Cross-cultural encounters

Hallo Leute,

It’s difficult to process that I only have two and a half weeks left in Germany. I don’t know how I feel about it. Mixed, I suppose. Six months ago, I felt lonely upon arrival, and the absence of both Tesco’s Mature Cheddar and smiley bus drivers honestly threw me. Whilst I do look forward to being reunited with friends and family, I have the feeling that I really will be leaving something behind here in the “Pott” – the connections I have made.

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Nog een mal naar Nederland…

I recently enjoyed another trip to the Netherlands to visit a friend – the friend with whom I went to Maastricht and Roermond during my first visit to the country. This time, I enjoyed visiting Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to see some of the Dutch Masters’ paintings (such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh), and had a nice surprise to be handed a free sketchbook to use to my heart’s content in the museum. We also visited Anne Frank’s house which was an emotional experience, but an important one I would recommend if you have the chance.

I did find the Amsterdam streets very chaotic, and the atmosphere overwhelming. Having to dodge all the bicycles like being in a fast-paced computer game was not my forté, needless to say. The following day we visited Nijmegen – what a contrast. The beautiful frozen ponds, banks covered in snow, and only swans and ducks in sight made it feel extremely tranquil.

Since starting as a Language Assistant at my German school in September, I have met a whole range of children – including those with learning difficulties and disabilities, and those from migration backgrounds – as well as teaching staff. I have talked with Referendaren (trainee teachers), Maths teachers(!), special needs support assistants, integration assistants, and observed Fachkonferenzen (department meetings), end of term class celebrations, and even got teachers into playing board games in the staffroom.

Outside of the school hours, I have been spending some of my free afternoons each week visiting one of the places where refugees are accommodated locally in MG. I am helping with a Homework/Language Support group, Games and Crafts workshop, and go to the Meet & Greet Integration café to get to know refugees and other volunteers. All this happens at the accommodation centre, and the experience has opened my eyes to many of the struggles faced by migrants: trauma and communication difficulties are among the most major. Many of the refugees I have met do not have a good level of German, but despite this they are very ready to learn. I have had to find new ways of communicating – like using signs and drawings – as I learn how crucial language can be in human interaction; in life. I taught one man the words for ‘family’ and ‘friends’, and he repeated the words. He tried to express that he had none in Germany. What I admired was how he kept smiling at me – he had hope for the future and a certain determination to keep learning the language. The progress made in the Language Support group is moving me, and it’s shown me what each of us could do on a local level to show compassion and solidarity in an uncertain world.

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Haus der Geschichte – visit to the history museum in Bonn with my classmates. The last room was all about the present: posing questions about Europe’s future.

I have also got to know some very kind and like-minded international students through taking just a couple of seminars a week at Dusseldorf University. The ~30 hours of German grammar and ~60 hours of German language classes I have had is more than double the amount of input I would receive at my home university in one year! The courses have sadly now come to an end. In the past week I have taken two exams, and although they luckily don’t count at all for me (I just did them for fun 😉 ) the challenge was good for me on a personal level.

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Beethoven: born in Bonn

Talking to fellow students on the life-drawing course before Christmas, learning about the lives of the choir members, and being invited to meals with friends from the Dutch language course has opened up a warmth I perhaps didn’t feel upon my arrival in September.

The most valuable part of my experience in Germany from July to February has been integrating myself into German life and language, whilst seeing the process work both ways – helping to integrate others too, and giving something back, even if it’s a small piece.

 

I want to leave you with some photos from Amsterdam and Nijmegen – I hope I can return to the Netherlands before I leave this part of the continent.

I will also eventually tell you what I am doing in France (in just over a month’s time)!

Schönes Wochenende,

misspraxic

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Preparing for Christmas Pt 2: going home!

Hallo!

As promised, I wanted to tell you more about what I have been up to more recently. That includes a trip to München, now a couple of weekends ago, to visit a friend I met up with in Heidelberg, but had not seen since. An added bonus was being able to spend a couple of hours with my German housemate at university last year, who studies in the same city.

