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Things I wish I’d known: Year Abroad edition

Even as my time at university comes to an end, I still have friends who have yet to reach their final years. And some of those people have year abroads to go on (Hi Helen). Leading up to a year abroad is scary, because moving to a foreign country will always be at least a little terrifying, and so I thought I’d share some things I wish I’d known before my year abroad.

1. Your language skills need work.

Moving to Germany showed me how lacking my language skills could be. Most notably in the first week I was in Ilmenau, trying to buy a sim card became a huge production because I didn’t know the word for account and the woman at the shop didn’t speak any English.

But it’s okay. You’re not meant to be great at your language yet. That’s why you’re doing a year abroad. You’ll muddle through, with half learnt words and charades and a lack of every day vocab, and a few weeks/a month/two months in you’ll realise you can actually speak the language, and have been for a while. It’s all going to be okay.

2. You’ll be exhausted.

Having to speak your second language all the time is really tiring. Between trying to remember vocab and grammar and then pronunciation and then understanding replies, you’re probably going to be knackered for a while. Don’t worry. Sleep and it’ll be fine.

3. Things take time.

Getting used to the new country, making friends, not being bone tired at the end of every day – everything’ll happen. But it takes time. Which I think is the most parent-y thing I’ve ever said. But it’s true.

4. Cultures are different.

I didn’t think Germany would be that different to home. It’s a western European country after all, only separated from Britain by France and the English Channel. And while in broad strokes it wasn’t that different, it was the details that tripped me up. I found myself missing Sunday opening times for shops, for crying out loud. Be prepared for ridiculous things to be different.

5. It doesn’t have to be the best year of your life.

My university, like many other universities I assume, get enthusiastic fourth years to talk to second years about their year abroad, and the phrase “It was the best year of my life” gets bandied around like there’s no tomorrow.

Your year abroad does not have to be the best year of your life. If it is, that’s awesome – I’m really happy for you. But if it’s not, that’s legitimate too. You don’t have to come back for your final year and be that fourth year who talks about their year abroad for half an hour.

I feel like maybe my advice has painted a bleaker image of a year abroad than I intended to. They’re great, I really enjoyed mine. But sometimes I think all the “it’s the best year of your life” marketing makes people forget that it’s still real life. And nothing is ever perfect all the time.

If you’re heading off on a year abroad, I hope you have an amazing time, whether or not it’s the best year ever. If you want to read about my misadventures in the middle of Germany, they’re all Year Abroad posts in reverse order. And if you have anything you wish you’d known before your year abroad or questions, or you just want to say ‘hi, I go to Spain in September and I’m scared. Will everything be okay’, leave a comment. And yes, everything will be okay.

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The Last Week

Guys, it’s finally here. My last full week in Germany. Well that nine months went quick. Did it feel quick for anyone else? I mean, I swear I got here a month ago. Anyway, on with the week.

Monday I was in Ilmenau having a wander, posting stuff, generally doing the day to day stuff of living here. Which is soon not to be my day to day routine. Seriously, where has the time gone?

Tuesday I was at the Freizeit Zentrum with all of the 3/4 classes, doing arts and crafts based on Knights. These included wooden swords, cardboard shields, princess hats (you know, the pointy ones with wafty cloth sticking out the top) and hobby horses. It is my greatest sadness that I did not get to make a sword as well. But I did get to watch the kids bashing each other to bits with them… Why we armed kids who hit each other anyway, I do not know. Because we were at the Freizeit Zentrum I went and had a look at the animals and was quickly joined by Miriam who was greatly amused by my habit of making animal sounds at the animals.

Tutoring was on Tuesday this week rather than Wednesday, so we ran through all of the memory games and dominoes that I’ve made over this year. I gave Luka and Vicky two Roald Dahl books each and in return I got a guide to Serbia with Luka’s home town circled on it and the instruction ‘visit here’.  Then I was at my last CV ever, where Kim insisted on telling everyone. Which was sweet. Awkward but sweet.

Wednesday I was back at the Freizeit Zentrum, this time with all of the 1/2 classes, doing arts and crafts based on Native Americans. My main contribution to this was explaining what a peace pipe was, that yes it was pipe you smokes and don’t use them as makeshift weapons. Seriously, what is it with kids and hitting each other?

