Belated awareness for #DyspraxiaWeek, and getting back into the swing of things

Hallo zusammen!

awareness-week-logoLast week (9th-15th Oct) was Dyspraxia Awareness Week. Staying true to my Dyspraxic qualities, my blog post is more than a week late. Sorry! On Sunday 9th I flew from Düsseldorf back home, to spend the autumn holiday with my family, friends, and boyfriend, who I missed very much. After many flights, re-visiting the SkyTrain experience, and analysing bus timetables, I’m relieved to say I made it there and back in one piece. Although the holiday was far too short and felt rushed in many ways, I feel stronger after the rest.

In light of the Awareness Week, I wanted to reflect upon, and remind myself of, some postive experiences of a dyspraxic language student managing abroad (two months down). Just what can be achieved?

“Where we love is our home – Home that our feet might leave, but not our hearts.”

Since I started my role as an English Language Assistant at the beginning of September, I believe my experience of struggling with dyspraxia has helped me to better understand and connect with my pupils. I can relate to Alex*, who struggles to keep up with the fast pace of the lesson, and always seems to be without a partner in pair work. I also accept quiet Sophie* who keeps herself to herself at break times. I can often see parts of myself in the pupils, which helps me to find ways of explaining things to meet their own needs.

I am more open-minded to differences – perhaps greater tolerance and sensitivity comes with that. Although I may get lost in a big group conversation, and struggle to commit all the details of a story to memory, I don’t lose the determination or the will to socialise. In this sense, not giving up is a positive attitude that dyspraxia helps to develop. When something goes wrong you end up fighting for it to go right.

On my far-from-smooth journey through the education system, I have been incredibly lucky to have the support of my family and friends. I also feel that I have become a much more independent thinker since moving from school to university. Throwing myself in often uncomfortable situations has actually been a blessing, hopefully for greater resilience in the long-term. We’ll see…

In the last few years, I have managed and passed two years of University, I have lived alone to complete an internship (twice), and the hugest leap I have ever made: living alone in Germany.  It wasn’t that long ago that I used to feel panic and overwhelm when entering Tesco. I’ve made progress in this area – I can go shopping in foreign countries, and communicate without English.

I have gained confidence to join clubs/activities, actively go and meet people of all ages and backgrounds. Getting from A to B is a major source of stress for many dyspraxics, and for me this has involved falling over on buses, and taking trams in the wrong direction, but I honestly end up enjoying many of my travel experiences, and have not given up on public transport yet.

I regularly have many rich, interesting conversations with new people – from public transport encounters to regular chats with my landlady who doesn’t speak English. I have enjoyed playing board games with strangers, talking about language, literature, and society in German with young people from all over the world, singing foreign songs in a big choir with people I don’t know, and learning a new language (Dutch) through a foreign language (German)…

Five years ago I just wouldn’t have been doing all this.

I am still working through dyspraxia and its associated challenges, and I am definitely not perfect. But that isn’t my aim – I am out of my comfort zone, and learning more about myself, as well as the world. Things aren’t really so negative, are they?

I’d like to finish this post with the following thought: living with a learning difference or disability should be no barrier to a foreign language or country. Your experience can be as rich as you let it.



Please check out the Dyspraxia Foundation website – a charity doing excellent work to support inviduals and families affected by the condition.

In the chaos of the autumn holiday, I also missed Meares Irlen Awareness Week 17th-21st October. Also known as Visual Stress, this is a condition that can cause difficulty with reading. Coloured overlays, screens, and lenses can help increase reading speed. At some point, I would like to blog about this condition too. In the meantime, you can look at the website here to find out more.

 *I changed all the names of pupils and teachers to maintain confidentiality.

A busier week: Late-night theatre in Cologne, joining another choir, and learning Dutch through German(!)

To update everyone, I’d like to briefly return to the topic in my blog post two weeks ago (loneliness, isolation, and unfamiliarity). Generally, I have been doing very well, as I have been trying really hard to fill up my time in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends.

I have enjoyed visiting a couple of friends, both of whom I met at my home University when they did Erasmus semesters there. I met one friend in Bochum/Essen, and had a lovely day exploring my friend’s University, local area, and went to a typical Kirmes church fair. Last weekend was a long weekend for me, so after going to a colleague’s birthday meal on Friday evening, on Saturday I went to see another friend in Cologne.

