When can I go back?

Guten Tag!

As promised, here is the last blog post with my final thoughts from the month of January. As the title for today’s blog suggests, I ended up having an incredible experience in Germany and can’t wait to return.

In Eckenförde

Looking over Eckenförde

Let me begin today by answering again the question that was posed four weeks ago, “can I speak German?” I’m quite proud to respond today with “yes.” There are obviously many things I still do not understand, and I have difficulty explaining anything that requires complicated sentence structures, but when I think back on my trip and realize that there were a few teachers and students that I communicated with only in German, I realize that, yes, I really do know how to speak German.

Eckenförde

Eckenförde

I am absolutely astonished by the amount I was able to learn in just one month. Although I feel as though my speaking ability didn’t improve as much as I would have liked, my comprehension absolutely skyrocketed. When I was riding the train to Siegen on Thursday, I ended up sitting next to a 10 year old girl for three hours, and throughout that time we talked about her family, her favorite colors, her school, and what she wanted to be when she grew up – and she spoke no English. At one point her mom called her on her cellphone and I listened as she explained to her mom that she was sitting next to a very nice American who had the same cellphone as her (we did). It took me a second to realize that she had said it all in German because I understood her perfectly. Those are the types of moments that really make me excited, and remind me why I spend so much time learning different languages. And although I believe the hours of grammar and vocab instruction in the classroom are important, there’s absolutely nothing that compares to simply living in a country and experiencing the culture, the language, and the people.

Eckenförde

Eckenförde

The next big question is: do I want to be a teacher now? Although I had a great time with the kids and teachers at Louisenlund, the month helped me confirm my suspicions that my career path is not headed towards becoming a teacher. I would certainly do another internship or have a temporary job like this again, as I really did enjoy working with the younger kids, however in the long run I have other interests I’d like to pursue (please don’t ask me exactly what yet), but I do know they will absolutely include traveling.

As for final thoughts on Louisenlund, I can honestly say it’s a great school and offers so many opportunities to the students. I still can’t believe how much English the 7th and 8th graders could speak after just having started learning it in 5th grade. As for Americans visiting Louisenlund, there’s really no better way to learn German than by being thrown into a class with 5th grade boys yelling German at you. Trust me. I certainly hope to be able to go back and visit someday, particularly when it’s not winter.

Inside the Speisesaal on the Hof

Inside the Speisesaal on the Hof

Before I leave you for the last time, here are five major differences I found between Germany and the United States:

1)    People don’t say hello to complete strangers they pass on the street in Germany. Nor do they ask, “how are you?” when they greet their friends casually. This is definitely something I miss from the U.S., although many people find our way of quickly just saying, “how’s it going?” superficial, I noticed that I really missed saying it to people, even if I normally only get a brief response.

2)    Almost every German student carries a federtasche or pencil case with them. Although you may think this not very odd as many American students do as well, let me emphasize the fact that EVERYONE has them, and they’re all filled with the same certain type of erasable pen, pencils, and the majority of students write with calligraphy pens, which as you can imagine, gets pretty messy with the ink. Also, it was very rare that I would see a student draw a straight line without using the edge of a protractor, another item that could be found in every federtasche.

3)    Lunch is the big meal of the day, while dinner is usually just sandwiches or something light. I have to say that I prefer the American way of having a larger supper because when I finally end up going to bed five hours later, I’m not hungry.

4)    Germans do not use top sheets on their beds. The mattress is covered by a fitted sheet and the only blanket or top sheet is a federdecke, or what we might call a comforter. This is something I’ve come to prefer, and have actually adopted since the last time I visited Germany.

5)    Public transportation in Germany is a thousand times better and more convenient than in America. I think most people are aware of the extensive train systems in Europe, but it’s really incredible how almost every town and city in Germany has a train station, or at least a bus station that can take you to a train station. Although the trains are not always punctual, it definitely is much easier to get from one major city to the next in Germany than in the U.S.

Schleswig Train Station

Schleswig train station

If I were to give future Colby students some advice before going to Louisenlund it would be to study as much vocabulary as possible, especially the genders of nouns. There were far too many times that I would be speaking to someone and I would have to stop mid-sentence when I couldn’t remember a word, not to mention whether its article was der, die, or das. Other than that, the best advice for me was to go with an open mind and to say yes to every opportunity I was offered!

Me in Frankfurt on the very first day!

Me in Frankfurt on the very first day!

Thanks so much for reading the past month! I’ve had a fantastic experience and I’m glad I could share some of it with you. If you’re particularly fond of travel blogs, I’ll be back in September when I’m on the move again to some foreign location (to be decided) for my fall semester abroad. My best wishes to all of you!

And for the last time…

Auf Wiedersehen!

Kara

31 Days Later…

Jan. 28th – 31st

Guten Tag!

I’m writing this blog post as I wait to board my plane in the Frankfurt Flughafen, and I can hardly believe that the time has already come to go home. Fortunately, I still have a few adventures left to tell you about.

As I started my last week at Louisenlund, I was once again given the opportunity to stand up in front of all of the students at the Schloss and receive my going away gifts and a warmhearted thank you speech from Frau Vardag in German. I was pleased that this time I could understand well enough to know when to smile and nod in the appropriate places.

Hard to believe it was almost a month ago, the first time I saw this sign.