Visiting München in Bayern


Munich.jpgI took a direct express train from Düsseldorf to Munich, as although this was the more expensive option, it cut out some of the stress – the train was delayed by an hour, but it didn’t matter, as I had kept my meetings with my friends flexible. Delays aside, the train journey was enjoyable – after I had found a seat, at least! A good tip for the travelling dyspraxic, if not everyone, would be to always book a seat reservation for longer-distance trains… On the train, I was also able to take note of how dramatically the landscape changes from one Land to another – I enjoyed the change from densely-populated NRW into more rural Bayern.

It was so great to catch up with my friend, at the same time as seeing part of a new Bundesland (federal state), since I hadn’t been to Bayern (Bavaria) before. I was amused, though, upon arriving at the station – I couldn’t understand a word of the German I was hearing! I have grown very accustomed to the Niederrhein accent and dialect, which sounds a bit like Dutch. I even find myself sometimes accidentally slipping into dialect forms, like “wat” for what instead of “was” in Hochdeutsch (High German)!

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Time to reflect: making friends and fitting into the community with dyspraxia


Social situations can cause varying amounts of panic and stress for many people with dyspraxic traits, myself included.

I have always enjoyed meeting new and like-minded people, though I must admit I was nervous about making friends in NRW – in another language and culture. I can say that I did feel very lonely at times in September and October. I was far from the comfortable university setting in September, where it would have  been undoubtedly easier to make friends the same age.

Since I joined the Dutch class, and the German course at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, I met people of all ages who enjoy languages, like me. I got talking to a lovely lady at Dutch, and was invited to her home for dinner twice, and to a local museum with her and her husband too.

Finding the life-drawing class at the local Volkshochschule has also been very good for me. Drawing wasn’t the same by myself – I enjoyed getting to know the tutor and the others in our small group of six. Although the semester has come to an end, I will remember my seven weeks of life-drawing in Germany, and everything I learned from the experience (not least some technical art vocab in German).

Not least, joining the choir that my landlady had recommended was the best decision I made. It enabled me to feel the community spirit, and grasp how another part of society functions, as well as in a school. I especially enjoyed singing with the choir, fighting against my rough sore throat, determined to “mitmachen” at a Christmas event just down the road from where I am living. Even better was my boyfriend being there to watch. Here is the church, next to the outdoor stage where we were singing, all beautifully “beleuchtet” (lit up):

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Not sure whose idea it was to put squish two Christmas trees onto the stage with all the singers, though… I kept knocking off the baubles as I was singing, and felt rather unstable, but luckily there were no disasters! Hopefully nobody noticed…

The school has made me feel very welcome too – a couple of teachers and pupils in particular. I was very touched to be there for Class Six’s Weihnachtsfeier (party) on Thursday, and to sing along to Christmas songs and enjoy cake with the pupils! They even gave me a gift – a sweet hanging decoration, which is now hanging on my tree.

To sum up, these are the memories that stick with me the most – the warmth I have experienced, and the friendships that have started to blossom during my time in Germany. It required some patience and searching to find groups like the above-mentioned, but I feel much happier for it. When I return in January, I want to try something new before I leave at the end of February.

Home, sweet home


I arrived safely home yesterday, and it is wonderful to be back with my family again, as well as all my favourite foods that the German supermarkets don’t stock…

I do still seem to be stuck in Deutschland Modus, though, as I accidentally took out euros to pay for my cider at the pub. “That in’t English?” said the understandably perplexed barmaid, and a man at the bar had to check, “She must a just come back from holiday”.

Ah, yes, that’s right. A holiday, I thought!

Thank you to anyone who has been following misspraxic‘s adventures abroad since July – your support means a lot. I wish you all a peaceful and relaxing Christmastime with your friends and families, and best wishes for 2017.