We went to Cologne’s Theaternacht (theatre night, click the link to see photos) together – fifty of the city’s theatres opened their stages to all manner of theatrical and musical performances. The plays we saw were Faust and Hansel & Gretel – even if I couldn’t understand everything, the acting and quality of direction were impressive. It was fun to travel about the city at night (in the safe company of my friend who knew the underground-lines off by heart). Thanks to both of the girls, if they happen to read this, because it was great spending time with both of them! I got home feeling exhausted from all the fast German thinking and new people, and needed a rest before my 8am Class Six on Tuesday.

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View from my apartment one evening

Maybe some of you will remember how much I enjoyed getting involved in the Lied und Gesang (singing) workshop at Heidelberg in August? Two weeks ago I joined a local choir, and the best thing is being part of a warm, friendly community. I’m still getting used to all the new songs (all 260 of them, in one heavy folder), and find it a challenge to keep up – it’s become an ‘in-joke’ that the choir leader inaudibly whispers the number/name of the next song, so nobody knows which song is up next, and is consequently rushing around to find the right sheets.

Another thing I’ve thought about doing for a long time is learning Dutch. Being so close to the Netherlands border, I thought now would be a good time to start the language, which has many similarities with German and English. I found out about a Dutch evening class at a local college, and ended up on the ‘beginners with limited knowledge‘ course because the ‘complete beginners‘ course was all booked up! It was an experience to be introducing myself in Dutch in the first session, using words I’d never spoken nor heard before – I was quite nervous, and it took time before I had the confidence to brave putting up my hand to answer a question.

Three weeks since the first class, I am managing to catch up with the others in my class, as I’ve been filling my spare time teaching myself the grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary… but it isn’t easy: my brain is still on overdrive as I follow explanations of how to form irregular Dutch past participles (“Werkwoord een voltooid” or “Partizip Perfekt“!) in German.

It’s now the Herbstferien (autumn holidays), so I will be going back home to England for a week and a half. I can’t wait to see my family again! Next week is also Dyspraxia Awareness Week, so I would like to post again then if I can.

I’d like to leave you with a final photo – a portrait of me, drawn by a creative pupil in Tuesday’s Class Six English lesson – which I think highlights the sweet side of being a Language Assistant!


The artist’s identity remains secret.

Schöne Ferien und bis bald!



Cooking (burning) German-English breakfasts, “Have you met the Queen?” and other new experiences at a German comprehensive

As one of my wonderful friends told me not so long ago, before I’d embarked upon my year abroad: “an amazing experience doesn’t have to mean visiting a famous monument” – it can be seeing the people you teach smile, or overcoming a personal challenge. I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her wise words, which seem appropriate to sum up some of my first experiences teaching English at the school.


I’m not exaggerating when I say I overcome a small personal challenge most days, if not everyday. Whether it’s figuring out how something new works here (e.g. sorting out the Antwortbogen for an Uberweisung for my Rundfunkbeitrag, followed by an Anmeldung to process a Teilnahmegebühr by means of a Verwendungszweck(!!!)) or learning about a cultural difference in etiquette (e.g. how much Trinkgeld (tip) is appropriate to give in a bar, or how formal I should be among teachers at the school), my development isn’t limited to linguistic fluency or grammatical accuracy in German.

It’s also a wonderfully rewarding feeling to see the pupils you teach smile. I’d like to go back in time and say a bit more about the pupils at my Gesamtschule (comprehensive/inclusive school) in Nordrhein-Westfalen, and the classes I have been helping with.


As I was waiting for the bus the other day, two of the pupils from Class 5 noticed me and started talking to me in English. They were using the basic, but useful, phrases they’d learned in English lessons, and I was impressed – “Do you have brothers and sisters?“, “Do you have pets?“, “Where do you come from?“, “Do you like art too?“, “Do you like dogs?” etc. It was a comfort to see ten year old Lukas’* face light up when I responded that I, too, love dogs, and to hear Anna* telling me about her own passion for painting. The warmth of the pupils who wave at the English Language Assistant around the school campus to say “Hello” with a beaming smile makes me feel more welcome.