Hard to believe it was almost a month ago, the first time I saw this sign.

Tuesday brought with it the chance to accompany Frau Bahr’s 10th grade German class on a field trip to the central distribution warehouse of EDEKA in Neumünster. For those of you that are wondering, EDEKA is the equivalent of Hannaford or Wal-Mart in America, so yes, I went on a field trip to see a warehouse full of food. But I’ll tell you, it’s really quite interesting to see hundreds of containers of Nutella and Pringles, all stacked up and waiting to be shipped to a store near you (remember Paasch? They’re supplied by EDEKA). The purpose of the field trip was to prepare the students for future internships that they’re all required to do in March. The trip to EDEKA gave them the opportunity to see a business and learn about the different jobs that are involved in making it run, there was also a short presentation on how students can prepare for internships and the right and wrong things to do in interviews. All in all, I enjoyed the trip, as it gave me the opportunity to do something in Germany I can say with some certainty that I’ll never do again, not to mention I may have learned a few things as well.

EDEKA warehouse

EDEKA warehouse

Lecker!

Lecker!

In the evening on Tuesday, I attended Louisenlund’s very own roadshow, which was actually not on the road, since it was being held at the Schloss.  For all those of you that have had the opportunity to go college searching and attend endless numbers of  “information sessions” you can get some sort of idea what this evening was like. However, take the classiness up about five notches. The night included a skit by a few students on why they find the Internat better than regular schools, as well as a music performance, a powerpoint giving an overview of Louisenlund, and of course afterwards, an endless supply of refreshments and schmoozing. I found the night quite interesting as it gave me the chance to hear the answers to questions such as “why is Louisenlund better than other boarding schools?” to which the response was that the students here actually look forward to going to school on Monday because they have so many opportunities to do activities with their Gilden and they’re engaged and interested in their schoolwork.

I also wholeheartedly agreed with the point that at Louisenlund, they have their Lehrzeit, the time when the students must do their homework, and this removes any discussion about when homework will be done or the tendency to procrastinate and I think it creates great study and time management habits.

Room in which the roadshow took place

Room in which the roadshow took place

My last full day at Louisenlund included a final lunch of delicious homemade Knödel with Ricah and her family, as well as a farewell walk around Eckernförde. The Stadt is absolutely beautiful, and I sincerely hope I get the opportunity to come back in the summer when winter jackets are not necessary! Then unbelievably, it was time to pack up and say goodbye. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say goodbye to Ricah for good, as I will be seeing her next year at Colby, which I’m very excited about!

Ricah and I

Ricah and I before I left Schleswig

Thursday morning I bid a final farewell to Louisenlund, and hopped on a train in Schleswig to begin my journey back to Siegen. And of course, no trip to Germany would be complete without a train delay or two, and so I got to experience the joy of missing my connection in Hagen due to a 40 minute delay in Hamburg, thus my journey was extended to 8½ hours, officially making my trip from Schleswig to Siegen longer than it will take me to fly from Zurich to Boston. However, once I arrived in Siegen and was greeted by Simone’s family, the stress of traveling quickly faded away amongst good company, conversation, and food.

And with that, I have reached the end of my 31 days in Deutschland. In an effort to keep this post short(ish), I will postpone my final thoughts on my experience until a final post after I’ve recovered from my jetlag. I’m looking forward to being home, and having my first full day of 2013 in America, but I’m certainly going to miss Germany and the people I’ve met here.

A final look at the Schloss

A final look at the Schloss

and the Hof

and the Hof

Tschüss for now!

Kara

Schlussendlich und Dann

Jan. 25th – 27th

Welcome to the last weekend edition of my blog! As I begin the final week of my Louisenlund internship, I’m faced with a familiar feeling of disbelief at how quickly the time passed, but I’m happy I’ll be ending it after a fantastic weekend, so on to the details…

The weekend started off Friday evening in royal fashion, quite literally, with the Louisenlund Neujahrskonzert. A concert that was clearly a very important event of the year at “Lund”, as the Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein was in attendance. A little background info: She acquired the title of Duchess when she married Wilhem Friedrich, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, who was also the son of Louisenlund’s founder. I think she must attend a few Louisenlund events each year, as the kids I was with recognized her and went to say hello. I figured if there was ever a time to practice my German it would be in introducing myself to a Duchess, so now I can officially say the only time I’ve ever spoken to royalty was in a foreign language. As for the concert, it was very good, and I was quite impressed with the diversity of it. Not only did the show include a choir, a small orchestra, and individual performances on the piano and violin, but several students also recited poetry from Goethe and other famous poets and there was an art exhibition that took place before the show as well. All in all, it was a great night and I really enjoyed seeing the other talents of students I had met in class .

Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall)

Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall)

The rest of the weekend I spent with my friend Ricah again, and that meant a trip to Hamburg on Sunday! I’d love to tell you all about the beautiful weather and all the different things we did around the city, but the truth of the matter was, between a mix of rain/snow/sleet and a little bit of wind thrown in, the weather was downright horrible, and being outside was not ideal. So I decided to fulfill my touristic duties by taking a sightseeing bus tour around the city. I got to see everything from the all-important Hamburg Hafen to the Reeperbahn (AKA Hamburg’s red light district). The city reminded me a lot of Amsterdam with canals running between the buildings and streets, and which are crucial in the Speicherstadt, or warehouse district, where goods used to be transported to the warehouses by water. It took a little bit of imagination to picture the city in summer or at least when the weather was halfway decent, but I could see why Hamburg is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. It’s definitely on my list of places to visit again.

