By voyage reporter Emma Brighton
One of my first experiences in Germany involved water, or rather sparkling water. When asking for water in Germany you must ask specifically for still water, something that I was unaware of on my first visit in 2007! My exchange partner seemed horrified when I asked for a glass of water that actually came from the tap, so they constantly gave me orange juice which they had plenty of in their giant basement!
Language skills for everyday life
Every house I visited in Reutlingen had a basement and all of the houses were huge! One exchange partner's house had 4 floors which accommodated her grandparents as well as her own family. Another thing I noticed was how little TV anyone watched, it was only ever switched on in the evening and this was normally to watch VIVA or RTL. I don’t want to sound lazy but television was by far my favourite way of revising my German language skills! But simply being in Germany and experiencing everyday life really improved my language skills. It’s amazing how many colloquial phrases and useful words you can pick up in such a short time - things that you could never learn in the classroom but are extremely useful.
Albert Einstein Gymnasium
The moment I entered the exchange school I wanted to be a student there. Everything was so clean, nobody wore a uniform and there was a giant tree growing in the middle of the school! I absolutely loved the fact that there was no school bell, just the sound of gongs playing from speakers. In fact everywhere in Germany seemed to use gongs for announcements including train stations and swimming pools! My friends and I had the opportunity to teach part of an English lesson, we found this a bit strange since the entire class seemed practically fluent in English already, so instead the teacher decided that the lesson would best be spent watching Shaun the Sheep - we had no complaints about this! The German students seem to have so much more freedom than we do in the UK. They can leave the school grounds when they don't have lessons, and if their teacher isn't in school then the lesson is cancelled rather than taken by a cover teacher. The teachers actually trusted their pupils, which I feel is something that doesn't tend to happen in the UK.
Undoubtedly the best thing I ever came across in Germany was the Freibad, where I spent the majority of my time. Almost every town in the area had a Freibad but Reutlingen Freibad boasted three huge diving boards, two slides, a wave pool, football pitches and 2 restaurants! I particularly enjoyed one swimming pool which allowed you to sunbathe while having stunning views of the Black Forest. These weren't the only swimming pools in the area either! We visited two other swimming pools during the exchange trip - I had no idea Germans loved to swim so much!
Visiting all of the German-speaking countries
Thanks to our location in Baden-Württemberg, our school was able to visit a mountain in Austria and the Rheinfalls in Switzerland. Although we weren’t there for long I am thankful for being able to say that I have visited every German-speaking country in Europe, and they were all absolutely beautiful.