McDonalds in Germany ever) and shared a chicken nuggets meal as we only had thirty minutes. Michelle and I just talked a lot about random things, such as our languages (Chinese and Vietnamese) as we never really got to talk to each other.

Then, I arrived at my home station around 17:00 and set off to home to sleep, as I was exhausted.

It was a good weekend.


P.S. I will add pictures later and follow me on Instagram: (as I update a little more often on there)

Orientation in D.C. – Day Two & Three

Day Two – August 12th, 2016

In the morning at 6:30-7:30, we were scheduled to have breakfast with the German students in the PPP program. My room mate and I came in five minutes before it ended (but we were not the last people there) because our alarms did not go off. So we woke up an hour later than we planned to. I scrambled quickly to get ready once I realize what time it was and then woke up my room mate when I was finished getting myself ready in ten minutes. Since we were going to the White House, we had to dress a little fancier than usual and that kind of translated into a longer time to get ready. So I waited for my friend to get ready and we sped walked to the breakfast room.

As we arrived, we quickly got our breakfast and scoped around for a table to sit at. And luckily, we found one quickly! We sat down, talked and quickly ate our foods (I think I almost choked at one point haha).

Anyways, lets just say that we were not quite prepared for the long day ahead of us.

It was extremely hot and everyone’s energy was slowly depleting throughout the day. Before we left, we took a group picture with the PPP students.

After the group photo, we said our goodbyes to the German students and began piling onto the large tour bus. Our first stop was the Air force Memorial. We got to see a bit of D.C. from a higher perspective.

Then, we went to another memorial near the Pentagon. Afterwards, we went to the White House, after about 30 minutes of security checks for the whole group, and walked around, viewing the many interesting rooms in the White House. I was really excited to the White House and enjoyed it a lot. After I left the White House, my friend Junnie and I took a picture with one of the secret service guys standing outside of the White House. He took pictures with several of the other CBYX students as well. We also waited for everyone to finish up with their tours and took a group photo at the end.

The heat was really hitting us and everyone was internally suffering. We were told that at lunch break at the mall, we were allowed to change. As soon as we got there, Junnie and I sped walked to find the restroom to change out of our formal clothes into more weather-appropriate clothes that were more comfortable for us. Afterwards, we ate lunch at the mall with a group of CBYX students at a long table and then piled onto the bus to head to our next destination.

Our first stop was the Smithsonian Museum of American History and we were given a time limit of 3 hours, which seemed a lot at first. As I explored the museum with a small group of friends, the hours seem to trickle by so quickly. We tried our best to explore all the parts of the museum and we managed to explored most of it. There were so many interesting see. Towards the end of the museum visit, we heard someone talk about a vintage bicycle that you could sit on and take pictures. We were interested in finding it so we retraced our steps and spent 20-30 minutes looking around for it and we thought that it would be a lost cause but we were able to find it with 20 minutes left to spare! We found the bicycles and took picture with it. I even almost forgot my glasses as I placed them down and at the last minute, I remembered that I forgot them. Afterwards, we went to the museum’s gift shop and looked around. Then we headed off to the meeting point and one of the CBYX students, Virginia, had received news of her permanent host family placement! We were all excited for her!

As the museum visit ended, we headed off with a tour guide to visit several other memorials such as the Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Theodore Roosevelt memorials. It was a great experience but we were all emotionally and physically drained because of the high temperatures and heat this particular day.

After the tours, we got to explore and visit an old and historic town named Old Alexandria. We were first dropped off at a restaurant and got to eat dinner with a selection of vegetarian, steak, chicken or pork (which we selected in a survey a few weeks before we departed). We were allowed to pick our own tables and at first we had chosen a booth but it was swarmed by bugs flying everywhere, so we decided to make a switch to a table near a window. And then we had the option of getting brownies for dessert, but most people had chosen to explore the town instead, so that is what we did as well. The town had a warm and cozy vibe with many unique shops and local boutiques. We were told to travel in groups of three and we decided, as a table, that we should go together. So Junnie, Sophia, Jared and I went off and explored Old Alexandria. We found a little gelato shop and each of ordered something. We sat at the table and started talking about the program. Several minutes later, a group of CBYX students come in and sits with us, they were Matthew, Calvin and Joe. As we finished, we all together as a combined group, started to explore more of the town and as the guys walked further, the girls saw a boutique and decided to check out the shops.