Hamburg Harbor

Hamburg Harbor

Hamburg Harbor

Hamburg Harbor

Also, a little tip for any future travelers to German cities: Unlike in most American cities, crosswalk lights are actually obeyed in Germany, you won’t see anyone scurrying across the street if the light isn’t green, no matter how empty the road looks.

Hamburg Hauptbahnhof

Hamburg Hauptbahnhof

Our visit also included a trip to the Hamburg Deichtorhallen, which was just starting a new exhibition of photography. The show featured all sorts of photographs from artists such as Saskia Groneberg who focused on Büropflanzen (a collection on plants in offices) to Albert Watson who has photographed everyone from Kate Moss to Mike Tyson. The exhibition was a great way to stay warm and experience a little bit of German culture that I otherwise would have missed.

The Deichtorhallen

The Deichtorhallen

Later in the evening, we drove to a small city nearby called Geestacht for dinner and an a cappella concert by the German group High Five, which is responsible for the inspiration for today’s blog title. Schlussendlich und Dann is the name of one of my favorite songs by the group, and translates roughly to “Finally and Then.” The song is about how everyone is always waiting for something, but the question is what do they do when it finally happens? This idea really hit home for me, as I so often find myself waiting for the next big adventure or event in my life, but when it happens, it happens in the blink of an eye. Especially now, as I’m about to wrap up another amazing experience that I spent months looking forward to, I’m faced with the thought, now what? But anyways, on a less philosophical note…

High Five

High Five

The concert was fantastic. The group was made up of five guys, who are from all over Germany, and write the majority of the music they sing. This obviously means that the majority of their songs are in German, but I was well prepared because the day before Ricah and I had translated a few of their songs. This is by far one of the most useful and helpful ways I’ve found to learn German. We would work through the words I didn’t know, and Ricah would also explain the general meanings of the phrases, allowing me to understand the overall feeling and intention behind the song. In addition, it’s helped me to learn some great new words that I probably never would have heard otherwise, like sturmfrei, which translates literally as “storm free”, but the actual meaning describes having the house to yourself. For example, if your parents go out for the evening so you and your friends can hang out without them around, that’s considered sturmfrei.

IMG_0687 DSCN5714IMG_0640

All of the guys in the group were amazing singers and performers, and it was definitely some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a concert. Not to mention, we had front row seats, and afterwards, I got to meet and talk to all the guys! This was because Ricah knew them, having set up a charity concert with them in the past, and she had been to several of their shows. It was a fantastic end to a fantastic weekend!

Ricah, me, and Ricah's cousin Mette at the High Five concert

Ricah, me, and Ricah’s cousin Mette at the High Five concert

Now on to my last few days here at Louisenlund. I’ll bid you farewell for now, but check back soon for my final two blog posts!

Best wishes to all!

Kara

Ein Tag im Leben

Jan. 22nd – 24th

I hope all of you are well, and that those of you in Maine are surviving the cold! I’ve been enjoying a balmy 30 degrees here. My goal for today is to give you an idea of what life at Louisenlund is like.

The symbol of Louisenlund

The symbol of Louisenlund

Let me begin with the students. The majority of Louisenlund students come from various areas around Germany, but there are many international students who board here, as well as exchange students, (a new crop just arrived from Australia and South America) who stay for only a year or half a year. As with many boarding schools, wealth is clearly evident. In fact, the other day I had a boy ask me if I’d ever run in the New York Marathon, after chuckling a bit at the thought of myself running a marathon, I responded “no,” he proceeded to tell me that his mother had run in it once because she received a qualification invitation when she bought her new Lamborghini… Despite the obvious possibility of students being extremely snobby, I’ve found them all to be very welcoming and friendly.

View of the Hof from the nearby Golf Course

View of the Hof from the nearby Golf Course

As for how the students dress, I have one word for you: Timberlands. Timberlands are more ubiquitous here than Bean boots at Colby. Everyone is wearing them, from the Hof to the Schloss, on girls and boys, and in many different colors. I find it a bit strange, because it’s a shoe I typically associate with construction sites and hunting, but here, they are the It thing to wear.

In regards to academics, as I’ve said many times before, most of the kids at the Schloss speak excellent English, and the kids on the Hof are exceptional considering their ages. The other classes that I’ve observed seem to be challenging, as 7th and 8th graders have the option to take history and geography in English, but otherwise I feel they are quite similar to high school and middle school classes in the US. I sat in on a 12th grade IB English class that was discussing the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a book that I had read in my 12th grade English class, and at times I felt like I was having déjà vu as the discussion was so similar to my class (excluding the fact that they were holding it in their second language).

One of the houses and part of the dining hall at the Schloss

One of the houses and part of the dining hall at the Schloss

For those of you that don’t know, there are two ways students can graduate at Louisenlund. The first is through the IB (International Baccalaureate) program, where students take their classes in English and then at the end of 12 years will take a large exam, and if they pass they’ll be able to go to University. The IB path is more for students who plan to work or study in English speaking places. The second option is through the German Abitur, which is after 13 years (although it is soon being changed to just 12) and is another large exam, after which, if you pass, you can go to University, but it is less focused in English. The Abitur is the more traditional route.