Love,

misspraxic

Adventzeit and Weihnachtsmärkte

Guten Abend zusammen,

What a week and a half it has been!

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Advent Kerze (candles) ready in my village

As expected for late November weather, Germany is now sehr kalt. Maybe even kälter than England. For this reason, it was distressing to have “lost” my favourite hat, crocheted for me by my grandma. I decided to buy a new warm German Mütze at a Weihnachtsmarkt to make up for it. Typically, though, Grandma’s hat was only mislaid, and showed up the next day in the messy corner of my apartment!

Advent in Germany began this weekend, and I am surrounded by Christmassy vibes – whether in my village, at school, or at Weihnachtsmärkte. I think the children are already getting excited for Christmas (Weihnachten in German), and so am I! I was surprised to find that each classroom has a lit advent candle in a wreath (to mark the first weekend of advent). In England, surely this would be considered a breach of health and safety regulations. At least I wasn’t trusted to light the candle. Then perhaps it would have been.

Studienkompaktkurse


I spent last Monday-Wednesday in Duesseldorf with the other assistants, for a training course. I was worrying a bit about how I would manage this training course, as three days away from the routine I had grown accustomed to seemed like a long time. But actually, I enjoyed myself! All the assistants under the Regierungsbezirk Duesseldorf were there, so I met some wonderful new people – from Spain, France, Italy, Russia, USA, China, as well as the UK. I enjoyed chatting to everybody in German – getting in a muddle with all our languages – and exploring the Ruhrgebiet together.

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The best part of the course, aside from the new friendships, was definitely learning more about the area in which I am living, and appreciating it from different perspectives. We had, for example, an interesting tour around the Landtag (State Parliament) and learned about how the building’s architecture was designed with a view to greater involvement of citizens to observe the discussions, and therefore greater democracy. We visited the Zollverein Museum near Essen, which focused on the coal mining (Zeche) and geological history of the Ruhrgebiet (Ruhr Valley). It was interesting, but very hard to follow, because of all the subject-specific vocabulary!

oberhausenAfter an enjoyable lunch spent eating Bratwurst at Oberhausen Weihnachtsmarkt, and chatting with the Language Assistants from Italy in a mixture of English and German, we went on to the Gasometer (formerly a gas holder but now a museum) at Oberhausen (see map to the right).

The current exhibition is all about Natur – incredible photographs which represent the natural world in some way. A projection of the earth dominated the main exhibition room, which was almost in pitch darkness – my description of the atmosphere does not do justice to how it felt. I took a deep breath and hopped into the glass lift that took people up and over the earth projection. I was in awe as we zoomed up ten floors, in darkness. It made for a surreal experience, transcending the Ruhrgebiet and going up into space. It was most definitely worth the anxiety involved in stepping into the lift.

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Talking of getting to know the local area, I think it’s fitting to briefly mention my trip to Moenchengladbach’s textile factory the previous weekend, with a friend from my Dutch class and her husband. On the third Sunday of every month, the textile factory (Textiltechnikum) opens its doors to visitors, and gives a tour around all the machines… again, the language was very technical, but we were taken on a fascinating journey through the textile manufacturing process. Apparently, Germans used to spy on the textile workers in Manchester, to steal ideas to take back to Germany! After the tour, my friend invited me back for dinner. She had made a delicious Flammkuchen, and I appreciated their good company and conversation.

Mainz


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After what was already a few very busy days at the training event last week, on Friday I travelled by train to Mainz to visit my friend for the weekend. I had a very happy time in Mainz, catching up with my friend. We wandered around the Weihnachtsmarkt, visited the Gutenberg Museum on the history of printing, and my friend showed me around her university. It was great to experience a new area of Germany.

