The first day of my year abroad.
So just a quick heads up: I wrote this on Sunday. I was expecting to be able to post it yesterday, but I didn’t actually get chance to get my laptop out on the campus (I have been mega busy), so just imagine you’re reading this on Sunday evening.
Here I am. In Germany. In Hanover. And all I can think is: ‘Wow, this is actually happening. I’m actually here, and I’m doing my year abroad”. As you may have seen if you’re a Facebook friend of mine, I don’t have internet in my accommodation, due to it being Ethernet port-based, and me with my shiny, new, thin, fast and light MacBook Air can’t access it because my shiny, new, thin, fast and light MacBook Air has no Ethernet port. But nevertheless, I am sat in my room writing this, and I will publish it hopefully tomorrow when I get internet access on the university campus. But yes – let me tell you about my first day of my year abroad.
Once upon a time (it really does feel like weeks ago despite it being just yesterday as I type this) Ilka, my mentor, picked me up from the airport. Naturally it was a little awkward at first, partly not knowing whether to speak German or English, but it seemed Ilka was also feeling the awkwardness and she soon got us out of it by talking about lots of different things; all in English, for now.
She took me to the Leibniz Universität to pick up my key, and then onto my accommodation. Now, my accommodation, in
short, so far, is pretty dull. Since being here two days I have still met nobody in my building (and there’s about 10 floors, and about 5 buildings in total). I’ve seen people when leaving and entering the building, but that’s only been a quick ‘Hallo!’ rather than a full on getting-to-know-each-other conversation. I’ve heard footsteps outside my door, but when I go outside there’s nobody there. I’ve also heard the toilet flush several times. I even pretended my key wasn’t working when I heard a door open as I was leaving, hoping for someone to walk out so I could meet them, but said person making the door make a noise was obviously a little nervous and didn’t come out until I’d already left the corridor (I heard the door slowly open, but thought turning back round would just be a bit weird). I share one shower, one toilet and one kitchen with about 7 other rooms; at least 4 of which I’m certain someone lives in. I’m just hoping I meet someone from the accommodation tomorrow on my first day of the summer academy. And hopefully someone from Britain, too, as I’m starting to get a little tired of putting on a slightly posher accent so Ilka can understand me.
Which takes me back to Ilka – after taking me to my accommodation (and after about 15 minutes of finding my room because it was so complicated) we went off for dinner (midday meal for you southerners) and went to a little café which was very quaint, despite the waitress not seeming too bothered about smiling. I forgot to mention also that Ilka has three children, and she brought her 4-year-old daughter with her – Suzanna. Basically, imagine Boo from Monsters Inc. but in German. She’s absolutely adorable and says the most random things, a few favourites being: “(Sat in the back of the car) Mama, es gibt eine Tiere im Auto! Ach, und es beißt!” [Mama, there’s an animal in the car! Ah, and it bites!] and I also asked her what her favourite colour was when she was eating Gummibärchen, to which she replied “Ääähhhmmm… Roooosaaaaa. Uuund liiiiilaaaaa. Uuund rooooooot. Uuund blaaaaaaaau…” – basically, she likes all the colours! But yes, Suzanna slowly got used to me being there (she was quite shy at first) and it was very funny watching her go ‘Ah, heiß!’ [Ah, hot!] when she was eating a chip, for her to then put the chip directly in her mouth immediately again and say “Ah, heiß!” once more. She also complained to her mum because she was speaking English – “Mama, warum sprichst du immer Englisch? Du bist DEUTSCHE, so musst du nur DEUTSCH sprechen” [Mama, why are you always speaking English? You’re GERMAN, so you should only speak GERMAN!”. We just laughed at her, and she laughed back; just like Boo does. After the lovely dinner (for which, I should add, I simply had burger and chips which was rather tasty with gherkins which the Germans definitely love), Ilka decided she’d take me back to her flat to meet her husband and other two children, as well as give me lots of kitchen utensils she doesn’t need after she found out I didn’t have any kitchen stuff with me (I swear the university told me they’d lend us some to start with but there wasn’t anything here!)