I find it easier to relate to the younger children, and it makes me happy to feel like I could perhaps make a small difference in their lives – by talking about my life, where I live, what England is like, and sharing my experiences. I did a couple of “question rounds” in my first week, and it was fun to answer: “What’s your favourite city?”, “What do you think of Germany?”, “Have you been on the London Eye?”, “How many people live in your town?”, and my personal favourite: “Have you met the Queen?” (I had to disappoint them all I say no. Though perhaps I should have lied…)

I felt a similar sense of purpose and belonging when I was invited to help run an English breakfast session in my first week with Class 6! One girl came up to me and asked “do you like tea?“, and then “will you be cooking English breakfast with us?“. I didn’t need any more persuasion than that. When Frau Schmidt* said she just had to go out of the room to sort something out, however, I wasn’t expecting to be left in charge of thirty excitable eleven year olds attempting to cook an English breakfast. As you can imagine, it was complete chaos in the kitchen, and misspraxic didn’t help matters.

The pupils had been let loose into four small kitchen units, each group working on a different element of the breakfast… fried eggs were being burned (and consequently scrambled to smithereens), orange juice was being spilled, and an interesting variation on porridge was being prepared. At first it was daunting and a little stressful as I was constantly fearing an accident. It was hard to concentrate on everyone and everything all at once. I really did need eyes in the back of my head – but the children were so enthusiastic for me to try their breakfast.

I really enjoyed this class and hope I get the chance to help with another practical session.

Bis gleich,




*I changed all the names of pupils and teachers to maintain confidentiality.




Airport antics, flying trains, and (occasionally) smiley busdrivers

Getting used to the ticket validation and transport system in Nordrhein-Westfalen has been a slow process. According to my landlady, my German friends, and my own experiences, the bus-drivers here have a tendency to be a bit grumpy. I have been snapped at for not knowing the system – “Quatsch/rubbish! It’s an old system, not a new one“, they say. Fortunately, though, it isn’t always like that: it was reassuring that a bus driver actually smiled at me the other day, as I showed him my ticket (validating it correctly this time!)


Last week I was invited to go on a Lehrerausflüg to Münster. What’s that, you ask?  A school trip but for teachers only! They told me that it’s passed off as a “professional training day”, though really it’s an opportunity once a year in September for teaching staff to bond, particularly for the new teachers (like me) who don’t know anyone. It meant a lot to be invited and included.

About eighty teachers met at the school in the morning, and we set off for Münster in coaches (these bus drivers were friendly!), where I got talking to some new teachers. Most of the day’s conversation lent itself to “difficult” pupils and the many challenges of being a teacher in a comprehensive school. It was an eye-opener for me as an outsider.


In Münster we split into two groups. One group did a Krimi-Trail (a tour with the theme of Tatort, a popular crime series). My group took a tour of the Altstadt (old city). Our tourguide was interrupted by noisy roadworks, so it was hard for me to follow everything. But I understood the gist of her explanations: the city had been bombed during the war, so many buildings have been restored since. The mix of traditional and modern architecture makes Münster unique and definitely worth a visit. At the end of the tour, our guide offered us all Pumpernickel (rye bread) and a strong glass of Schnäpse!

I then travelled straight from Münster to Düsseldorf by train in order to meet a special visitor at the airport, also known as my boyfriend, who was visiting me for the weekend. I was impressed to have made it onto the right train with one minute to spare. The stress of getting on the train, however, was of course not the end of it. I had the new and frightening experience of taking a flying train (called a SkyTrain) from the Airport station to the Airport terminal station (and a lot of platform-changing in between, with not much time to spare). I didn’t have a clue which terminal I was looking for (A, B, or C? It definitely wasn’t the car park stop… Or was it!?)

I took a deep breath and hopped onto the flying train. It was zooming accross the aiport, completely suspended in mid-air, and full of people. Anyone who knows me well will know my fear of lifts – and this was comparable to that. I made it to Arrivals eventually, and even found the exact gate. Though, surprise surprise, it still took an exasperating half an hour before we found eachother. My boyfriend had taken a different exit and was at another gate. For two dyspraxics I guess it wasn’t surprising! On the way out of the airport, the flying train had broken down. (I couldn’t help but imagine what would have happened if the flying train broke down mid-air, with me in it). Because of this we had to follow more signs, and change onto a bus, which (finally) took us out of the airport. We made it in the end!