Although the timings for the train were a bit tight, I got there and back in one piece, with my friend’s help at the station to see me off. Before it got dark, I enjoyed a picturesque view along the Rhein river from the train – the best way to experience it, perhaps. I also met an interesting man on the way home, who talked to me for about two hours, in fast German, about his experience on the Trans-Siberian Express from China to Russia. His anecdotes rambled on but were immediate and full of life. A shout out to my friends currently on year abroads in Russia, perhaps I can relate a bit more than I could before. When I got home I was exhausted from all the intense auditory processing, and slept very well!

…and similarly to the man I got to know on the Euro City train this weekend, I have rambled on too much too. I will give another update soon!

Bis bald,

Misspraxic

Year abroad experiences: chaos at supermarket checkouts, collapsing music stands, and carrying A2 drawing boards in the rain…

Hallo zusammen!

Since early September I have been looking for productive ways to use up my free time. Thankfully, this tactic seems to be working a bit better this term. When I feel busy, my mind has a positive focus, and this helps to manage the emotions involved in missing home. When I say busy, I do need to strike a balance. If I take on too much, I rush, things go wrong, and then I feel overwhelmed.

So, just what have I been up to? Let me tell you…

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Beautiful autumn colours in Duesseldorf

You might remember that in September, I mentioned I had signed up for a semester at Duesseldorf University, and that I would take German courses later in October. After a misunderstanding (!) about the location of the compulsory language test, I am happy to at last be taking German classes again. The classes are similar to those at Heidelberg, and probably similar to the content of some of my friends’ Erasmus study modules, but I am just taking two classes a week. It makes a difference to have assigned some structure to the long, empty afternoons after my working hours in the school.

The International Summer School at Heidelberg back in August was a wonderful experience. What I had missed most about it was definitely chatting with diverse people from all over the world, solely communicating in German rather than in English. I’m very lucky to get to do it again, this time in Duesseldorf, with classmates from Brazil, Georgia, USA, Italy, Scotland, and so on… In our first class we discussed German’s status as a major language, and it interested me to hear each student explain their reasons for studying German, and its importance to them.

And my favourite class? This won’t be a surprise to those who know me: the grammar class!

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Lecker! Delicious  🙂

I am also learning to be more patient with myself. More and more bus drivers are in fact saying “Guten Morgen” and smiling, which makes me smile too. And during a Friday evening trip to the supermarket (tip: avoid rush-hours), the shop assistant showed some kindness and understanding. I was in a fluster trying to open my bags, pack all my shopping into them, move all my things away from the counter for the next customer, find my REWE points card and my receipt for the Pfand recycling (you can redeem money from recycling bottles), all at the same time as picking out the right amount of euros to pay. Information overload! The poorly-designed plastic box containing tomatoes I had just bought split open, and tomatoes dropped all over the place. But like my stepdad always tells me I stayed calm, and was very kindly offered a fresh box! I am also grateful to my generous landlady who has shown an extreme amount of kindness towards me, bringing me these donuts last week, a typical speciality around Martinstag, and today brought me some Spritzgebäck (typical biscuits in the period leading up to Advent and Christmas). Mönchengladbach-Windberg_Denkmal-Nr._A_024,_Annakirchstraße_88_(5373).jpg

On Tuesday I had my first experience of a German Catholic church service, as I was invited to sing with the choir to commemorate the dead on Allerheiligen (All Saints). I helped set up the church ready for us to sing, and someone foolishly trusted me with the technical aspects – I inevitably got into a muddle with microphone wires and soundboards, and not to mention the screw falling out of the music stands and collapsing around me… But once the service started, it was a very unique experience. Usually I struggle to follow sermons in English, but I managed to follow and understand most of these Sermonen. Halfway through the service, everyone was asked to wish eachother “Frieden” (peace). The way everyone got up out of their seats to embrace, shake hands, rub shoulders filled me with a feeling of warmth that I know I crave here.