Hof Louisenlund Entry

Hof Louisenlund Entry

Coming into this experience, I didn’t know if the relationship between students and teachers would be similar to the US, where teachers are very interested in the lives of their students or more like in France, where the teachers are simply there to teach and not to be “friends.” In France, there is a mentality of weeding out the weak students, something I find difficult to understand, not to mention a bit intimidating. I was pleased to find, however, that the teachers here are extremely helpful and friendly to their students. Many of them put in a lot of extra work to make sure the kids get the help they need when they’re struggling and a lot of them are interested in the extra curricular activities their students do.

The building my room is in, called the Scheune

The building my room is in, called the Scheune

So what does a typical day look like?

Classes begin promptly at 7:45 (mind you, it’s still pitch black outside) and go for an hour and a half (something that was very difficult for me to adjust to), teachers usually give the kids a five minute break in the middle of each class. At 9:15 there is a Pause where kids can get a snack and something hot to drink before they’re back to work at 9:45 for their second class and then the third Stunde begins at 11:30.

The sailing docks

The sailing docks

After lunch, most students have Gilden, which can be anything from rugby to pottery; essentially it’s what we in America would call after-school-activities. At 5:30 there’s Lehrzeit, also known as mandatory study hall. This is one of my favorite times of the day, because it’s when I can work one on one with students, often practicing vocab, such as the word “shelves,” which gives German students a remarkable amount of difficulty, but I’m certainly not one to judge when it comes to pronunciation… After dinner, the students have free time or they can do sport (everyone says “do sport” not “play sports”). I was interested to find out that there are no TVs on the Hof, and students are not allowed to have laptops until they’re in the 8th grade, but I think this is a good way to keep the kids interacting and not just sitting in their rooms watching TV.

The "Sport Hall" on the Hof

The “Sport Hall” on the Hof

One of my favorite things about the Hof is the fact that all the buildings are from an old farm and a majority of the classrooms are in buildings that used to be used for livestock. You can see the old beams and framework from the original structures, and it’s funny to think you’re probably sitting where cows used to live!

This building has three classrooms in it.

This building has three classrooms in it.

Inside a classroom. See the old structural beams!

Inside a classroom. See the old structural beams!

So that’s life here in a nutshell. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions if there’s something you want to know about life here that I didn’t cover. I’m heading to Hamburg this weekend, which will be a nice change of pace, and then it’s on to my last week!

Bis bald,

Kara

P.S. Check out the new page I’ve added for the German vocabulary I’ve used in my posts!

Move Over Madonna

Jan. 19th -21st

If you had asked me a month ago, what I thought I would be doing on the weekends in Germany, I probably would have said exploring nearby cities or visiting historical museums. Never, in a million years, would I have said singing with a German church choir. In fact, given the option between taking an organic chemistry final exam or singing in front of total strangers, I would choose the orgo exam, hands down. But alas, there were no chemistry exams to be had this weekend, instead, a full fourteen hours of choir practice.

Let me back up a little, as you may be asking, “Why on earth would you go to choir practice, if you’re clearly not a fan of singing?” Well, as often happens when people travel to foreign countries, things got a little lost in translation.

After inquiring about places to go on the weekend, I was invited by Ricah, a student in the 13th grade (and who will be going to Colby next year!), to come with her and her choir to Scheersberg. I assumed they were going to have a few different performances and I would just come along for the ride and watch. It turns out that the weekend was more of a choir “retreat,” where everyone stayed at a Jugendherberge, and spent the weekend rehearsing songs for their performance later in the year. In all, there were about 50 people there, 10 younger girls from Ricah’s choir, and around 40 adults from a different choir. The purpose of the weekend being that the two choirs could practice together. So, setting aside one of my greatest fears, I grabbed some sheet music and joined in. And I have to admit, I ended up having a lot of fun (although it may have been at the expense of my neighbor’s ears).

Tower in Scheersberg.

Tower in Scheersberg.

The weekend consisted mostly of sleeping, eating, and singing. We sang in three-hour increments, broken up by various meals or Kaffee und Kuchen breaks, and one time a break for some of the most life-threatening sledding I’ve ever done. The songs ranged from Michael Jackson’s Heal the World to Somewhere Over the Rainbow – both of which I now have permanently stuck in my head. All of the songs were in English, apparently German gospel is not very popular, and as the resident English teaching assistant, I was more than happy to help in settling disputes over the pronunciation of “bow” (between what you put on a package or what you do for a king, it was the latter) and pronouncing the lyrics for certain songs that were particularly difficult.

Look at that sled!

Look at that sled!

Scheersberg and the sledding hill.

Scheersberg and the sledding hill.

Although the weekend was not anything I ever expected to be doing in Germany, it definitely turned out to be one of my favorite experiences thus far. There’s something to be said for going way outside your comfort zone, especially in a foreign country, and I’ve found that these unexpected experiences are what really contribute the most to improving my German.

Eckenförde Harbor - I had a chance to explore the city this weekend as well.

Eckenförde Harbor – I had a chance to explore the nearby city this weekend, as well.