We spent a day in Köln/Cologne – going to museums, art galleries, and the chocolate museum, which was all great fun. We also went to Aachen, where we found ourselves in yet more art galleries. Aachen Cathedral was unlike any cathedral I have ever visited, and the mosaics were stunning (see below). To end on a stress-free note, here are a few of my favourite photos from a wonderful weekend:

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I’m not put off public transport yet, though: often, you have the best conversations and meet the most interesting people on buses, trains, and planes. More to share soon!

Bis bald,



“Do you miss your parents and friends?” Year abroad taboos: coping with loneliness, distance, and unfamiliarity

Last week Mia* in my Class 7 asked me if I’m living in Germany. For how long? Where? Why? She then asked if I’m living in Germany “all alone“. Her friend then chipped in, asking if I miss my friends and family. “When will you next see them?” They were really putting themselves in my position – their intent to understand me meant a lot.

Long distance friendships, relationships, and the often crippling feeling of being alone are huge challenges that everyone faces when on a year abroad. Leaving your family, friends and boyfriend or girlfriend behind intensifies the overwhelm you feel as you attempt to settle into a new place. In my experience hidden conditions like dyspraxia can exasperate emotions even more, causing some pretty erratic mood-swings. Loneliness is something I know a lot of people are going through, so why shouldn’t we talk about it, I thought.

I’m working in a school located in a town, near a city, but I’m living in a rural area (really a village). I only work in the mornings and in the afternoons it is easy to let myself feel a bit lost. I have to put more effort into going places and finding things to do that appeal to me.

Whilst it’s important to get involved in the workplace, it takes time to gain this sort of confidence. It’s equally important in the meantime to check-in with people from home – I always feel better after having talked with family and friends. It’s a sensible suggestion to try to join clubs and get involved in the local area, but this isn’t always practical if there isn’t a support network established where you are working. On the Erasmus scheme – and on summer courses like at Heidelberg – things are usually well organised, including the social aspect.

As an alternative to having friends my age, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my lovely landlady. She appreciates the company too. She often bakes delicious cakes, and is happy to talk to me about the history of the region, and tell me what’s going on in the community. She’s also helped me find out about a local choir – I’m looking forward to going along this week and singing again.

In the staffroom at school it can be difficult to know how to start a conversation or involve myself in one, as everyone talks too fast for me to process. Last week, however, I was invited on a teachers’ trip to Munster (will tell you more about the trip in my next post) and found that really helped me mix with more teachers. A teacher also invited me to go out for lunch with her, which I enjoyed – just knowing a few people makes a difference.

Dusseldorf University Botanic Gardens

In October I will also be starting a part-time course in Germanistik (German Studies) at Düsseldorf University. I enrolled a couple of weeks ago (was rather impressed at how quickly I managed to find the Uni campus! It’s really nice – very modern and green)  After a language test at the end of the month, I should be able to attend seminars, and that will be another good way to fill up my afternoons.


It isn’t shameful to feel lonely sometimes

The important message I want to convey in another rambling blog post (sorry) is that it shouldn’t be considered shameful to feel lonely. It isn’t a personal failing to have experienced any of the above, because it’s very common, and a sign of strength to be trying your best to fit into a new place.

Don’t give up! I haven’t.

If anyone has a similar experience to share or has any more ideas for filling time, then please comment on this post – I always like hearing from people.


*I changed the names of all pupils to maintain confidentiality.

From Baden Württemberg to Nordrhein Westfalen: reflecting upon Heidelberg

I’m not sure if anyone actually regularly checks/reads/follows my blog other than my grandparents, but if you have been, you might be wondering:What happened to misspraxic? Where did she go!? We haven’t heard anything from her for nearly three weeks! Did she get lost wandering around in another German forest?


The answer is not quite! Though just about everything else has happened.

My last day at Heidelberg was a special one. We all met (my classmates and teachers) in the morning for breakfast at a café together. The breakfast buffet was delicious and lasted two hours – I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave the experience behind! Certificates were handed out. I passed my course test with a good mark, too, which raised my spirits further.