On Sunday I also sung in a local hospital chapel with the choir, for a “Gedenkgottesdienst” – memorial service – for those recently deceased. I felt much more nervous singing here as I didn’t know many of the hymns well at all, and found myself mixing up verses and words – I hoped nobody noticed, though I suspect they were too overwhelmed with the touching nature of the service to be worried about my mistakes. Nevertheless I am glad I attended the service, because I learned more about how the community works, and got to know a few members of the choir better.

I’m getting back into my Dutch classes, which I am finding more difficult as we delve further into the complexities of Dutch phonetics (pronouncing the words is the hardest thing for me to grasp as a beginner).

A shout out to my University’s wonderful art society – I miss you, and to keep me sane in the meantime, I have joined a life-drawing class at the local college where I learn Dutch. I think the tutor is great, and I like the fact that there are only six of us in the class. I missed attending regular art and life-drawing sessions with other people, as drawing in my scrapbook just isn’t the same, so I think this will be very good for me! One small draw back, though – pardon the pun – is having to travel on a bus and walk for half a mile juggling my hand bag, my rucksack with art materials, and a silly sized sketch book… oh, and an A2 drawing board. It must all be good practice for Misspraxic’s juggling skills, though. 😉

Tschüß!

-Misspraxic

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

misspraxic

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.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heiligenberg_(Heidelberg)

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

misspraxic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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),

misspraxic

 

 

 

 

Heidelberg: first day!

Wow – what a day!

The day started at 3am, at which time I woke up in a daze – thinking to myself “will everything be OK today?“, “will the flight be on time?“, “will I manage to find the right buses?” In short, all manner of logistical panic was running through my mind.

5am: We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare (two hours), so I took my time through security. I found it less stressful than I usually do – I felt so excited to be heading off on my own adventure.

7am: The flight was delayed due to a scheduling issue with the shuttle buses – to the amusement of my fellow German passengers, disappointed at the lack of “Pünktlichkeit. My German had its first practice on the plane and at the airport, as a kind passenger directed me towards Gepäck/luggage reclaim. My immediate feeling at the airport was honestly panic, because of its size and the visual and auditory stimuli surrounding me (e.g. signs, lights, noise, people talking and moving in every direction).

10.30am: After struggling to follow the German directions to my bus (I would recommend translating anything and everything beforehand if you can), I asked the “Informationsburo” for help. That’s something I learned today – no shame in asking for some help. Most people are more than happy to help or speak slowly or repeat things when you show willingness to try.

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12.30pm: On arriving at Heidelberg, several other international students were in exactly the same position as me: what do we do now? Where do we go?

1pm: With a bit of teamwork (Irish, English, Finnish, and Russian teamwork), not to mention a lot of copies of the same map, we managed to locate the correct bus stop and board the next bus.

However… the bus was moving so fast and there wasn’t time to put my bags away safely. In true dyspraxic fashion I slipped and went flying down the bus! One of the girls kindly helped me up, but I was conscious of the looks in my direction…

2pm: We were welcomed at the Summer School with a big banner and plenty of paper, once again. A whole bag full of documents, leaflets, maps, forms etc. to sort through, and information to retain – but on the positive side people were generally very patient with me and spoke slowly.

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5pm: I had to wait for a couple of hours to be given my key, and driven directly to my accommodation, which is inconveniently located twenty minutes in a car from the city centre. I had to walk up four flights of stairs (with heavy luggage!) only to find that this was the wrong apartment.

6pm: I finally settled into the correct apartment after dragging my bags up more flights of stairs. I’m living in an apartment in a “Studentenwohnheim” with two German students at the University, a girl and a guy, and both seem very friendly.

7-9pm: After drawing myself a map (thanks to my friend Google) showing the route to the nearest supermarket from my apartment, I was able to stock up the kitchen cupboards with some food, and prepare a typical German salad – with olives, goats cheese, salad leaves, some ham, and a big glass of orange juice (which I really needed after all that rushing about).

10pm: The day ends in an unfamiliar room (incidentally without a curtain), in an unfamiliar apartment with two German students I hadn’t met before, and not really knowing what’s going to come next – how am I going to find the bus/tram stop? How am I going to make my own way into the city? How will I manage this!?