Ilka’s husband, Axel, is a very nice man, and can actually speak very good English, too, which was great. He’s also a teacher, but at a different school to IGS Roderbruch, and I believe he teaches Religion and History. As for Ilka’s other two children, there’s 7-year-old Linus who, Ilka says, is a child genius, and could apparently read books really well when he was about 3. I didn’t see much of him, but Ilka showed me, what I think was, the children’s playroom where he was sat quietly reading a book, and Ilka told me that if ever I slept over, I’d be sleeping on the sofa bed in there. She asked Linus if it’d be OK if I slept on the sofa bed, to which he looked up and smiled pleasantly and nodded. I said ‘danke’! Then there’s Isabella who’s 1 year old, but I’ll talk about her more in my post about my second day as I saw her quite a bit (cliffhangers, eh!). Ilka also invited me round for tea (evening meal) the next day and said we would have what they usually have on Sundays – bread and sausage and cheese. So that was something to look forward to, and something I will be mentioning in my next post.
So this was all lovely. I’d met my mentor for my teaching post starting next month, as well as her family, and she had showed me a bit of Hanover, as well as taken me round a small supermarket where I picked up some food (including coffee, sugar, milk, and those Prince biscuits which reminded me of Belinda). Ilka was shocked when I walked straight past the fruit and vegetable bit and she said “Du willst aber ‘was gesund, oder?!” [Don’t you want something healthy?!] so I got some bananas to make me look healthy (I still haven’t eaten any of them). I also got three different meats after recommendations from Ilka. The Germans really do seem to like their meat.
Ilka then took me to the Stadt-Bahn [city train] platform nearest the supermarket and helped me buy a ticket. It really is a whole lot easier than I thought – pick the ticket you want on the touch screen machine, and put your money in. Simples. The tickets also actually look quite nice, as weird as it sounds. Well, I was impressed anyway. Ilka recommended I got a day-ticket so I could travel for the rest of the day in Hanover. At first, I did chuckle a little thinking ‘Ha! Me? Travel into a big city centre on an S-Bahn on a Saturday afternoon on my first day in a new country all by myself? You’ve got to be kidding me!’, but after arriving back at my accommodation and realising I couldn’t get internet nor did I have any friends there, I decided I would, in fact, go into the city centre. On an S-Bahn. On a Saturday afternoon. On my first day in a new country. All by myself.
And it was bloody fantastic!
It was my first sight of the true city centre (I think Ilka showed me the outskirts of the centre) and after seeing Starbucks, McDonalds and H&M, I slowly started feeling more comfortable. I went to the Kaufhof (a little like House of Fraser with a wide variety of things including clothes, house décor and toys) and bought myself a notepad for my university course, a small note book with ‘Notizen’ on it in which I’ve started to write down words and phrases I see and hear during the day, and a German puzzle book, which proved very useful when alone in my room. Everything just seemed so Germanic (well, duh), and it smelt wonderful. There were buskers and everything!
So, after a good walk round the main centre, I headed back to the S-Bahn station, bought myself a salami and gherkin baguette (see, Germans love gherkins) and went back to my accommodation.
And that’s when it all hit me.
I literally sat in my room staring outside the window for a good 45 minutes – and I’m not over exaggerating. Everything was sinking in. I am in Germany on my year abroad. I hadn’t spoken in my normal English voice for about 12 hours, having to speak, as Ilka called it, ‘Queen’s English’ (she honestly did ask if I was speaking “Queen’s English” on purpose so that she could understand me, to which I told her I was, of course), and yet I had no internet (first world pains) to speak to anyone on Skype, or even just on Facebook chat or something as simple as that. I rarely feel down, but boy I felt awful. It was only about 7pm, too, so I felt going to bed then would be too soon, and that’s when I stared out the window and did a lot of thinking. Thinking about the day I’d just had, about how much I’m missing people from home and how much I didn’t want to be here, as well as how nervous I was about meeting more people, despite the chance never arising. It was awful. Not to put anyone off at all who are about to leave for their year abroad, but please do be aware that this could happen. I think it was purely the massive shock of moving. I’d been building up to this for a year, and the fact it was finally there made me really panicky. It was almost as if it was so far away it was never going to happen, but, of course, it’s happening.
So I went on to do some puzzles in my puzzle book, write a few things down in my Notizen book, tried guessing the
passwords of some Wifi signals I could pick up (which, of course, I didn’t succeed because I’m not computer hacker or whoever it is who guesses passwords well), and at about 10pm I decided to go to bed. And it’s really warm here, too, so it took me quite a while to finally drift off.
And that, in short, was the first day of my year abroad.
I’ll write again soon about my second day which has been just as eventful, by which time I’ll probably want to write about my third day… So I should probably catch up with myself! I just feel like I want to tell you every single detail because it’s all so new and exciting!
But I’ll just give a quick sneak peek: Don’t worry, my second day is better, and I’m now sat here, end of day two, with a genuine smile on my face!
Bring on the Summer Academy!