Afterwards, to mark the end of four valuable weeks spent at Heidelberg University Summer School, I met my parents in the middle of the Old Bridge. As in a film it was a dramatic meeting – I longed for some familiarity, so it was wonderful to be able to catch up with them again. P7310084.JPG

We spent two more nights in Heidelberg which helped me to relax and enjoy time with my parents before setting off again in the direction of the Bundesland (federal state) Nordrhein-Westfalen. We drove through Rheinland-Pfalz and stopped just outside of Koblenz – an ancient city where the rivers Rhine and Moselle come together. Impressive vineyards stretched for miles, and though we didn’t break the journey for long, we were lucky for the weather!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The following day we arrived in the middle of nowhere, at a conference hotel east of Cologne. I would spend the three/four days before the start of my placement here, in order to take part in a compulsory training course on how to teach English in Germany. I felt a mix of melancholy and nostalgia: No two experiences are ever going to be the same. That’s hard to accept after an amazing experience in one place: you inevitably set expectations and hopes for the next adventure.

The training days were sadly entirely directed in English. It might sound odd, but I honestly longed to hear some German after speaking little but German on my summer course. The conference was set in a rural location, which really appealed to me – tall trees, fields, streams and ponies surrounding us. It could have been my English home. I appreciated the change in the countryside from south to north – like in England, this is significantly different in each region.tagungsstatte

Following this training course, I travelled directly to my town west of Düsseldorf, where I am starting work as a Language Assistant. That means teaching English to children/young people aged 9-19 at an inclusive comprehensive school (a Gesamtschule). I want to talk more about this specific kind of German school in a future post.

I now feel settled into the school thanks to my mentor, teaching staff, and chatty landlady who have all made me feel so welcome, though it hasn’t been easy… I’m aware I keep my blog posts largely very positive, but here are some of the very realistic challenges from the last two weeks: Having to sign and scan hundreds of superfluous forms that really state the same things, setting up a bank account, registering as a citizen British expat and getting grilled by the Passport Office manager on the consequences of Brexit, not having WiFI in my accommodation, having to set up my own mobile data, registering a German SIM card for a phone without WiFi (Teufelskreis=vicious circle), being shouted at by impatient bus drivers for not validating travel tickets properly, travelling in the wrong direction on buses, getting lost in a small school building, panicking in supermarkets because the cashier moves to fast to keep up with… 

As always, I can’t help rambling! But I’ll write more soon. The good news is that all of the above has been fixed… let the next challenges hit me.

Bis bald,


Trip to Schwarzwald and Freiburg: Cuckoo clocks but no Black Forest gateau


A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) organised by the Summer School. I wanted to write about the experience separately in a short post, but it’s taken me until now to finish the post! It’s still very clear in my memory.

I had to wake up bright and early for the trip (6am!) It took us a few hours on the bus to reach our destinations: firstly Schwarzwald, followed by a visit to its unofficial capital city, Freiburg.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But the coach journey was far from boring, however. It was possibly one of my favourite bits of the day – sitting back and relaxing, taking in all the wonderful open space before my eyes.

Our first stop was Mummelsee in the Black Forest. We stopped there for just half an hour to break the journey, but there was time to take a stroll around the lake.

It was very picturesque, and is on my long list of places to return to with more time.


Our next stop was the “Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum” (living museum of the Black Forest) at Vogtsbauernhof where we were able to walk inside preserved, old Black Forest houses and see objects from hundreds of years ago, including typical cuckoo clocks [pictured below]. If anyone’s been to the one of England’s Victorian living museums, it felt a bit like that!

After our trip to the museum, we had a couple of hours left to drive on to the University city of Freiburg – known for its modern, ecological transport system. Our course tutor was originally from Freiburg, and said he preferred the city to Heidelberg. I’m not sure I could make that decision – both were beautiful in their own way.

Freiburg Minster/Freiburg Cathedral in the sun

Our tour guide took us into the cathedral – both a romanesque and gothic style. I was particularly impressed by the stained glass windows and the symbolic carvings of women on the ceiling of the cathedral’s entrance.

Despite bombings in wartime, the cathedral has survived and is the oldest of its kind in Germany – a Gothic cathedral built in the Middle Ages.