Home of the local newspaper.

Home of the local newspaper.

On a totally different note…no pun intended, Monday, I had the chance to go to a French class (sorry, Professor Koch, I just couldn’t resist). I figured it would be fun and easy, because my ability to understand and communicate in French is light years better than my German. Boy was I wrong. NEVER in my life has my brain felt more like scrambled eggs. Although, I was correct about being able to understand better, my ability to speak French absolutely tanked. I could barely form a single sentence without throwing in German verbs or articles. Nouns and adjectives mixed through my mind like some kind of “Fran-eutsch” stir-fry. It certainly didn’t help that the teacher kept switching back and forth between French and German. By the end of the hour and a half, I felt as though someone had taken a bludgeon to my head, but the experience had a bizarre way of showing me just how much German I knew. And for the first time, I realized I had begun to think in German – obviously I wasn’t contemplating the meaning of life, but simple sentences were forming in German rather than in English in my head. It was a small moment of victory for me, especially as I thought back to a year and a half ago when I my German vocabulary was limited to Guten Tag.

It’s hard to believe that there’s only ten days left on my trip, but don’t despair, there are still more blog posts to come! I’ll be back again soon, with more on life at Louisenlund.

Best wishes to you all!

Kara

All things Essen (and no, not the city)

Jan. 16th – 18th

I hope this blog post finds you all in good health. There has been a terrible sickness going around the school here, and I’ve seen a class of eleven diminished to only five due to the flu. I’m doing everything I can to avoid it!

Now, it’s time to talk about food (I apologize if you are feeling sick).

The day at Louisenlund begins at 7:15 with breakfast. Breakfast and dinner are essentially the same meal (in terms of what they include, dinner is at 7 pm). At both, brötchen, cheese, sandwich meats, and sliced vegetables are always available- a popular option being open-faced sandwiches. At breakfast, there’s typically fruit salad, as well as cereal, so it is possible to change it up a bit, and if you’re lucky, dinner will also include the previous day’s lunch leftovers. Although I have no qualms about the quality or the taste of the food, I do think it’s safe to say that I probably will not eat a sandwich for quite some time when I return home.

The dining hall

The dining hall

Lunch, which takes place at 1 o’clock or 13.00 Uhr, is the big meal of the day. On my first day, I think I received my biggest shock when I went to lunch. I expected to walk into the Spiesesaal, have an array of options to choose from (of course, I figured I’d have to battle through lines and total chaos) and then sit wherever I wanted…wrong. Every student is assigned to a table where they sit everyday, and each table has a teacher (I’m classified as a teacher in this situation) that sits with them. The way lunch works here, is everyone comes in and stands by their chair and waits for one of the teachers to ring a bell, at that point everyone becomes silent and waits for the teacher to say “Guten Appetit” and everyone sits down. Then one student from each table will go and retrieve a platter of food for the entire table to share. Later, the bell will ring again signaling two students to clear the table, and a final bell, a few moments later, signals announcements. They have this system down to a science; the whole meal takes less than 30 minutes. After the announcements, one teacher will dismiss everyone. I quickly learned to stay in my seat for a bit after dismissal to avoid being trampled in the mad rush to the door. Breakfast and dinner also follow this same pattern with the bells, although the table groups are different.

As for what exactly is included in lunch, there’s always an option of salad and a main entree that ranges from schnitzel and spätzel to macaroni and cheese, the cooks are very accommodating here and always offer a vegetarian option as well, which has made my life a whole lot easier. All in all, I’ve found the food to be quite good and I’m getting the opportunity to try some very German dishes, such as Knödel.

As you may have noticed, there is a considerable lack of dessert being mentioned, which is because it rarely happens. Once a week, after lunch there will be something like pudding or jell-o offered, but as I’m not a huge jell-o fan, I’ll just stick to the Haribo.

Dangerously addicting...

Dangerously addicting…

I’ve found that the way meals are held here fosters a great feeling of family. I’ve seen kids that normally wouldn’t sit together having a conversation and students of all ages getting to know each other. By passing around trays of food it’s like we’re actually at home eating a family dinner, rather than eating in a dining hall.

The last thing I want to tell you about is Paasch. Paasch is to Louisenlund as Wal-Mart is to Colby. Essentially, it’s the place to get everything you’ve ever needed. Although, it’s about the tenth of the size of Wal-Mart, it’s within walking distance, so I figured I’d make the trek and see what all the fuss was about. Well, it really is just a small grocery store that carries everything from fresh bread to toothpaste, nothing too special, but I can see how it would be quite convenient to students.

On the way to Paasch

On the way to Paasch

The snow made the walk very pretty!

The snow made the walk very pretty!

I must leave you now, this weekend I’m off to a small town near Flensburg with one of the girls from the Schloss and her choir group, so I should have much to tell next time!

A Weekend Winter Wonderland

Jan. 12th -15th

Moin!

(Moin is a common greeting in Northern Deutschland)

Welcome to 31 Days in Deutschland: Weekend Edition! You may be asking yourself what the kids of Louisenlund do on the weekends for fun. Well the answer, much to my surprise, for a majority of the students is: go home. I was quite shocked when Friday afternoon rolled around and a mass exodus occurred, by dinner I was left with just five students on the Hof to keep me company. However, I soon learned that the different house parents take turns organizing weekend outings for the kids left at school, and to my delight, that included me as well.

