Friday, 20 September 2013

The year abroad in Germany begins: Travelling and training.

Cologne Cathedral
I have now been in Germany for a solid four days, but in a way, my year abroad only really began yesterday. (I'll explain later, curious ones, but lets go back to the beginning, shall we? According to Maria, it's a very good place to start*...)

At a truly unsociable hour on Monday morning, I had to get up to leave home and say goodbye to my mother. Unsurprisingly, I cried. When we got to the airport, I said goodbye to my dad, and you betcha, I cried.

I just about held it together in Heathrow, but once actually in my seat, as the plane took off and I waved goodbye to the patchwork fields of England's green and pleasant land, I couldn't help a few tears escaping. The same happened upon landing too. Pretty embarrassing really. (Tip: close your eyes and look up. It helps, trust me.)

Delightfully Deutsch plane snack
I wasn't crying because I didn't want to go or because I couldn't understand the German air stewards (that just made me chuckle to myself), I was just overwhelmed. After so much build up, the year abroad was actually happening. For reals. But it still hasn't sunk in that I'm actually in Germany for more than a holiday. This is going to be my life.

Standard plane snap - HELLO GERMANY!
Except I wasn't about to jump straight into my new life, luckily. The PAD (I don't know what it stands for either but they're the people who are in charge of foreign language assistants coming to Germany) put on a compulsory residential three day course in Cologne for all assistants before they start their placements, wherever in Germany they may be.

Mmmm Haribo
Amusingly, one of the first things I saw upon arriving in Germany was a Haribo shop, which was a good sign in my opinion. As I made my way from the airport to the main train station where we were to meet to be taken to the course, it struck me how clean everything was. Hopefully that'll be the case all over Deutschland. Love me some cleanliness.

I had a bit of time to kill so bought some lunch and ate it on the steps of the beautiful Cologne Cathedral. While sitting there, a couple of British girls came and sat nearby, one of which was having a slight nervous panic, to which I could totally relate. Just as I'd expected, the lovely Charlotte was in the same boat as me, but we made friends over our nervousness so it was all dandy.

Traveling life, eh?
We met up with 90 odd other English-speaking (predominantly British but with the occasional Canadian, Kiwi, Irish and Australian thrown in for good measure) assistants and were taken by coach to the conference hotel for our course. It was absolutely in the middle of nowhere, which made us feel like we were in a bubble, but it was a very comfortable bubble indeed.

The hotel for the training course
Haribo on our (classic German square) pillows YAY!
The training course was absolutely great on a few levels. Firstly, we learnt a lot about the actual teaching and had to do the daunting but useful task of giving practice lessons. Secondly, we were told about practical things like bank accounts, as well as finding out more about language assistant life. But I think the main thing I took away from the course was being able to meet fellow assistants in the same boat.

Everyone was in their early 20s, and the courses (we were the fourth and final course) were divided up by region, so it was fab to make friends with assistants who are going to be living in the towns near me. Looking back on it, I think I may have talked about One Direction a tad too much on the first night, but if my new friends thought I was a total crazy, they thankfully didn't show it.

The course was just like Freshers' Week all over again, really - excitedly meeting new people (including the lovely Sonia who'd actually read my blog after seeing it on, making friends, and asking and answering the same questions over and over again.

I was very excited when I saw this tea kitchen door...

But alas, it was locked. Panic not, though, I'd brought my own tea from home. Obvs.

Unsurprisingly, every German stereotype has proven true so far. The course was meticulously organised, with every 15 minutes of our time scheduled on the itinerary. But, don't worry, ze Germans also pencilled in time for fun - we had a German pub quiz (my team, Quiztina Aguilera, came second, but we didn't want to win anyway as the second place prize was better. We're not just sore losers. Honest), there were long meal times (buffets for breakfast, lunch, afternoon cake/biscuits and dinner HOLLA) and classic German bar time in the evening.

Team Quiztina Aguilera
Elderflower Prosecco? Or beer...?
Sure, we were speaking English the whole time, but we all came away feeling a lot more comfortable, if a bit scared about properly going it alone at the end. Language assistants in other countries don't get an induction course like this as far as I'm aware, and I'm feeling super lucky to have had one. If I'd just arrived in my new hometown not having had the induction course, I'd have been terrified.

Isn't it just typical of Germany to be the only country to do the courses though? I think it just goes to show that the German authorities want to make sure we do our best for the schools, but also that we get the most out of our time in Germany.

Yesterday morning, disgustingly early again (everything seems to happen early here), we left the hotel and were taken back to the main station. The bubble burst, and we were plopped into the real world. Real Germany.

I managed to get on the right train, along with four of my new friends going the same way. Thankfully. Germany is surprisingly huge, so I had a fairly long journey ahead of me, but the train was extremely pleasant and comfortable, with beautiful scenery whizzing past out the window. As we played cards and drew attention to ourselves from our fellow German passengers, we were having a great time, and were perfectly happy to stay on the train all day, prolonging the wait to go it alone.

However, our group inevitably had to dwindle as my friends gradually left the train to go to their respective towns, and soon there were two of us left. And before I knew it, I was at Bayreuth train station, suitcase in hand and butterflies in my stomach. The real year abroad and my new life was about to begin.

*For the uncultured among you, that was a rather appropriate The Sound of Music reference. Yes, I know they were in Austria but it's close enough. Jeez.

1 comment

  1. Beautiful photo, thanks for sharing! I would love to go there some day. :)


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