Week 1: Hamburg
The first week in Hamburg has drawn to a close and the students have already visited all kinds of different places in the city and experienced many new things. They are quickly learning all there is to know about German culture and their language skills are improving day by day. They are also starting to become real experts on what there is to see around Hamburg.
Monday was the arrival day and it was a very exciting moment for everyone involved. Most of the students arrived at Frankfurt Airport from where they all took a comfortable bus to Hamburg. The other participants came to the accommodation in Hamburg individually. Since everyone was very tired from their respective long journeys, the students only received a brief introduction by the aubiko representatives, teachers, organisers and assistants who are responsible for the programme over the next three weeks of the intensive German language course. Each student was given a personal file with important information about the course and, if they are exchange students, their future host family. This also included a daily programme for the upcoming weeks and a city map with the public transport system and important sights in Hamburg – the best possible preparation for the first few weeks of the course.
Afterwards, it was time for the placement test to find out which knowledge level of German each student is at before getting sorted into different classes based on the results. Then we had our first meal together: a classic German dinner consisting of bread and a choice of cheese, ham and salami, along with a salad. It quickly became obvious that the food will take some getting used to, as most of students are unfamiliar with bread and do not eat it regularly at home. But everybody finished their meal and the day ended with some free time to explore the hostel and its facilities. Around 22:00, everyone went to bed in the shared rooms to be rested for the first full official day in Germany.
We started Tuesday with an early breakfast in the morning. Since Germans usually eat cereal with milk or a type of bread roll with butter, jam, cheese or various sausages for the first meal of the day, all the students were introduced to what a typical breakfast looks like. Straight after that, they had their first language lesson where they began with the language basics or revisited what they already knew in order to refresh their knowledge. After lunch, the really exciting part of the day started – it was time for the first trip into Hamburg to visit the most well known sights and shop in the city centre! The tour started with an official welcome from one of Hamburg´s representatives of the parliament in the city hall (called “Rathaus” in German). Dr. Sven Tode spoke about the meaning of intercultural understanding and importance of high school exchange programs. The official welcome and exceptional building of the town hall was very impressive for the students to see. It gave everybody insight into the beautiful architecture and there were many opportunities to take a great photo. The students also enjoyed the lovely weather as they explored the heart of the city and were able to wander through the many shops along the street. Later, we returned for dinner in the hostel and the students used their free time to play sports outside or do some homework for German class the next day before everyone went to bed…
Week 2: Hamburg
The first week flew by and the students did not only advance in their language skills but they have also grown to know and love the city of Hamburg. The second week here was equally full of great activities and also opportunities to share aspects of the students’ home culture. On Monday, the students returned to their German lessons with renewed energy and continued their intensive study, already showing great improvements across the board. The teachers started the lesson off with interactive singing and dancing, which the students had already come to know from the first week. After lunch, the programme included a visit to one of the museums that Hamburg is quite famous for – the Miniaturwunderland. Located in one of the historic buildings in the Speicherstadt, it is a massive collection of miniature models representing places, historical scenarios and fictional figures from all over the world. The students were very fascinated by the detail of such small-sized figures and took many pictures with the tiny pieces! Of course, a break at the museum café for a small snack was also part of the excursion and the group jumped at the opportunity to have pommes frites (they were thankfully not as tiny as everything else). All too soon, we had to return to the hostel for dinner and the students used the evening to prepare for the Cultural Evening that was planned for Thursday. They put together ideas for a little show with music and show acts, making plans for delicious Taiwanese dishes and how to decorate the event location at the aubiko office.
Tuesday was another day full of intensive language learning and another workshop of cultural preparation for the exchange students. They are only a few days away from moving in with their host families so they are eagerly absorbing all the information they can about life in Germany. The non-exchange students also used the time wisely to do their homework and some chores, since it was hot enough that they did not want to go into the city earlier than everybody else. By late afternoon though, everyone was ready to visit the Hamburg Dom, a large amusement park that takes place three times a year and is beloved by everyone in the city for its food and various rides. Especially the boys were brave enough to try the largest rollercoasters, even those that give most people a complete fright! During that time, some of the students joined the aubiko supervisors on a different project and used those two hours to go shopping in the local Asian supermarkets. We needed to collect the necessary ingredients for the Cultural Evening and the students simply knew best what they wanted to cook. They were very excited to see the familiar food in the shops and came up with many different recipes on the spot but sadly, we couldn’t buy everything. Still, we met the group back at the Dom with full bags and even had time to grab some food from the many stalls before returning to the hostel…
Week 2/3: Berlin
Saturday was the day of the big move to Berlin. After breakfast and an early start, we all took a bus from the central bus station to Berlin. It was an exciting ride – unfortunately with some traffic on the way – and everyone awaited the capital with great eagerness. Once we arrived in the early afternoon, it was time for the first authentic meal that everybody needs to have tried while in Berlin: Döner! Although it is an adaptation of Turkish cuisine in sandwich with meat and delicious sauce, there is no food that is more popular or famous in the German capital than a Döner Kebab. The students really enjoyed trying it and even the vegetarian version was extremely tasty. After that, we continued the journey to our beautiful new hostel right beside a lake in the Northern section of the city. There, the students had some time to relax and move into their rooms before the real fun started. We used the rest of the day to go on the first tour into the city centre and visit one of the most iconic sights that Berlin has to offer, namely the Berlin Wall / East Side Gallery. Although the students quickly remarked that Hamburg is architecturally more beautiful than the capital, they were still impressed by the diverse atmosphere and the history of the area. Together, we spent some time at the nearby river Spree and listened to some street music that was happening in the area while eating dinner. Later on, we headed back to the hostel and the students were glad to use the rest of the evening to settle into their new rooms, take a look around the facilities and enjoy the calm compared to the lively sounds of the big city. Soon enough, everyone went to bed, already awaiting the events of their second day.
A trip to Potsdam was planned for Sunday, the warmest and most summery day so far. Situated close to Berlin but actually the capital of the bordering state Brandenburg, Potsdam is very different and reveals another style of architecture as well as being much smaller and cosier. We started the day with the breakfast buffet in the hostel, which was just as delicious as the one in Hamburg but with the added bonus of being able to sit outside in the sunshine to eat as well. Then, everyone took the public transport in the direction of Potsdam, which is around an hour away. Even though it grew hot very quickly, the students really enjoyed the trip and were impressed by the sight that greeted them at their destination – the city’s famous Sansoucci Palace. The aubiko representative Bert, who came to Berlin with us, took everybody on a tour around the palace gardens and spoke about the history and purpose of the royal palace. We also spent some time in the beautiful park to eat our packed lunch from the hostel, before setting out to explore the city centre. There, the students all had a big ice cream to cool down in the heat before we embarked on the train back towards Berlin. Before heading home, we put in another stop at the ultimate sightseeing spot known around the world – the impressive Brandenburg Gate. Of course, the students took lots of photographs here to show their friends and family back home. Then, the group finally headed back to the hostel for dinner and spent the evening playing cards, table football and board games. From the long travel during the day and the tiring temperatures, it was not long before everyone turned in for the night.