After the cathedral visit we went for a stroll through the Altstadt (old city), and also had a look at the modern University campus.


The only downside of the trip was that there wasn’t much time to spend in Freiburg itself. I hope to go back some day so that I can look around properly by myself, as opposed to in a big group/tourguide situation.

More to follow soon!

Bis bald,


Heidelberg: walks in the woods and boardgames with strangers

Having the freedom to roam is one of the best things about being on a year abroad. Since my last post I have been spending a lot of time outside, including exploring the woods around Heidelberg (apart from the time spent in classrooms studying, which has been 70% of the time). Sometimes in a group, but often by myself, being able to connect with nature really does help me stay calm.


Last weekend, I made my way to Heiligenberg, a mountain area near Heidelberg [right]. I didn’t have a clue where I was going, and ideally would have gone with my classmates. I didn’t have a map, and I lost count of the number of times I had to ask strangers “welche Richtung” (which direction) I should be heading in.

But in the end it was a positive thing to go for a long walk by myself.


I walked up to an open-air theatre (called “Thingstätte). It was build during the Third Reich and had places for 20,000 people to watch performances. You can read more about it by clicking the link above. The theatre is now used only very occasionally.

The design of the theatre impressed me, and so did its dramatic location – it dominated the surrounding forest.

I walked right to the top of the theatre, took a seat, and started to draw. Two Germans walked over to me, one of them whispering “zeichnen” – she’s drawing. They asked me why I was drawing, what I was doing in Heidelberg, what I thought of the theatre…


I said goodbye and walked up to the cloister ruins (of Monastery of St. Michael). However, funnily enough, on my way back down I bumped into the two Germans again. They were heading back in the same direction as me, and suggested we take a short cut together. We talked some more – they were very friendly and good company.

Shortly after, I made my way back on the tram. When I got off, guess who was there again!? The very same man I met earlier. He invited me to play “Brettspiele” (board games) with them one evening!

And, being the inquisitive person that I am, I decided to do something different, and go along to the public board games evening at a community hall on Wednesday. I spent quite a while looking at bus times and maps to make sure I knew how to get there, and took my classmate along too.

The evening itself was good fun! The Germans I met on my walk welcomed us, and showed us the cupboard of games we could choose from… there were hundreds, from German card games to classic multiplayer games. It was a wonderful experience to see all generations and nationalities playing board games together under the warmth of the evening sun.

The Germans explained the rules of the game, Carcasonne, very thoroughly, but despite their patience it took me half the game to get a feel for how it should be played! I’m sure many of you can relate… Our fellow players took the game very seriously – spending minutes considering each move, exclaiming with “Schimpworte” (swear words).

Needless to say, I lost the game.Konigsstuhl

I found myself in another forest on another day this week. This time, I visited Königstuhl, a hill near Heidelberg with spectacular views of the city. I reached the top by taking the fernicular railway. I used to be afraid of those as a child because of the enclosed spaces and height, but I actually felt safe this time: I was in awe of the surrounding city.


Once I reached the top, I went for another walk. When I got tired, I found a bench, and sketched for a while. I could hear someone peering over my shoulder from behind, which was distracting to say the least! The man from behind told me to “weitermachen” (keep drawing). A few minutes later, before he walked off, he pointed at my sketchbook and said “Respekt” with a smile.


Maybe this sculpture in the forest could be a metaphor for what I’ve been doing – somehow finding the confidence to meet new people, and communicate in another language even when it gets tough.











Heidelberg: yellow submarines, bear necessities, and learning to laugh

Week three already – I can’t believe it!

The complex themes we are discussing in class challenge me more each day – in just three hours each day we seem to cover so much ground, from international perspectives of current world news to philosophical themes behind literary pieces, to re-learning grammar topics that never really sunk in at home. So I am pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.

Of course, that is one of the great things about being able to do a year abroad – exposing yourself to new experiences and challenges – but this week has been the most overwhelming and tiring, without a doubt. After the constant concentration, planning ahead, and not always finding quiet time each day to rest (as great a socialising is), it’s not surprising that my emotions go a bit all over the place some days.