Saturday meant an excursion to Kiel for some sightseeing and shopping. We meandered through the old part of the city and then down to the water where two large cruise ships were docked. With new fallen snow the city looked gorgeous.

Snowy park in Kiel

A newly snow covered park in Kiel

Kiel Hauptbahnhof

Kiel Hauptbahnhof

Shortly after we returned from Kiel, the five kids, the housemother, and I piled back into our huge red mega-van and drove to Schleswig to see Life of Pi (auf Deutsch, of course). For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it (and that’s after only understanding ¾ of it)! One interesting thing about German Kinos, that differs from American movie theaters, is that when you buy your ticket for a movie you’re reserving a specific spot, and not just any seat in the theater that you can choose at your leisure. The only downfall I’ve noticed of this system is that if you buy your tickets late for a popular movie you can guarantee you’ll end up in the neck breaker seats, even if other seats are empty when you go into the theater.

On the road to Louisenlund

On the road to Louisenlund

Sunday started off with a snowstorm! Well, more like periodic moments of rather heavy snowfall that rarely lasted more than 10 minutes, but it was enough to cover the ground and make me feel like it’s actually January. And to help with the feeling of winter, we jumped in our mega-van and headed to Flensburg for some ice-skating! On the way there we took a couple of wrong turns and ended up in Denmark… (guess I can cross that off my list of things to do now), but we soon found our way back across the border and arrived at the rink for a couple of hours of great skating. It was fun watching and helping the kids who had never skated before, one asked me incredulously, “Do you actually do this on real lakes?” She seemed a bit astounded that anybody could find skating an enjoyable activity, especially with the imminent danger of a bruised backside if she fell.

A snowy Hof!

The Hof amidst a blizzard!

Iceskating in Flensburg

Iceskating in Flensburg

After a great weekend, which was highlighted by the fact that I could sleep past 6:45 AM, I was ready to get back to cultivating the minds of young English students, one conjugated verb at a time. Bis später!

Kara

Off to the Hof!

Jan. 9th-11th

Hallo!

I’d like to start off today, by explaining the difference between the Schloss and the Hof. The Schloss, or castle, was built in the 1770s as a gift for Princess Louise of Denmark (hence the name Louisenlund), later it was remodeled to look as it does now (see below). It sits right next to the Schlei, an inlet of the Baltic Sea. In 1949, Friedrich Wilhelm turned the building and grounds surrounding it into a boarding school, which then became part of the Roundsquare Conference of schools (yeah, I know, round square?), which is one of the most prestigious organizations of boarding schools in the world. Today, the Schloss serves as the upper school, housing grades 9 to 13. The Hof, used to be an old summer house and farm, now it has been turned into the lower school and is home to grades 5-8. It sits atop a very large hill and looks down on the Schloss and the Schlei.

Louisenlund Schloss

Louisenlund Schloss

So now that you have a bit of background, I’ll proceed with the events of Wednesday, which meant a trip to the Hof. After waking up early, I made the trek up the (rather obnoxiously) steep hill to the school, and as it was raining, I arrived totally soaked. My first stop of the day was Frau Bahr’s 6th grade German class. As you might imagine, this class was a bit more beneficial to me than chemistry auf deutsch, because they were actually going over things that were helpful for my German skills, such as determining the subject, the accusative or dative objects, and adjectives in German sentences. It was a lot of fun being in class with the younger kids and I definitely enjoyed being able to participate in the activities.

The top of the Hill up to the Hof, the steep part is behind me!

The top of the Hill up to the Hof, the steep part is behind me!

After German, I met with Frau Donovan, who is the head of the lower school as well as an English teacher. We decided that my talents would be best put to use on the Hof (they always say on the Hof, not at the Hof) because I would be able to contribute more in English classes and understand more in German classes. Therefore, to save me from having to hike up the hill everyday, she decided to get me a room on the Hof. So before I knew it, I had returned to my room and was throwing everything I’d brought back into my suitcase and moving! Hence the reason I no longer care if the janitors use my room as their own personal Panama Canal. Now I have a new room on the Hof in a building called the Scheune. The size is much smaller, but I prefer it, as I feel like I’m actually in a bedroom rather than in a classroom with a bed in it.

My new room!

My new room!

So after doing all that within two hours it was back to the classroom and my first big challenge! Frau Donovan had a meeting come up last minute so she handed me a folder with some worksheets in it and told me to go teach her 5th graders. Talk about being thrown it at the deep end! Fortunately for me her 5th grade English class consisted of only five boys, but let me tell you, five or twenty-five, is a lot when you’re new to teaching, not to mention speaking German. I certainly had my work cut out for me when one of the boys refused to do his work, telling me he couldn’t because he had chewing gum stuck in his Unterhose (underpants). What am I supposed to say to that? However, the whole experience ended up being a good way to force me to speak German, seeing as how the boys only understood very simple English.

I had the afternoon off, but was back to work helping out with English homework at 5:30, when the kids had their study hours. This ended up being good practice for me as well, because a couple of boys were going over English vocab, so while they practiced their English, I was able to learn some new German words. It was a little discouraging when I tried to pronounce some of the German words so they could tell me the English equivalent and the boys just stared back at me, having not understood my German pronunciation. But, hey, you try to pronounce Eichhörnchen (squirrel).