When we got back to school, I had my farewell from three teachers because I pretty much couldn’t have picked a worse day to be my last day at school and everyone was busy. But I have a card signed by everyone and a brand spanking new huge towel. And I got hugs from my favourite teachers, so that’s pretty rad.

Thursday I started to pack up my room. I don’t know how I have so much stuff. Thank heavens Dad’s coming to pick me up.

Friday I did some more packing (a constant theme for the rest of this week) and I went into Ilmenau to post stuff and generally have a wander.

Saturday I went into Erfurt for the last time. Went to the Cathedral and mourned the soon to be lack of elven architecture in my life. Went to my favourite book shop possibly in the world. Generally wandered and tried not to freak out that I might never be in Erfurt again. Remembered that the Great European Adventure requires me to change train in Erfurt so it’s fine.

Sunday I finished packing for the Great European Adventure. What’s the Great European Adventure I hear you ask? It’s what I’m doing for the next two weeks. Berlin, Warsaw and Budapest. All before I head back to merry old England. Because if I don’t take advantage of the fact that travel in Europe is super easy, what is the point of my year abroad?

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Not Gone Yet.

So in little over a week, I’ll be very slowly heading home via Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest and Brussels, which means somehow, my year abroad is nearly at an end. Which seems ridiculous. Surely I’ve only been here a month, maybe two at the most… I’m pretty much firmly in denial, but occasionally it hits me, and it’s terrifying. Mainly because I don’t want to have to write essays again. But as it is nearly over, I feel I have to do the list of things that I’ll miss. Then in a month I can tell you if I actually miss them.

  1. Spaghetti Eis.

Okay, so I haven’t had spaghetti Eis all that often this year, but if I wanted to, I could. And soon that will come to an end. Spaghetti Eis will just be a distant dream once more. If my “planned” careers don’t work out, I’m going to open a German ice cream parlour in England. And then I can have spaghetti Eis every day.

  1. Dark Beer

Before this year I wasn’t really a beer drinker, but seeing as cider is scarce over here, I didn’t really have a choice. And you know, it’s Germany. Got to drink beer. That’s like not having pasta in Italy. The great thing about Germany is that because beer is so popular there’s a billion and one choices, including a distinction between light and dark beer. I will miss dark beer. But I guess there’s always Guinness.

  1. Dramatic Clouds

Moving on from food and drink slightly. My Grandma reckons the sky is higher here, and I can’t really disagree. (All scientists please shush.) And with higher skies comes more dramatic clouds. Clouds so dramatic they’ll probably win an Oscar before Leonardo di Caprio. They’re beautiful and all mine to survey for free from my kitchen window.

  1. The surroundings

So I have often commented this year that Ilmenau is small. And it is compared to anywhere else I’ve lived. It’s also the first time I’ve lived somewhere that isn’t heavily industrialised. This means with woods and lakes and general German expanse of land it’s very beautiful here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s beauty in cities (Have you seen Birmingham’s new public library?) but here the beauty is very much more nature based. The park at home isn’t quite the same.

  1. Work

As much as half six starts were a shock to the system and as much as kids can be brats, I have really enjoyed my work. Not enough to make me want to be a teacher, but enough that I’m going to remember this year fondly.

  1. Not being assessed in German

This has been awesome. I know that the whole point of school and university is to grade you on your skills, but being able to use German and know that each mistake isn’t costing me marks is fantastic. Also means I’ve become way more confident with my German.

  1. The people.

C’mon, you didn’t think this list was going to forget people did you? From colleagues to the pupils to the BC Café everyone has been fantastic. Thank goodness for the internet and age of social media.  

I’m probably missing important things, or even unimportant things, that I’m not going to realise I miss until I actually get back home. But I think I have to resign myself to the fact that there’s always going to be part of me that misses Germany. However, I haven’t left yet. 

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Pass the Parcel Overload.

A confession: I may have somewhat forgotten to write this blog post. Hence it’s sparseness. Blame the weather and the fact that I’m leaving soon has suddenly hit me. 