I probably will always be the person who takes ten minutes to turn their key in the lock, or the one who leaves their plate of food on the weighing scales. But people are still very patient and lovely (and the staff probably get a chuckle which makes it worthwhile). My ability to laugh along when things don’t always go to plan is improving by the day.

I am still going to the singing workshop twice a week, and enjoy the contrast after a long day of studying. This week at choir we sung a familiar song from the Jungle Book, some of you might know it too? Just for some fun, here’s the Youtube video of the German version, in case anyone is in the mood for some procrastinating:

On the subject of music, I also went to a pop concert with my classmates, which took place in a venue you probably wouldn’t expect. The screechy sounds of the pop (rock, metal, screamo!?) band didn’t harmonise with the neo renaissance University’s impressive neo-renaissance (1886) hall, “Alte Aula” [below].20160811_192814

The band were trying to be international with their banterous narrative in English, however I did find it a shame that most of the songs they played were in English: The Rolling Stones, Queen, The Beetles! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more bizarre, the band made us, the audience, sing along with them. It wasn’t really singing. We had to repeat “bum, bum, bum” in unison for about ten minutes while the lead singer screamed the lyrics to the Yellow Submarines by the Beetles over the top. I probably won’t be purchasing their CD, but the evening was fun nevertheless.

Like many of the evenings here at the Summer School, the concert finished pretty late. As I said in my first post in Heidelberg, I am living some distance from the city centre, and it has taken some time to get used to the public transport system! The buses and trams are usually full in the evenings, so there are no free seats. I have literally gone flying down the aisle more than once (sure many of you can relate to balance problems)!

Where possible I recommend travelling with friends, trying to let people at home know where you are, and keeping aware of your surroundings. Though I know that is easier said than done when you’re about to fall asleep.

On that note – Gute Nacht (goodnight),






Heidelberg: grammar, missing trams, boat trips, singing in German, and more grammar

I’m a week and a half down, and I feel like I am learning so much. I have never taken part in such an international project/summer school before: it is a wonderful experience to be meeting so many different people from all over the world.

At school I always felt “weird” for loving languages – I just didn’t fit in. In my language class at Heidelberg, there are no other Brits – but students from France, Germany, Spain, Finland, Israel, Chinese, Poland, Japan, India, Russia, and so on. And I feel like I fit in! People have been friendly and warm towards me, and an enthusiasm for German language and culture unites everyone.

Cultural-Iceberg-2The language lessons are intense: three hours every morning (grammar, comprehension, listening exercises, discussions). It is often a challenge to keep up with everything, but nevertheless I feel myself thinking in German most of the time. I have even dreamt in German. As well as learning more about German culture, it fascinates me to learn how things work differently in other countries and continents, just from having conversations with fellow students. I’m reminded of this ‘cultural iceberg‘ diagram [left] – language is so important because it manifests itself in culture and how we think.

After the initial panic of having to take a tram and a bus to the university from my apartment, I am now also getting used to the transport system… Despite admittedly taking the wrong tram heading for the completely wrong direction once… (but it wasn’t so bad – I ended up meeting an interesting elderly Albanian woman who helped me find my way. She talked to me for the whole journey in an intriguing mix of what I recognised as Albanian, Italian, English and a bit of German. But I think I got the gist.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having come from a rural area without regular buses, I appreciate the reliability of buses arriving every ten/twenty minutes. Equally, however, missing the bus because I arrived at the bus stop one minute early/on time is new for me – only in Germany.

The International Summer School has organised some extra activities for us to take part in. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely would never get into sport, but I have joined the singing group – really enjoying singing in a big group with new people, and of course in German (a range of pieces, from “Volkslieder” to modern pop). It’s helping my pronunciation as well as confidence!


In the limited spare time there has been, when there hasn’t been grammar homework to puzzle over, I went on a great boat trip on the river Neckar with my classmates. It lasted four(!) hours – the views were wonderful, and I got to know some more new people. This weekend I was also able to visit Heidelberg Castle for the first time, with a friend I haven’t seen for three years (she knows who she is)! We went for a walk along the Philosophenweg where we found a peaceful, pretty little garden in memory of the writer Joseph von Eichendorff (whose works I studied this year at University).

I wonder what the next days will bring!

Bis bald,