Recently our year 9 students took part in a German exchange trip. And it certainly sounds like an amazing opportunity. Check out Sam’s excellent article and video below summarising the experience she had in Frankfurt with her host family.
In February, I had the great pleasure of taking part in our school’s German exchange with Schillerschule in Frankfurt. It has been, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable, educational, and valuable experiences I’ve ever had.
We flew to Frankfurt on the 7thof February and spent five days there, three during the week, and two over the weekend. The family I stayed with were better than I could’ve ever hoped or imagined, and made me feel incredibly welcome, which worked wonders on the nerves I’d had leading up to the trip. Ella, Axel, Ines, and Lion were a joy to stay with and I truly enjoyed becoming part of their lives for those five days.
While I was there, I learnt a lot of German and spoke quite a bit too. I did this mainly by listening, asking for English translations, and conversing with Ella and her family. As well as the language, being in Frankfurt really helped give me a taste of German culture and daily life. Whether it was the appealing shorter school hours, the trams always being on time, or the joyful and talented buskers that provided the soundtrack to my trip, every aspect of my time there taught me something about the country I was in.
Attending a school so far from home with a class of complete strangers sounds daunting, but in reality it was not only fun, but extremely interesting. There were certainly more differences than I expected; lessons were 90 minutes long, there wasn’t a planner in sight, the students seemed to use the same A4 notebook for all of their lessons, and I didn’t see a single interactive white board the whole time I was there. In the two days I went to classes, I had politics, maths, physics, and three English lessons, all of which were very different to lessons here and were very interesting to take part in. My favourite moment was probably receiving a round of applause for my, and I quote, ‘wonderful English accent’ – not something that happens every day.
During the time I spent with my exchange family, I explored the city of Frankfurt on foot, went ice skating, visited Frankfurt Zoo, went sledging in a mountain range called The Taunus, witnessed the madness of German Karneval, and tried sushi for the first time. Frankfurt is a beautiful city and I adored getting to wander around it on my first day there, and ice skating was certainly very interesting. Unfortunately for me, I’m almost as terrible on ice as I am in water, but at least there were sides to cling on to… some of the time. The Zoo, despite it being a cold and cloudy day, was brilliant and brimming with life – it was also a great way to learn the German words for animals from all over the world. Sledging was perhaps the best part of the whole trip; I’d never been in such thick snow before and I’d never sledged down anywhere much steeper than a wheelchair ramp. It really was unforgettable. The Karneval was, for lack of a better word, surreal! We stood in the street watching hundreds of floats go by – some with people in costumes throwing sweets down at the crowds, some with singers and dancers, and some with very witty caricatures of Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. And as for the sushi, I was apprehensive at first, but it turned out to be delicious!
To conclude, my German exchange trip really was, and I apologise for the cliché, a once in a life time experience. The Bienhaus family were so warm and welcoming, attending school was truly fascinating, and the memories I made in Germany will stay with me forever. I would not only recommend taking part in an exchange trip to everyone who has the chance, I would strongly encourage it. Not only will it enhance your understanding of another country and its culture, but you will undoubtedly have a wonderful time and come back to England with a plethora of new memories and experiences.
By Sam, year 9.