Not much was done in Monday. Tutoring prep and wandering round Ilmenau were the order or the day. 

Tuesday I wasn’t needed in my first class, which was fine, though there was an awkward moment where I used ‘sie’ meaning they and the teacher thought I meant ‘Sie’ as in formal ‘you’ and told me I could use ‘du’ aka the informal you.  Then in my second and third class I talked about birthdays. 
 
In the evening I was at a CV for the first time in about a month. Not much has changed. Except for the president.
 
First lesson on Wednesday was Maths instead of English which was fairly straightforward as it was one of the 1/2 classes. In my second and third classes I talked about birthdays and then we played pass the parcel. I have a class of kids who can’t read ‘cake’ but can sing along perfectly to Olly Murs. Then in my final class we watched A Very Hungry Caterpillar and I was asked the difference between muffins and cupcakes. (Answer: I have no idea.)
 
At tutoring we did about the weather – a giant map of the UK helping my impression of a weather person – and played Guess Who.
 
Thursday I did Maths and German on the computers with Klasse 3/4c, same old, same old.
 
On Friday, I talked about birthdays and played pass the parcel with my first class. Bored of Olly Murs at this point, I ended up using Queen. Because Queen is always appropriate music. In my second class I was talking about family, which included making a family tree out of pictures of my family. Also a discussion on whether half siblings and step siblings count as just siblings, which I didn’t really feel qualified to weigh on, seeing as I don’t have any siblings of any kind. Third and final class was watching A Very Hungry Caterpillar. 
 
Saturday was spent in Erfurt, shopping and generally enjoying the sunshine. It was really weird to think that it might be the last time I’m ever in Erfurt. I’m going to really miss this one book shop.
 
Don’t really remember what I did on Sunday, so I’m guessing it wasn’t a lot. Probably some tutoring prep. 

 

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Easter Holidays, part two

As I’m sure anyone who’s talked to me since Christmas can tell you, my Dad was coming to see me for my birthday. And my birthday happened to fall during the Easter holidays. So this was an excellent plan. Dad was going to pick me up on the morning of my birthday, so I could go have breakfast with him at the hotel. Solid plan.

Dad picks me up, takes me to the hotel, I walk into the breakfast room. And bam. Surprise family. My grandparents and aunts had made the two day trip as well. Huge surprise. Think I’m still a little in shock over it, a whole week later. But yes. Huge surprise. Good surprise. Huge good surprise.

The first thing we did, after breakfast and presents and me trying to stop being surprised, was head to the Kickelhahn. It’s a tower on a hill that looks over Ilmenau and it’s important for reasons, and there’s a vague thing that if you’re at the university here, you have to go to the Kickelhahn once a year (or maybe once semester) otherwise you’ll fail. I had not yet been to the Kickelhahn, because walking all the way up sounded a lot like D of E, and I’m not doing that again. So we drove towards it, only to find that you can’t get all the way up there by car. Walking up took a lot of energy, but I think the view was worth it.

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Behold the Kickelhahn.

Afterwards, we headed into Ilmenau so I could show my family around the town that’s been home for the past few months. Then in the evening we went out for tea, which was lots of fun, and an excellent end to my birthday.

Thursday we went to Erfurt, where the weather was all kinds of bleh. But the cathedral was beautiful as always.  It was, however, May Day so most shops and things were shut which made wandering a little aimless, but with good company it didn’t really matter.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Erfurt cathedral looks like something from Lothlorien or Rivendell.

Friday we went to die Wartburg, a castle in Thüringen important for many reasons, not least among them that Martin Luther translated the New Testament there. It was my third time there and by this point I know the English tour of the castle pretty well. However, it’s always interesting, and I got to show off my epic knowledge about St Elizabeth of Thüringen, which, shockingly, I don’t get to do often.

Saturday was the final day with my family, and it involved ice cream in Ilmenau and then lunch at a restaurant in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, which was possibly the best food I’ve ever had.

Having my family around for my 21st was a massive surprise and super good. Even if I did end up speaking so much German in cafes and restaurants. Though that is the point of a year abroad. 