View of the Schlei from in front of the Schloss.

View of the Schlei from in front of the Schloss.

Thursday consisted mostly of observation, as I attended a geography class taught in English (and having not taken geography since 10th grade, I was not much help), as well as a 5th and 6th grade earth sciences class. I also went to Frau Donovan’s 7th grade English class, where I was able to help out a bit, but was once again was astounded by their English knowledge. Also, this was the first day that I saw the sun since I arrived in Germany! Yay! And then it was shortly followed by hail…

Approaching the Hof from the road.

Approaching the Hof from the road.

Friday was more of the same in the way of observing classes. I was able to attend a “German as a foreign language” class, which had only two students in it (one from China and one from the Philippines), but that meant that I was able to participate fully and I was surprised to find how easy it was!

Things are definitely starting to get a bit easier here as I’m settling in (for a second time) and getting used to the routine. I’ve also had a bit of time to do some exploring around the school’s grounds, and I hope to make it into one of the bigger surrounding towns this weekend. Until next time!

Kara

Chemie, das Schloss, und ein Staubsauger

Jan. 7th & 8th

Hello again!

My first real day of the internship started off with a meeting with Frau Vardag, in the Schloss, which is the main building for the high school aged students of Louisenlund.  Frau Vardag is the woman with whom I’ve been corresponding, and she teaches IB English classes as well as helps students with the college search and applications. The first item on the agenda for the day was to introduce me to everyone, that began with attending the weekly Monday morning staff meeting, where I was surrounded by at least 30 professors, all rattling off in German… a bit overwhelming. Remember when I said I can’t understand fast and complicated German? Well this is when that becomes a problem. Fortunately for me, most of them speak English quite well, so after introducing themselves in German and being received with the blank stare, they switched to English. Next, came the students. After the staff meeting, was the Monday morning student assembly. To give you an idea what this was like, imagine an auditorium with a large stage in the front. The auditorium is filled with about 200 students, as well as all the staff. Now imagine me, standing on the stage, in front of everyone, while Frau Vardag read a page of information about who I am. If you’ve never been introduced to 200 high school students in a foreign language before, well, believe me, it’s a bit terrifying.

Once the introductions were complete I essentially had the rest of the day to myself, except for lunch (which, along with food in general, will be thoroughly described in a later blog post) and figuring out a schedule for Tuesday.

Tuesday, the first day of going to classes! I started off in Herr Appel’s 9th grade chemistry class. This class was taught in German, so I was simply observing and not helping out. Although it was difficult for me to understand the teacher, I was able to easily figure out what they were talking about based on the drawings and notes on the chalkboard. I found it quite interesting that 9th graders were going over topics that I had just reviewed in gen chem last year! Of course the pace was much slower and they didn’t go quite as in depth, but impressive no less! I also got to watch them perform an experiment that consisted of combining copper oxide and carbon and holding this mixture in a flame until the reaction produced carbon dioxide and copper. I watched in horror as two boys held their test tube in the flame too long and totally melted the end off. Alas, I suppose that is the downfall of teaching freshmen chemistry. It took me a while to figure the experiment out, because despite popular belief, all science things are not the same in German as they are in English! For example, sodium (Na) is not called sodium, but rather Natrium (which actually makes more sense given that the symbol is Na…). So after an hour and a half of chemistry the students had a Pause, a break where they can get coffee or a snack, and then we returned to chemistry (the same class) for another hour and a half! I will never again complain about a 50 minute chemistry lecture.

The next class I went to was Herr Town’s 12th grade IB English class which took place in the Schloss. This was another great experience, because after all these years of struggling through French and German classes I finally got to feel what it’s like to be on the other side of the battle. Although, I don’t know if you can really call it a battle since these kids are already so good at speaking English. I had to keep reminding myself during one of their long rants that this was their second language. So impressive. Today they were preparing for the oral part of the IB exam in which they’d be given a picture and would have about ten minutes to describe and elaborate on what’s going on in the picture. Once again I was really just observing, but did offer a little input when students were having trouble with different vocab.

That was all for classes Tuesday, but I did get a chance to practice my German a little later in the day when I was in my room. I was doing some reading when I heard someone rattling and then unlocking my back door (which leads to another hallway), suddenly the door opened and a man poked his head in. He clearly was as surprised to see someone living there, as I was that someone was breaking in through my backdoor. However, everything soon made sense, when he said “ich brauche den Staubsauger.” And pointed to my other door. Ah, der Staubsauger… my mind quickly raced through all the German flashcards I’d ever made: the vacuum. He needs the vacuum. And apparently, through my room was the most direct way to reach it. After a brief conversation, auf deutsch, I understood that they (he and his wife, who was also a janitor) would need to trek through my room a few times each afternoon during their cleaning rounds. You can imagine I was not too thrilled with this idea, however it ended up not mattering for reasons I’ll explain in my next post.

The other half of my room and the bed that is oh so difficult to leave at 6:30 in the morning.

Half of my room and the bed that is oh so difficult to leave at 6:30 in the morning.

The door, through which the janitor came.

The door, through which the janitor came.

