Where are they now? Ben’s story
Despite his nerves, Ben made lots of friends at three different UK-German events and began to see language learning as a way to meet new people. He shares how he overcame the butterflies, how he’s kept in touch with those he met and why he’d recommend getting involved.
Town/City: Leamington Spa
What is your favourite memory from your UK-German Connection experience?
Oh, that’s a hard question! I’ve got so many, but I’d have to give the top spot to either me and the rest of the GPC 2016 gang going down to the Ortenburg Freibad on a scorching hot day with our German hosts, or an absolute highlight of the Young Voices conference, learning to do a traditional Ceilidh Dance and ‘Stripping the Willow’ with a German friend Lukas I made at the seminar!
What is the most important thing you learned during the programmes?
I’ve learned that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was. This was a lesson that hit me when I realised about a week into my stay at Ortenburg, and again in the Summer and Winter of 2018, that I had spent a good amount of time interacting with Germans, immersing myself in a German town or German life, and getting along just fine!
It helped me become a more confident and independent person.
It was fascinating to get first hand experience of German life and history through the eyes of the German students and being able to explore their towns and cities and have conversations about their culture and history is, for me at least, the best way to learn things about the country that I wouldn’t have even thought about otherwise.
I went from seeing my studying German as a qualification to [seeing it as] a key that opened up the opportunity to get to meet so many new people, see new places, and steer my life in a new direction.
How did you deal with the nerves of traveling to Germany and meeting new people?
I found all the staff were always aware that staying out in Germany can be a daunting experience at first, but they always had the reassurance, resources, motivation and understanding that helped me and all the other students I travelled with to really feel comfortable and help fight off those initial nerves.
It’s crazy to think I left for Ortenburg in 2016 worried I wouldn’t be able to speak a word to a native speaker, but I was conversing with Germans in no time! I’m sure I made many mistakes and used Du or Sie in the wrong situation but they were always very understanding! Generally, I left every UKGC event with a real sense of pride and that I’d really achieved something, and a want to do it all again!
Did you stay in touch with the other young people you met?
Absolutely! I’ve remained in some form of contact with loads of the people I’ve met through UK-German Connection, generally through the magic of social media, but more recently I’ve done trips to see a few friends (from all the way back in 2016 and more recently from Young Voices) at their new University and actually been able to see some of them in person, and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to do that more frequently!
What are you doing now?
Since my last UK-German Connection event, I’ve continued studying both German and French, finishing my A-Levels in 2019 and going on to study Modern Languages (both French and German) with Linguistics at the University of Warwick! I’m currently in my second year of studying and I love it!
I’m planning my year abroad next year, which I’m hoping to split between working in Germany and France, getting plenty of chances to develop my skills in both languages, and hopefully scout out a future career in Europe, maybe?
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of applying to a UK-German Connection programme or event?
My No. 1 piece of advice would definitely be go for it! I can’t recommend an experience with UK-German Connection enough. On top of that, the events often run on a variety of themes, from history, to the environment and Our Future, plus the German Pupil Course which gives you a full immersive experience of German life. So if you’re considering applying for a UK-German Connection programme, see if they are offering any programmes that really appeal to your tastes, interests or skills!
Do you have a UK-German story that you’d like to share? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org