After the boutiques, we went to our meet up place and it was near a beautiful fountain, and many other CBYX students were taking pictures as the sun was starting to set.

We all piled onto the bus but two students were a little late (approximately 10-15 minutes) because they were lost and we were all a little worried for them. However, as they both arrived onto the bus, some people slowly clapped for them to applaud them.

Shortly after, we arrived at the hotel and a small group of people went to the pool and swam until the pool’s closing time.

Day Three – Saturday, August 13th

So this day is the day we departed for Germany.

In the morning, my room mate and I scrambled to get ready. We wore our orange CIEE shirts. We made sure everything was packed and that we weren’t missing anything. I have this tradition of filming the rooms that I have stayed in right before I leave on every trip I have been on. As I was doing so, my room mate was freaking out a little bit and rushed me because she was afraid that we were late to meet up with everyone else in the room where we stored our suitcases.

As we quickly made our way to the first floor, where our meeting area was located, we noticed that we were one of the early ones there and wait about 20 minutes for everyone until breakfast was ready.

As we finished with breakfast, we were able to ask the alumni panel questions and hear about their experiences. We also were separated into pre-organized groups to ask the alumni questions one on one.

Afterwards, we received some papers and filled them out. Then we headed to take one last group photo in the U.S. and piled onto two big buses that took us to the Dulles airport.

We arrived at the airport and went to the United section to check in our luggages and get our tickets. I was closer to the end of the line of 50 students. I watched my friends check their bags and hoped that it would be a quick and easy process for all of them. Sadly, this was not the case as some of the bags were over 50 lbs, so they had to reorganize the remaining pounds into their carry ons.

Afterwards, we were sorted into groups of five CBYX students and one of the CBYX alumni to go through the security line. Somehow I got moved to a quicker line and was separated from my group; however, I found another group of people and helped them quickly go through the security line with me. As soon as I finished placing my items into the designated bins, I helped the rest of my friends placed their items into the bins so we could quickly get through the line. At this very moment, I felt like a mother hen 🙂

We were the first group to be done with the security check and we waited for everyone else to finish before we moved to the gate. Then everyone crammed onto a tram and we were transported to our terminal. As soon as we arrived at our terminal, we walked to our gate and settled in. When we were done, we were allowed to explore the airport terminal and buy snacks.

I went with Junnie and explored around, but there were not many shops in this section of the airport. We eventually ended up going to Starbucks and I got a strawberry and creme frappuccino and a cheese danish. Then we went to a snack store and I bought some Reese’s to share with my host family because I learned that it was a scarce item in Germany.

When we were finished with our mini shopping adventure, we returned to our gate and played uno.

It was finally time for boarding the plane and we were all excited. As we got onto the plane, some of us were surprised that we were placed in the comfort plus section. It was such a nice surprise as there was extra leg room and larger seats for the eight hour plane ride. We were organized into alphabetical order with our last names. I was ecstatic to find that I had the window seat!

Our plane was delayed for an hour because there was an absent passenger but their luggage was on the plane, so they had to remove it before we were allowed to depart.

My plane mates were Zac and Michelle, who were from the Virginia interviews and I have not had the opportunity to talk to them yet. Soon, we departed and went to Dulles airport. During the flight, I got to talk to Zac and Michelle and they were so friendly and nice. My plan was to sleep during most of the flight, but that proved to be a failure as I only had an hour or two of sleep maximum. Even so, I did get to watch part of Deadpool and eat caramel ice cream.



It begins in D.C. – PDO Day One

I remember arriving at the tampa bay airport around 7:00 a.m. on the big day of August 11 and my best friend Lara drove me and my parents to the airport.

Our first stop was a quick one at my brother’s high school because school started around 7:05 am for him and we were running a little late (sorry Jackie). And then we quickly made our way to the TPA.

