Aug 17, 2016 - German Consulate General Toronto
Last month, Michelle Zheng, 17 (left on the picture), was part of a group of international students attending a four week long trip to Germany. The trip organized by the Germany-based Pedagogical Exchange Service (PAD) aims to promote young people’s interest in German language and culture and reinforce the relations between Germany and its partner countries. Michelle is one of the winners of the Ontario high school German language contest. Before her trip, she has taken German classes for a couple of months. While in Germany, Michelle and her fellow students visited various cities and its sights, attended school during the week and lived with local host families.
The German Consulate General Toronto spoke with Michelle to talk about her time in Germany.
How long have you been learning German before you left for the PAD trip?
Before the trip, I took grade 10 German for 1 semester – that’s about 5 months of beginner German. However, I also studied on my own for a period of about 3 weeks, spending nearly the whole day doing German exercises.
What did you and the other PAD students do during your Germany trip?
We toured various cities in Germany for 2 weeks (Bonn, Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin) and stayed with a host family for the other 2 weeks. While touring the cities, we went on walking and bus tours of the city, visited museums and tourist attractions such as Miniatur Wunderland, the German parliament and the Kölner Dom, and went on excursions to the surrounding area, like the Wadden Sea, the Spreewald or Potsdam. In the evenings, we would do something fun with the other groups – for example, bowling, karaoke, grilling or partying. In Mühldorf, where we stayed with our host families, we went to school with our host siblings and went on class excursions to Munich and Herrenchiemsee. In our free time, we spent time with our host families, as well as our host siblings and the other students in our group. With my host family, I was able to visit Salzburg and Neuschwanstein Castle, places I dreamed of visiting. We also had two international evenings – one in Bonn and one in Mühldorf – where we each cooked a dish from our country and did a presentation about our country.
How was communication within your very international group?
Communication varied a lot from person to person, since we all studied German for different amounts of time, ranging from my 6 months to 8 years. Personally, I found it hard to communicate with others at first, particularly because there was a lot of vocabulary I didn’t know. Fortunately, most of the students in my group spoke or at least understood English, so I used that to explain things when I couldn’t express it in German. There were also at least 2 people from the same country in a group, so anyone would always have at least one they could easily talk to. That’s why when talking to the student from our own country, we would all mostly speak in our native languages. Even so, we still spoke a lot of German and I found that my German improved a lot as time went on, making it easier for me to communicate with others.
What did you like most about the experience?
I liked learning about how different life in Germany is compared to my life. For example, my host family actually had a pantry, and school ends at 1 p.m. instead of 2:45 p.m. There’s also Brotzeit, a small snack during the breaks, which I mistook for lunch on my first day in school. Something else that was new to me was a Ziedlungsfest, which was essentially a party for the neighbourhood, where the parents would get together and chat while the children played together.
Did the trip impact your interest in German language, or in your plans for the future?
Thanks to this trip, my interest in learning German increased, since I realized how lacking my German still is and as such want to work harder and improve so that I can speak better. I don’t think it has impacted my plans for the future that greatly, but now I definitely want to visit Germany again!
Thank you for the interview!
It was a pleasure to talk to you.
Reposted with permission. Original was posted on August 15, 2016, on the German Consulate General Toronto Facebook page.
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