At Sunday the 25.08 arrived the students from Bogota (Colombia) in Berlin. We had a little and warm welcome event, where we introduced aubiko and the program for the upcoming week. We explained the students about the busy, but interesting Program that was ahead of us in the following days and about the wonderful time they were going to have, visiting some of the most beautiful and important cities in Germany. After this, we checked-in the Schulz Hotel and everyone went to their respective room, where the students could organize their stuff and relax a bit. After this, our program started at once. We had a reservation to go to the stunning German parliament called “Reichstag”. Once we got there our guide Maria told us about the history of this building and the important events that took place here and were not just interesting for the German history but for the whole world! We could complement this information with some great audio guides, which you could set in any language. While we were walking around, looking at the amazing infrastructure of the parliaments dome, the audio guide explained us about the architecture and the sights we had from the dome. After we took some pictures at this magnificent building and being for so long exposed to the German ways, we were really hungry for a typical regional meal. In the Reichstags canteen we we could choose from an extensive German menu, with typical and traditional meals like “Schnitzel”, “Kartoffelsalat”, “Currywurst”, etc. Dinner was great, after eating such delicious food, we recovered our strength and headed to the Brandenburger Gate. Then we went back to the Hotel and straight to bed, not a single person of the group had enough energy to do anything else.
Monday started early in the morning, we all went together and had breakfast, even the Taiwan group joined us and we had an interesting time with them. Maria, one of the team leaders, gave us a more detailed introduction about the whole program, aubiko e.V. clarifying that we are not a tourism agency but a non-profit organization that focuses on education and culture, but most importantly, she told us about the communication structure. It was explained to us how and in which situations it’s most important that we should communicate with aubiko e.V. first!. For example, in case of problems with the family, school, etc. Then Bert, the other team leader, gave us an incredible presentation about Leipzig, a city we were going to visit the day after. He gave us all the most important information about the city and what we should visit and see, since he was going to be mostly with the Taiwan group.
Later on, we travelled to Potsdam and started visiting the new Palais and the castle of Sanssouci. Both were amazing. There was a lot of beautiful views to be appreciated in both locations. Little did we know that besides being such incredible structures, there was a lot of history involved. The audio guides we had, explained us about all the Prussian and a lot of the European history in general, we heard about the porcelain history, the silk factory and walked around the most beautiful parks in the city, where we obviously took some pictures. The buildings we just saw were also important for the wars that held in this region. For lunch we had what seems to be one of the most preferred meals for the young population, döner and curry wurst. After trying them, most of the students loved it and understood why this food is so popular among the German students. We also visited the city center, where we had free time to discover Potsdam’s busy streets on our own. Some of us stayed at a coffee shop and enjoyed what probably was one of the hottest days of the year in Germany relaxing. Others enjoyed their free time walking around watching and appreciating the classic structure of the German houses.
After a long day we headed back to Berlin. Back in Berlin, it was still a warm and beautiful day, but due to tiredness half of the group decided to stay in the hotel relaxing, but the other half wanted to enjoy the day some more. We headed to the East Side Gallery and then to the Mercedes Benz Arena, where after taking a lot of pictures of such fascinating views, the students found some fountains to play with. They were probably the best thing we could have found after such a long and warm day. After a while we went back to the hotel and prepared for the next day.
Tuesday the 27th , after breakfast, our journey to Leipzig begun. Everyone was really impressed by the train we were in. The famous ICE, the fastest train in Germany. Sinikka the Aubiko´s representant for this region, joined us at Leipzig’s central station and Maria told us about why Leipzig has always been an important city for Europe. The first thing we did, was visiting the battle of nations monument. Here we heard about the shocking story of Napoleon and the battle of nations, where in both sides of the war Germans fought each other and Napoleon’s empire felt. We went inside this amazing monument which was 91m high and saw the amazing statues and rooms. Of course, we had to go up to the last floor. Some of us took the elevator to go to the top, but some of the sportier students decided to take the stairs! Up there, the view was breathtaking, we could literally see the whole city. We took some pictures and a moment to enjoy the view before going back to the tour. Lunch was special this day, we ate in the New Town City Hall, literally inside the city hall. After this, Sinnika took us through the old city and show us the most important sight seeings, for example The St. Nicholas Church where the Monday’s protest agains the Berlin Wall started, ot the Thomas Church where Johann Sebastian Blach played the organ our the Auerbachs Cellars, where writers like Goethe and others meet. We also visit other places of interest during the city tour, where what Bert told us the day before came in handy.