Half of my room. I was  informed that it used to be a classroom.

The other half of my room. I was informed that it used to be a classroom.

On that note, I must leave you, but look soon for my next post Off to the Hof! Best wishes to everyone at home and across the world!

And so the adventure begins…

Jan. 1st – 6th

Guten Tag!

I hope the New Year is treating you all well, and that there’s plenty of snow for those of you that want it! Today is the first official blog post from Deutschland; I apologize in advance for the length, but there’s so much to tell!

Wednesday afternoon I arrived in Frankfurt to cloudy and slightly chilly conditions, a weather pattern I’ve yet to see the end of, but it did nothing to dampen my spirits as I was soon met by my friend Simone. After a happy reunion, we wasted no time in getting to sightseeing, and hardly 30 minutes after I’d stepped off my plane I was traipsing through the busy streets of Frankfurt!

Simone and I on top of the Main tower.

Simone and I on top of the Main tower.

Our first stop was the Main (pronounced mine) tower, which is home to many companies, the main one being Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen. Our visit, however, had nothing to do with banking. Instead, we rode an elevator up 200m in 45 seconds to be greeted with spectacular views of the city. Despite the clouds we were able to get an excellent panoramic view of Germany’s financial capital.

The sun peeking through just behind the Frankfurt train station.

The sun peeking through just behind the Frankfurt train station.

My short visit to Frankfurt also gave me a brief introduction to German Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte), and the general traditions of Weihnachten. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the markets in their prime (seeing as how it was January 2nd), but there were enough remnants, including lights strung up over the streets, a plethora of decorated Christmas trees,  left over Christmas trinkets, and of course Glühwein, to give me an idea of what they would be like. In general, I noticed that the Germans are not as quick as Americans to pick up from the holiday festivities and move on. In fact, when I arrived at Simone’s house, their Weihnachtsbaum was fully decorated and still standing (ahem, mom…dad…), and the sounds of Michael Bublé crooning Christmas carols emanated from the kitchen. It was a nice feeling to be able to bask a little longer in the afterglow of Christmas. We were even treated with a visit from the Three Kings later in the week. And by the Three Kings, I mean three children dressed up as kings, carrying incense and who sang a song and blessed the house. This tradition is carried out every year by children all over Germany who collect donations for charity and in return give the residents of the home a sticker that has the year and the first letter of each king’s name. This sticker is  placed somewhere near the door so that others will know that the house has been visited by the kings.

The Frankfurt town hall is the building with the clock and flags. See the giant decorated Christmas tree!

The Frankfurt town hall is the building with the clock and flags. See the giant decorated Christmas tree!

On Friday, I went with Simone, her sister Steffie, and her parents to Bonn, which was the former capital of western Germany. In Bonn, we made an obligatory stop at the Haribo factory store. Haribo, for those of you who don’t know, is the name of the extremely popular German brand of gummy bears and licorice. Needless to say, the store had just about every kind of gummy (not just bears, but mice, pandas, vampires, etc.) that you could imagine. Our next stop was the Haus der Geschichte, or the museum of German history. This was a fascinating place that was overflowing with information about German history, post WWII. After about two hours my brain was bursting at the seam.

During my stay with Simone, I had my first opportunity to go to a German movie theater (Kino), when we to see the movie Skyfall, and yes, it was dubbed completely in German with no subtitles… At this point, I’d like to clarify a questions that I have received countless times. Do I speak German? Well, yes, if you consider small, broken phrases, with a very limited vocabulary speaking German. I have, however, been surprised by my ability to understand a considerable amount of German when it is spoken slowly. Long story short, I can survive, but when confronted with rapid German speakers with an expansive vocabulary my general response is a very confused stare. Here’s hoping for a more definitive “yes” answer to that question by the end of the month!

The night before I left Simone’s house, I was treated to a very special dinner. Her sister Steffie, who spent a year as an exchange student in India, cooked us all an absolutely delicious Indian dinner, which included everything from naan to mutter paneer. After, I felt like I needed to be rolled from the room, but it was well worth it!

Steffie's Indian Dinner

Steffie’s Indian Dinner

Sunday was finally the day to head north. I caught a train north from Siegen at precisely 7:12 in the morning (gotta love the European rail system) and was on my merry way. I switched trains twice before arriving in Schleswig around 2 in the afternoon. As my first experience taking the German train by myself, it went quite smoothly. The only hiccup was when I almost got off one stop too early, but by using my German knowledge (see, I told you I could survive) I was able to ask someone if I was at the right stop. He promptly told me it was the next stop, and saved me from disaster… or at least a very long and confusing wait. Phew!

So finally, Louisenlund! The part you’ve all been waiting to hear about. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer to get the good details, but for now I’ll tell you that I’m living in a student dorm (more like a house) which is home to 17 other girls. I have my own room, that would make my dorm room at Colby look like a closet, complete with a couch and chalkboard.  When I arrived, the place was very quiet and empty, but later in the evening the students started returning from their holiday breaks and I was able to meet a few of the girls in my building, they all seem very nice and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better.

That’s all for now, I”ll be back again soon with more details of what I’m going to be doing and how my first day went. Best of luck to all of you returning to work and school after the holidays!

Kara

P.S. For those of you that are still wondering, London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaul are the two busiest airports in Europe.