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!

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