My dad wanted to hang out with me for the last time before my departure in D.C. so he went with me to D.C. and drove me to the orientation site after. My mom and my best friend quickly said their goodbyes to me and dropped me off because me and my dad were running a little late. My checked bag was about 51 pounds, so I quickly took out one item and it was exactly 50 pounds. Before arriving at the terminal, they checked our tickets and the lady saw that my bag’s expander was used, so she helped me zip it without the expander. We then made our way to the security line, which was a breeze, and we made our way through the airport to our gate at United.

My flight was a direct flight from the TPA to the Dulles airport. And shortly after we landed in Dulles, my dad and me drove to a neighboring with a dense population of Vietnamese people that we had visited when I was many years younger. We chose a restaurant and I ate pho, while my dad ate bun. We then made a quick stop to Target and CVS and I brought last minute things like deodorant, a neck pillow, chapstick and etc.

Finally, the time was here. I arrived at the Hilton Dulles airport and went to the CIEE booth and received my orange CIEE t-shirt and orientation schedule, along with my room mate and room key.

One of my closest friends that I have made at the Atlanta interview was named Junnie (she was an alternate that became a finalist 🙂 and one of my closest friends that I have made during the interview ) and I saw her there and we were at first kind of disappointed that we were not able to select our own room mates at the orientation. But then I asked her who her room mate was and I saw that our cards had the same room number and we were extremely excited at this coincidence.

We hung out and explored the hotel. We were also able to talk to some German students and then later had dinner with some alumni.




Farewell Party

It was such a memorable night for me.

I had great plans for my party for several months but as the days dwindle on, I realize that my procrastination and part-time laziness was catching up to me. I didn’t really start to gather things for my party until a week before the finalized date. I remember messaging some of my good friends individually, asking if they wanted to come. Then I had made a list of invitees with going and maybes. As the day of the party became closer, I became more excited. I was happy to have the opportunity to have a party with decorations made by me. A few days before, I went party supply shopping with my best friends to several shops and we had lots of fun. We were goofing around and enjoying our last couple of days together. Long story short, we got most of the items that I needed f`or the party, with a little bit of mishaps then and there.

On the actual day of the party,

I was so happy.

I skipped breakfast and went straight to decorating my house with streamers, banners and balloons that I made. After doing so, I set up the food table with platters of appetizers, entrees and desserts. I had early on decided that the theme of my party would be white and some kind of shade of blue. I then quickly made some mini sandwiches with Hawaiian bread rolls, swiss cheese and ham. I was done with almost everything approximately 30 minutes before the party, which started at 6, and I took a shower and got ready in time for the party.

I was then greeted slowly, one by one, by some of closest friends and joy was quickly seeping into me and let me tell you,

I was ecstatic.

Throughout the party, we ate, talked, took pictures, tried out a game of spinning Bean Boozeled (the majority out of the 24 of us, were unlucky) and played Cards Against Humanity.

All in all, I really appreciated the time that I got to spent with them.

On another note, one of the CBYX CIEE finalist named Jared, lives 20 minutes away from me and he was able to come to my party as well!

At the end of the party, I asked people to write little notes for me on a quick watercolor painting that I made and framed.

I also made a cute little snapchat filter for my farewell party, which took me a whole day to make with several advices from my friends for ramifications throughout the day.

I just want to leave on a note of thanks to my family and friends that have been so supportive, it truly means a lot! 🙂




Host Family!

I’m excited to say that I have recently received (about two weeks ago) an email from Julia with my host family information! My host family and placement information was attached to the email. There was a blurb about them with their photos and other details, such as the gymnasium that I will be attending.

Host Family Email.png


I’ll be living with my host mom, dad and sister in a quaint town named Bobenheim-Roxheim. I will also have a host cat, which is something that I lookforward to because I only ever had a goldfish as a pet. I’ve been in contact with my host mom and sister and we have a lot of similar interests! My host sister is younger than me and is the same age as my little brother (what a coincidence). My host family is so adorable and I’m extremely enthusiastic to meet them. 🙂

Until next time,