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Seriously. So Much Easter

So Monday was spent not doing a fat lot. I really don’t remember what I did particularly. I assume tutoring prep like every week. Mondays are not the most interesting days.

In my first class on Tuesday, we sang a song about spring time and then the kids made a book out of a work sheet about eggs (because it’s Easter). It then turned out that neither of the other English teachers were in school, so I wasn’t needed for the rest of the day.

Tutoring was on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week, because of reasons. The kids told me what happened in Fanastic Mr Fox, and we did some colouring and a wordsearch and it was generally fairly chilled. Then I pelted it home to get to the Café meeting on time.

My first lesson on Wednesday was cancelled because of an absent teacher. So in my second class I was in the class I’m not normally in, where we made Easter cards. My third class was also cancelled, and then my fourth class was making Easter cards again.

Thursday I did German with class 3/4c on the computers, which they proclaimed super easy, and I was actually, for once, inclined to agree with them. And thus ended the term. Which I’m super happy about, not because I hate school or anything, but 1) I need to catch up on sleep, and 2) it means I get to see Dad in two weeks.

Thursday afternoon, I actually went to the BC café not for a shift but to actually use it as a café, which was novel. And also pretty cool.

Friday, I forgot it was Good Friday, until Facebook reminded me, so I spent most of the day watching Game of Thrones series 1. Seeing as everyone seems to be talking about the new series which I can’t watch yet, I wanted to feel a little involved. Also, Game of Thrones.

Saturday, I realised an hour before all the shops closed that I actually needed to buy things in town, so got dressed in three minutes and legged it. Made it, bought things and then spent the rest of the day watching Game of Thrones series 2.

Easter Sunday I realised I had no Easter eggs. To get over that, I packed my suitcase, ‘cause I’m headed to Dresden tomorrow to see the ever lovely Manda. 

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An Abundance of Easter

(Note: My internet is still down, hence this being super late. Apologies if anyone is desperate to find out how my week was.) 

So as I spent Monday travelling back form Bruges, my week begins on Tuesday. This week it was reading week at school, so there were lots of things going on, like book sales. And kids reading, everywhere. In my first class I talked about Easter, which included giving the kids a cadburys mini egg each. They thought that was fantastic, but what kids don’t like free chocolate. In my second and third class, we were doing about Easter as well. It basically boiled down to ‘do you have easter egg hunts?’, to which my reply of ‘well, I’m twenty so no’ went down fairly well.

I didn’t go to the BC Café meeting, because I super needed to catch on sleep from the weekend. Travelling’s tiring, yo!

Wednesday my first class had maths instead of English, because of the reading week (no, I don’t understand how that works either), but it meant I was helping in a class that already had a teacher and two teaching assistants. My second and third class was cancelled, because again, reading week, so I had a couple of hours of finishing off tutoring prep for that week. My final class were again doing about Easter. The easter rhyme they’re learning is ‘Easter eggs are yellow. Easter eggs are blue. Easter eggs are red and green. Here is one for you.’ It does not rhyme in German, as every class thus far has told me when they’ve translated it.

At tutoring we read a heavily edited version of Fantastic Mr Fox. I made them stop halfway through to do a wordsearch and both of them moaned so much, because they wanted to know what happened. That’s the first time they’ve ever wanted to do actual work over fun stuff. At the end of the lesson, Luka asked if he could borrow the book, so I let him. Whether or not he’ll get all the way through it, I’m not sure.

Thursday I got to help judge the reading competition. It kind of felt like being back in a listening exam, but at least for once, it wasn’t me being marked.

On Friday, all of my classes were doing Easter again, so there was much talk of easter eggs and chocolate, and not much else. Friday evening was the start of the BC Café’s birthday week, which began with an electroswing night. It was all kinds of fun, even if I didn’t do any dancing.

Saturday evening, I was out again, at a flat party. Again, lots of fun, but this time round, I did all of the dancing.

Then on Sunday I went to brunch at the BC Café, before leaving to spend the majority of the day bemoaning my lack of internet, especially as I was meant to be skyping England. Then in the evening I helped Therese translate something from German to English, which really hurt my brain. You would have thought I’d be better at this by now. 

