German Exchange 2016

In November this year, eight fortunate TY students- Céire, Sinéad, Aoife, Shauna, Cailtin, Oonagh, Clíona and Tara- got the opportunity to travel to Germany for a week and stay with a guest family as part of a language exchange. The objective of the trip was to improve our German by experiencing the language in its natural setting. However, the experience also resulted in us being fully immersed in the culture of Germany, and enabled us to make new friends and broaden our friendships with people outside of Ireland.

     Along with Ms. Murphy and another eight TY students from St. Pat’s, we departed Cavan in a small mini bus at 6 o’clock on Tuesday morning, the 8th November. While many of us were nervous about the excursion as it would be our first time leaving the country without our families, the excitement of what lay ahead soon took over. At Dublin Airport, we boarded our flight for Frankfurt, every fibre of us vibrating with anticipation.

     The large town where we were based was Wörth am Rhein, approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from Frankfurt and situated very close to the France- Germany border on the left side of the River Rhein. When we landed in Frankfurt, we travelled by bus to the secondary school in Wörth, called Europa Gymnasium Wörth, where we met our exchange students and their parents for the first time.

     Each day we attended school with our exchange partners. Their school day was a lot shorter than at home, lasting 5 hours, from 8am to 1pm. In the afternoons we took part in different activities that our exchange students had planned. One day a few of us met at an ice-cream parlour (Eisdiele) , as being German, they were very fond of their delicious creamy ice-cream. Another day we went shopping to the big city, Karlsruhe. As it was very close to Christmas, the centre was bustling with people busy setting up for the Christmas Markets(Weihnachtsmärkte). Short women could be seen balancing on top of ladders, while having an intense battle with a set of Christmas lights who were refusing to untangle themselves. In other places, men were wrapping their cold stiff fingers around heavy crates of merchandise that they would be selling off to Christmas goers in the coming weeks. The atmosphere was vibrant and lighthearted, and as we stood there in awe of our surroundings, we all yearned to stay longer so we could be present for the commencement of the Winter season. 

     Without a doubt, one of the key highlights of the experience was the typical authentic German food and drink. It was very clear to see that bread was a very important part of the German diet, especially at breakfast (Frühstück). There were lots of bread types to choose from and bakeries (Bäckereien) were spotted in every village and town. A popular dish we all got a chance to taste was the unforgettable Schnitzel- a breaded pork cutlet served with potatoes or fries. We also discovered very quickly that the Germans were in love with sparkling water. On so many occasions we would simply ask for a glass of ‘water’ and end up with a pint of the dreaded fizzy substance placed before us that unfortunately none of us liked at all!!

     We were extremely lucky to be present in Germany for St Martin’s Day, or Martinstag, which took place on 11th November. On this day every year the Germans honour St. Martin of Tours, a humble kind man who famously cut his cloak in half during a storm and gave it to a beggar to stop him from freezing. Some of us got the opportunity to attend the service, where the children made paper lanterns and walked in a procession around the streets at night. After, everyone sat around a gloriously bright bonfire and sang beautiful melodic songs dedicated to St. Martin.

     On the second last day, the whole group of Irish and German exchange students, along with the teachers and guest families, went on a hike in the Palatinate Forest. It was a brisk Autumn afternoon and leaves came raining down from the trees making a carpet of orange and gold along the forest ground. It felt so magical being surrounded by nature. After the hike we got a guided tour of the medieval Berwartstein Castle.The views from on top of the tower were mesmerizing. 

     Our week spent in Germany has been a phenomenal experience. We have all progressed greatly in speaking the German language more fluently, but more importantly we have made memories that will last a life time. We would like to thank everyone who was involved in making this exchange possible for us, especially Ms. Murphy who worked relentlessly on our behalf. Danke schön!