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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…