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A Week of Impressive German

Do I even need to tell you what I did on Monday? I did prep for tutoring, as ever. All about mythical creatures this week. I also made cheese scones, which I am very proud of because I have no scales so it was all done on guesswork.

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They needed more cheese. But most things do.

On Tuesday, my first class were still doing about houses and furniture. Which is getting a little boring for me, but they’re still enjoying working through the millions of worksheets, so it’s all good. I ended up swapping classes for my second class, and instead of being with the normally rowdy class I was with a normally decent class. Who, on that day, decided to be way worse the normally rowdy class. I have never felt more like an adult than when the words ‘yes, it’s snowing. You’ve seen snow before. Sit down!’ came out of my mouth. My third class were thankfully lovely, and got on with writing about animals fairly quietly.

Tuesday evening I forgot there was a BC Café meeting and skyped England instead. Whoops.

On Wednesday I was at the fire station with one of the classes, who were super excited about the fact that I was going with them for five seconds until they realised I’d tell them off for messing around in the road. The kids were at the fire station to learn what to do in case of a fire and a little bit about what firepeople do. It was very boring.

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The llmenau fire station

So periods 1-4 were spent at the fire station and then in my lesson, instead of being with my normal class, I was with one of the lads who’s at the school on placement, planning a lesson on farmyard animals. He wants to be an English teacher, so it makes sense. It was also the first time anyone with a decent level of English has gone ‘your German’s better than my English, so let’s talk in German.’ Excuse me while I squeal over the fact that my German’s improved.

At tutoring, the kids were awesome at naming the animals, and then describing them. There was a blip when Luka told me that girls can’t like dragons. But I pointed out that I’m a girl and I like dragons, and he conceded that I made a well put argument. By which I mean, he went ‘oh’ and then agreed that girls could like dragons.

The teacher I’m normally with on Thursdays was away so the kids were split up into other classes. I ended up supervising kids in the computer room reading about potatoes. Don’t ask, because I still don’t understand.All I know is that even the kids who normally mess around didn’t.

Friday I was at the fire station again and it was just as boring as on Wednesday. However, I got into an argument about the emergency services number in England after the dude said it was 911. Despite only half paying attention, my deeply hidden inner anti Americanisation, bowler hatted British personality surfaced. Apparently in the German dubbing of Fireman Sam, you have to call 911 to get him to come and save you. My argument was basically ‘it’s 999. I’m from England so…’ But as the kids were gathering their things to go back to school, the guy came over and was like ‘I didn’t realise you were English – your German is so good. Have all of the things ever.’ So now I have a magazine about fire stations aimed at kids, a kids activity book about fire, certificates saying I’ve achieved bronze, silver and gold level fire prevention knowledge and badges to go with them. Which is actually pretty cool.

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Pro tip: Tell people you’re English and you get given stuff.

Saturday I made the two hour trip to Jena in order to some serious shopping. Items purchased include ‘The Shadowhunter’s Codex’ by Cassandra Clare because it was pretty, a copy of ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ which I finished on the train and socks that declare my love of partying.

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You know it’s serious when you find it on socks.

And Sunday was spent not doing a fat lot, other than redying my hair. I’m back to tomato soup levels of ginger. All is well with the world.

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Of Wild Animals and Elephant Songs

As ever, Monday was spent preparing for tutoring, which mainly involved making lists of animals and creating worksheets, including one about what sounds different animals make.

Tuesday, of course, I was at work. In my first class, I taught the kids the elephant song that I translated last week. This meant singing. Alone. In front of people. That’s not a thing that I do. But the kids applauded, so I think that’s a good sign. Then they continued with the endless worksheets about house and home.

In my second lesson, the kids were learning about the seasons still, and to be honest, there’s not a fat lot for me to do when they’re mainly colouring in. And then in my third lesson, I brought out my pictures of wild animals again, and got into an argument about whether the snake was a rattlesnake. (Answer: No, it was a boa constrictor.)