After dinner in Berlin, some of the students who decided to go out the night before, told the rest about the East Side Gallery and the Mercedes Arena and convinced us all to go back again. After having a good time playing at the fountains, we all went and had a great milkshake at “Five guys”.
Wednesday, we started the preparation course. We worked on our expectations and fears, we started analyzing them alone and then we shared them in groups and finally talked all together about them and how to fulfill and deal with them. We also analyzed the “Student manual” that was given to us, which had a lot of useful information and worked with it in groups, doing exercises and helping each other. After eating, we had a city tour, its Big City Berlin´s time. A hot day in Berlin, it was perfect for a tour.
We visited the remarkable Jewish monument, we also went to the Bebelplatz where we could appreciate the maintained neoclassic facades and heard about the Nazi book burnings. We also learned about the Humboldt University of Berlin, which was more beautiful than anyone expected. After the pause and the deserved ice cream we had, we went to the Museum island, which sadly was mostly under maintenance, but luckily still got to see the UNESCO World Heritage island. All the buildings were really old, classic and gorgeous and also in a really good shape. We walked by the riverside of the Spree until the Marx Engels Forum, where we heard about the fathers of theoretical socialism. We then decided to go to the television tower of Alexanderplatz and had some time to do some shopping. After we were back at the Hotel we had some preparation talks alone with the leaders, where they told each of us separately about our host families, our strengths and reminded us what we discussed in groups before about our fears and how to deal with them.
We started the next day, Thursday the 29th, with more preparation courses. This time we discussed about important topics like the German school system and how it works, the difference of meals and traditions, like for example that for some in Germany eating rice pudding for lunch is normal. Furthermore, we discussed about the hobbies, clubs, Internet, communication with the host parents, culture shock, homesickness and how aubiko can help us with this, if problems arise. We were told about the local coordinator and that some phases are normal, that we should not be afraid, but also about the rules and that we have to respect them. Maria said that since we behaved so good, she would buy us an ice cream.
In the afternoon we visited the Berlin Wall. It was specially interesting because our tour guide himself lived at the time of the Wall. He told us many interesting stories about escapes and arrests. We saw some real pieces of the wall and went to the Wall Memorial. After this, we went back to Alexanderplatz where we got our promised ice cream and hat a little bit of free time to buy presents for our families and host families or to get the last things before the exchange starts.
Back at the hotel, where we had dinner, we had these individual talks again with our leaders. We talked about the roles of the aubiko representants and they were introduced to us. We also talked about the visits that aubiko would do in the future, the last questions about school and family and some of the logistics of the travel at Saturday.
Friday, pretty much our last day together, we had preparation courses as well, we did some role-playing and practiced how not to behave confronting certain problems, with the host family and if so, how to change in a positive way. Then we prepared some activities for the “Goodbye Party” we were having at night. In our case we decided to dance, we had so much fun preparing it and at the end, it ended up actually being considered decent by all of us.
After lunch we had one of the most underestimated but at the end funniest activity, the Streetart Workshop. We visited a Graffiti/Streetart Workshop in Berlin center, they showed us different techniques like stencil and how to pain with sprays. It was really fun. We had some time to try it ourselves and everyone showed their creative side.
The Goodbye party for all the exchange students was held together. We had different presentations about our countries with people all over the world, like Italy and Taiwan, we exchanged names and learned how to write them in mandarin, we did a quiz, it was amazing. After all these, the Helvetia group showed the dance and everyone enjoyed it. Even after the dance we teach all the girls from other countries how to do this dance. Then we all went to dinner together for one last time, of course to our now favorite place in Berlin: Five Guys.
Saturday was a bit sad for everyone, all the students were a bit nervous, but everyone was in their respective group, that were given the day before. We all said goodbye and each one went to their respective bus or train. Sometime later all the host families confirmed that the students arrived sound and safe!