Oh, Germany. How simply WONDERFUL you have been for the past six months. I almost can’t believe it’s time to leave. *sob*
From what I see, Germany as a whole is totally underrated amongst the general British public and popular opinion. But people really don’t know what they’re missing. How often do you hear of Brits going on holiday to Germany? Genau.*
If someone tells you they’re off on a mini-break to France, Italy or Spain, the general reply would be “Ooh, you lucky thing! I’m so jealous. Have a great time!” Whereas if someone was to be a bit edgy, buck the trend and decide to go to... Oh, I don't know... GERMANY (god forbid!), I can’t help but imagine the more likely reaction would be, “Oh. Cool. Um, why?” Or am I just being cynical?
Here’s the thing though: Germany is top-notch. Like, seriously cracking. There’s so much under-appreciated beauty to be discovered – whether epic countryside or gorgeous architecture. Have a peruse of all my picture-heavy posts under the travel tab if ya don't believe me. Not to mention the fact that this is a country steeped in fascinating history with what I consider a really interesting culture.
I’m not going to write another post about why living abroad for a year is the best thing ever because I already did that here, didn’t I? Buuuut I may have a little waffle/rant/cry about everything in Germany I’m going to miss. Aren't I good to you lot? I definitely don't treat my blog readers like personal agony aunts/pyschiatrists. Ahem.
The main aim of the year abroad is to improve your languages, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s really only one of many many benefits. So have I improved my German over the past six months? In short: yes.
Having started German from scratch at uni two years ago, I was seeeeriously lacking in confidence when it came to the language before my year abroad. Hence, I was blimmin’ terrified about the big ole move to D-land. (See ‘pre year abroad jitters’ for proof.) And I think the main improvement has been in my confidence. In that I now have some.
My spoken German has definitely got a lot better too. I can get by in everyday life, hold a conversation with most people about most things, and understand the majority of what I hear. (Crazy regional German accents aside.) That said, I know I make a loooot of errors, largely with grammar.
German sentence structure is actual jokes, and if I took the time to think about where every word should go before I said every sentence, I'd never say anything. But for just living in Germany, it doesn't matter if I haven't sent the verb to the end after using 'weil' or if I jumble up the time-manner-place rule which sometimes-applies-but-sometimes-doesn't because EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT I MEAN!
The same goes for the word 'the.' Quick explanation for non-German speakers: Nouns can have one of three genders in German (right, because that makes so much sense), and then when you add four cases on top of that, you've got about a million kajillion different options for the word 'the'. It's the stupidest thing because it's basically irrelevant - everyone knows what you mean, regardless of which word you choose. With that in mind, I just say any old one of them (or at least a one-syllable word beginning with the letter 'D') and roll with it.
And d'you know what? Germans tell me my mistakes and my accent are cute. Endearing, even. And who wouldn't want that? (Yeah I know. The people who want to be fluent. Sssshhh...)
|Schloss Neuschwanstein was a highlight for me|
They say you're fluent when you dream in the language. I definitely haven't dreamt in German. Disappointing. Especially considering some of my pupils told me they have dreamt in English. But I swear I don't dream in a language anyway. Or that's what I'm telling myself.
However, I definitely think in Denglisch. And by Denglisch I mean some sort of weird Deutsch-English hybrid. It's actually marginally annoying that all my English friends don't speak German and I have to make a conscious effort not to pop in the odd Deutschism here and there. Gaaaaaad, stupid friends. (Jokes, love you guys.)
Realistically though, I need another six months here. I can't help but feel miffed that the single-honours students are going to have spent twice as long in their respective countries as we double-honours students, and they will thus be doubly good when we get back to uni yet we'll all be assessed on the same level. But what can ya do, eh? I'd still rather be almost fluent in French and German than only fluent in one.
And although my spoken German has come on leaps and bounds, writing on the other hand, is noch** horrendous. My first year abroad essay has to be 3,500 words auf deutsch and it is proving to be a struggle. Who wants to be stressing about academic dissertations and whatnot while on their year abroad? No-one, that's who. But hey. Students gotta study, oder***? (Sorry, I really need to stop whacking in these German particles.)
Despite having had my essays looming over me, y'all know that hasn't stopped my YOIBOing (YOIBO = You're Only In Bavaria Once, but you already knew that, right?) my way around Germany and making the most of my six months here. Prior to the year abroad, I'd been to Germany once, and that was only for a few days in Berlin last year. OK twice actually, but I was too young to remember the first time so let's just ignore it.
My point is that even as a German student, I knew very little about Germany, German culture and general German-ness six months ago. And guess what? This may be news to you: I LOVE GERMANY, GERMAN CULTURE AND GENERAL GERMAN-NESS!
Here are a few of the things, both little and big, which I've particularly loved and will miss:
|Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber. Beyond beaut, oder?|
1. The architecture, particularly in Bavaria. (#Bayern4eva.)
2. The way they paint things like the names of the shops actually on the buildings in this super cute ye olde style font.
3. The bakeries. (Bavarian pretzels have just been given protected status by the EU! Just sayin'.)
4. The people. Everyone has been so amazingly friendly, welcoming and generous.
|I even like Sauerkraut now. Seriously!|
5. The food in general (y'all knew I was going to say that though, didn't you?)
6. The weird but wonderful traditions: A highlight was experiencing the Sommerhausen Schutzenfest.
7. The Bayern Ticket (and thus how much I've been able to travel). Bavaria/Bayern is where I live. It's the biggest state in Germany and, as far as I can see, the best. By a mile. I've done pretty damn well in ticking off my 'to-visit' list while here, largely because 95% of those places were in fact within Bavaria. And with the Bayern Ticket it's just ridiculously cheap on the trains.
8. My pupils and teachers, but worry not, there'll soon be a whole other post about language assistanting and finishing at my schools. *sob*
9. The language. Just hearing it around me. I love it. (Even though it's so difficult.) And also the way Germans speak English. It's cute.
|Pretty Sommerhausen even in the rain|
10. The way there's so much regional variation - whether in traditions, delicacies, dialect, architecture, everywhere you go in Germany is really unique. I find this fascinating and it also makes for fabulous travelling.
Obviously there are tons of other things I love and am going to miss (friends, naturally, but I know we'll see each other again), but the chances are I'll only realise them when I've left. C'est la vie, eh? Ooh! There I go getting ready for Year Abroad Part Two already without even trying.
Yup, a week today (OH MA GAAAAD!) I'm going to be moving to Brussels for a very exciting six-month internship! It's all so strange at the moment and my emotions are all jumbled and confused: I'm so sad to be leaving Germany and my life here, but I'm looking forward to a few days at home and can barely comprehend that I'm going to be on to the second half of my year abroad in a mere week! This is nuts. The best year of my life is flying by and I can't say I'm overly thrilled about it.
Like, seriously? Do I have to leave Germany? Bayreuth is making it even harder to leave by whacking out the glorious spring sunshine for my last few days, almost teasing me about what I'm going to miss.
But then I think about what I'm going on to do in Brussels and I'M SO EXCITED! Pleasingly, I'm also feeling so much more comfortable about the whole moving-to-a-new-country thing having done the first part of my year abroad. Look at me, growing up and everything!
I know what needs to happen. I need two years abroad. Mmm, kay? Can we sort that please? Jolly good.
Oh, it's been such an awesome six months. I've been lucky enough to meet so many fab people, visit such wonderful places and have such incredible experiences. Best year of your life ever? So far, I'd definitely say yes. (PLEASE DON'T END, YEAR ABROAD!)