On Wednesday my first two lessons were about wild animals. The first was with 1/2b who wanted to know what my favourite animal is and I panicked, so my official favourite animal in Germany is the lion. (I’ve been talking to too many Gryffindors, obvs.) For reference, my current favourite animal is actually the bison. Or baby sloths. In the second with 4d/e, they just wanted to know if I’d taken the photos. Which I had. Apparently having gone to a zoo with a camera makes me cool.

My fourth class had been split up because there were so many teachers ill, so I ended up helping out with maths in 1/2b. Maths with the 1/2 classes is so much easier than maths with the 3/4 classes. I wonder why… And my final class was cancelled because the English teacher was ill, so I got to go home early.

At tutoring we were doing about animals, which was lots of fun, especially as Luka has a stack of animal books. And as some of them were in Serbian I got to attempt to speak Serbian. Eastern European languages, man. They look and sound so pretty. The kids also got very jealous when they discovered I go to McDonalds on a Wednesday after tutoring and wanted me to take them with me. Which seeing as one of the servers now always speaks to me in English could, technically, be classed as part of English tutoring…

Thursday I had German on the computers with 3/4c. I had to explain what vowels were about eight times. And one of them got all giggly because a word they had to find in the wordsearch was ‘doof’ (stupid). And I told the teacher I’m not having one the kids in the computer room again, because she never does any work.

My first class on Friday was dealing with wild animals again and how to describe them. It turns out I know nothing about where animals live. Did you know ostriches aren’t Australian? I was genuinely shocked.

My second class involved singing the elephant song a record six times, telling one of the boys that yes, they could draw a secret lab in their dream house but only if they labelled it in English, and admitting to one of the girls that I had no idea how to spell latte macchiato. She was unconvinced by my reasoning that it was probably the same in German and English because it’s a loan word.

My third class was cancelled because, again, the teacher was ill, so early weekend for me. Because I am a true party animal, I went home and marathoned season three of True Blood.

On Saturday I was up at 7.30 because I was being picked up at 8.30 for a trip to Jena with one of my colleagues and her husband. 7.30 is not a time I often see on a Saturday. But we went to Jena and to the planetarium, which was pretty cool, except for the part where I fell asleep and missed a few minutes of the presentation… But, it was all fine. We then went to a shopping centre that I want to go back to. My colleague asked if we had such big shopping centres in England, and I was like, the Bullring is so much bigger than this.

Then we met up with one of her cousins, who gave us a short tour of Jena and a crash course in the Romantics and philosophers of Jena, which was really interesting though a little confusing. Basics, Goethe and Schiller are important people. Despite them never ever ever being mentioned in any lectures I’ve ever been in ever. I kinds feel like this is the equivalent of doing an English Lit degree and Shakespeare never being mentioned. Which is possible.

We were invited back to her cousins house, where he thoroughly he embarrassed his son by trying to get him to talk to me in English. Adults of the world: don’t do this to your kids. Just don’t. If we’re confident enough in our other language to attempt it, we will. And if we’re not, then you telling us to speak it will just make us blush.

After so much German and such an early start, I ended up going to bed at like half nine. Which worried my colleague and her husband a little (I was staying over at theirs), despite the fact that I’d explained several time that nonstop German was super tiring. Ah well.

Next day we went swimming and to a Chinese restaurant, which was all kinds of good. Never actually been to a Chinese restaurant before. New experiences, yay. Then they took me home, and I spent the rest of the day mentally making a list of all the things I should be doing and actually finishing of season three of True Blood. I’m so good at this being an adult thing.

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I’m English. Honest.

So my week starts on Sunday, because I blogged about my trip to Suhl already. Sunday was mainly spent either asleep or at the BC Café. There were board games, including one based on Bruges which I, more through luck than judgement, came second in. Later we played Werewolf, both in English and German, and I suck at Werewolf in both languages. Werewolf, for those of you who don’t know, is a game in which basically, you’re trying to stay alive, while by night, werewolves prowl the village, and by day, the villagers pick someone to lynch. I got lynched, despite being a good honest citizen. Up until the lynching part, it was fun. And to be honest, saying I told you so after they killed me was pretty fun too.

