When Germany meets Texas

Kelsey Purcell

There are people who you meet who, in the moment, you don’t realize will be in your life forever. A stranger can turn into a sister without you even realizing it’s happening.

I met Jenny when I was 15 years old. I remember the day so clearly. I was in volleyball practice at my high school and my coach told my team we would have a new addition from Germany. A real life German. I was so excited. My dad was obsessed with Germany because it was the home of our ancestors, so I instantly knew he would have to meet this girl so he could ask her all of his questions.

When she walked in, I was slapped in the face by my stereotyping because the girl in front of me was nothing like what I had pictured. All my life, I had an image of every German as tall with blonde hair and blue eyes, but Jenny was short with brown locks and brown eyes. She surprised me in a lot of ways. We instantly clicked and before long, she was spending most days at my house doing things like eating canned biscuits (which blew her mind) and recording “music videos” for songs like Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Unfortunately for her, Jenny’s host family was not the best, and after just a couple of months of being in the U.S., she thought she would have to leave. I knew instantly that I had to talk to my parents about asking her to stay with us. We had never even thought about hosting an exchange student, but with as much as we loved her, we knew she belonged with us, so we made it work. We converted the office in our house into a bedroom and did our best to make her feel at home.

Of course, living with someone is totally different than just being friends with them, so naturally we had a few hiccups over things like “you borrowed my makeup without asking” and dumb stuff like that (I know, I know — P-E-to-the-T-T-Y), but besides those few instances, we were inseparable. My favorite moments were when we’d hop in the car and go for a drive. We usually drove to Galveston and played our music loudly with the windows rolled down, but in between jam sessions, we would have deep conversations about life. We had differing opinions about some things, but I loved talking with her. It was quite literally as if two worlds collided, and it was fantastic.

The day I had to say goodbye to my German sister was a day I had dreaded since I met her. I knew the reality — she would no longer be just down the hall, but instead worlds away in Berlin. However, it was not a “goodbye,” rather a “see you later.” The next summer, Jenny returned home and spent three weeks with my family. The next year, I went to see her in Berlin and had one of the best experiences of my life. Two weeks ago, she came to see me here in Wichita Falls and I showed her all we have to offer, which isn’t much, but she was able to meet people and see places that are important to me. Of course, we couldn’t help but take a few drives and roll the windows down, just like old times.

Each time we reconnect, it as if all of the passed time and the oceans between us disappear; it’s just me and my sister picking up right where we left off. No awkward moments, no love lost.

She has been one of the biggest blessings to my family and to me — one we never expected. So the next time you meet someone new, be open to the possibility they could be a forever in your life.

Kelsey Purcell is a mass communication senior.