I am on an adventure – both daunting and exciting, as there is so much to be discovered.

misspraxic

Misspraxic abroad: emotions and preparations

Guten Abend! As promised, I am updating you all on what I have been doing to prepare for my upcoming travels abroad (a compulsory part of my Modern Languages degree).

Since I last posted, I have spent time with friends and family before saying a temporary goodbye. In just a few days I will be flying to Frankfurt Airport, and making my way to Heidelberg. Where’s that? It’s here:

4944-heidelberg-locator-map

I’m very fortunate to be taking part in a month-long summer school! I hope the intensive grammar classes are going to improve my confidence and fluency in German.

On the one hand, I feel very positive about what is coming: independence, new places, people, experiences… I am excited to return to Germany, to hear my favourite language spoken again. There will be the opportunity for trips to local tourist attractions and destinations further afield at the weekends, which should be a great break from the studying!

In the lengthy build-up to going abroad, however (and I know I’m not alone in feeling like this), the past few months and weeks have been filled with moments of unease and apprehension. Particularly in light of recent and tragic world events, my angst about spending the year out of my comfort zone has been understandably exasperated.

The administrative aspects of organising a year abroad also represent a challenge for any student, not least a dyspraxic student. For those with slower eye-tracking and visual processing, all the form-filling, signature-signing, and document-scanning required for my placements can be overwhelming.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a photo to prove the pickle I was in today with all my paperwork:

paperwork

But the good news is that it’s manageable and well worth the effort – if I can do it, of course other dyspraxic students can too!

My advice?

1. Seek support from your university. Make use of any contacts you might have. Can your study skills tutor help you put together placement applications, or help keep track of important dates?

2. Start planning early. It sounds easy, but when you’re in December, June can feel a year away. By applying early (and securing back-up options in case plans fall through last minute) you can help to ease the uncertainty involved.

3. Make a checklist – and cross tasks off as you go. (e.g. travel booked? Insurance? Finance? Erasmus+ grant?

I’m going back to the packing and paperwork, and will check in again once I have settled into Heidelberg.

Wish me Glück!

misspraxic

 

 

 

Misspraxic… going abroad for third year

Once again, I took a break from blogging since being at University for the second year of my degree. I naturally get very distracted, so although I started writing many blog posts many times, and had some great ideas, none of them actually made it to being published!

To update everyone, my second year of university has been another challenging year with ups and downs, but I have successfully completed the year.

Whilst I still may not be the most confident cook (I won’t go into details about the day I managed to set fire to the kitchen towel), my culinary skills have developed considerably since my first year, when I was in catered accommodated. It wasn’t always easy, but the self-catered accommodation in my second year really helped my organisational skills to flourish.

Most importantly, I feel another year wiser, more confident, and happier.

A big reason for the need to develop those aforementioned dreaded organisational skills, memory-processing, time-management, forward-planning, logical thinking etc. (all things that don’t, unfortunately, necessarily come with ease for the dyspraxic student) is my impending year abroad.

dyspraxia

For those who don’t know, I am required to spend a year out of the UK. As a student of French and German, I have to spend at least four months in a country where the respective language is spoken. On July 30th (yes, less than two weeks away now!) I will fly to Frankfurt, to spend seven months in Germany.

I intend to blog as regularly as possible from now on, as I will have more to talk about (and less time to worry about whether my posts are coherent or grammatically correct!) I hope that in blogging about the year abroad, and all the challenges/fun/learning experiences that go along with it, I can help provide some reassurance and motivation to fellow students with dyspraxia who may be contemplating a year abroad.

In the coming week or two, I want to update you all on the logistic/organisational challenges of planning a year abroad with dyspraxia, the emotions I feel before leaving, and details of my preparations.

Bis bald (“see you soon” in German)!

misspraxic