The weather on Monday was beautiful and I braved the sunshine in a skirt with no tights. And got a ton of disapproving looks. Which was fairly disheartening but hey, I wasn’t overheating, like if I’d worn my jeans. I also managed to forget my memory card so I couldn’t print off photos, which was the whole reason I’d gone into town. Well done me.

Tuesday I didn’t have to start till 12, because my first lesson wasn’t happening. Sadly, I forgot this and rocked up at school at 10. Whoops. In the classes I actually had, the kids were going over months and seasons again. They were pretty good, but some of the months have the same spelling in both German and English – it’s only the pronunciation that separates them –  and that tripped them up a bit.

Wednesday was a sport competition day. So I went along to the gym ready to take down points and stuff, but it turned out as the school currently has four, yes four, people on placement, they were at capacity for people to do menial tasks, so I spent a couple of hours catching up on the internet. While I‘m on the subject of placement people, they’re not allowed keys to the school. I think it’s because they’re only here for a month, but they’re not allowed keys. This means people older than me are not allowed keys, whereas I am. And the keys are important! Unlocks the computer room, the staff toilets, the staff room… Also, in the hierarchy of teachers according to the kids, I am no longer bottom. That’s right – I rank higher than placement people. The power’s going to my head.

After my free couple of hours, I had English with class 1/2b, talking about wild animals. Lions, tigers and bears, they already knew. Meerkats and hyenas, not so much. This led to Michael demanding to know how I knew it was called a hyena, to which Janek replied with ‘because she’s English!’. That is the correct answer. I am glad Janek answered for me though, because my answer was ‘Because I’ve seen the Lion King.’ Doing well.
Two hours before tutoring, I realised I had messed up making word searches. I’d put the answers to find in, but hadn’t filled out the other boxes with letters… So I ended up making them by hand. Thankfully the kids thought that was awesome. We did about sport and I almost managed not to mention Quidditch. Almost. I also had to disabuse Luka of the idea that girls can’t like football.

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Handmade wordsearches. I spoil those kids, I really do.

Thursday I was doing maths on computers with class 3/4c again. Was relatively painfree, though they struggle to multiply anything by ten. Or at least, as soon as you give them a number bigger than ten they can’t multiply by ten, while I’m sitting there, willing them to just add a zero at the end.

In the afternoon one of the teachers took my shopping for a swimming costume as an early birthday present (don’t ask, long story) and then that evening the majority of the staff went out for a meal at an Indian restaurant, to celebrate International Women’s Day which was last week. It was very odd being one of the few who actually understood the menu. And not having anyone take the mick because I ordered what I always order.

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These were adorable. And I want one.

In my first class on Friday, I failed at knowing the English names of spring flowers and then explained two worksheets about wild animals. It was a very easy going lesson considering the class I was with are usually at least a little disruptive.

My second class was about houses again. There was a myriad of worksheets for the kids to do and while they got on with that, I tried to translate a song I learnt from scouts, because it’s about an elephant and who doesn’t want to sing a song about an elephant? The upshot is I now have to sing in front of classes next week.

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Behold. The pinnacle of my translation career to date.

In my third and final class I was tasked with conversation practice with a class that invariably doesn’t want to talk. However, all of them did and did it well, and I was very surprised. In a good way. Even Jonnilee, who never wants to take part did. Either they were just in a very good mood, or they like me better/find me less scary than their teacher. Who knows.

On Saturday, I finally went to the Goethe Museum. Ilmenau is very proud to call itself a Goethe town and thus I thought maybe I should see what the fuss is about. For those of you who don’t know, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, playwright and politican during the late 1700s and early 1800s. His most famous work is Faust. He visited Ilmenau several times during his life and wrote a poem entitled Ilmenau, the only of his poems to be titled with the name of the place it was inspired by. It is from this poem that the town takes its slogan of ‘himmelblau’.

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Selfies with Goethe.

The museum was pretty interesting, helped by an audio guide in English and a lovely room steward who kept pointing things out to me and said I spoke very good German. The woman at the entrance was also surprised when I asked for the audio guide in English and checked that I was sure I’d rather have it in English.

I then spent the majority of Sunday in my pyjamas, sewing and watching films, because as I believe I have said once or twice, I am the coolest of kids.