The German Exchange 2015 between Ratsgymnasium Stadthagen and Wolverhampton Grammar School has been by far one of the best and most positive experiences in WGS, it was an exchange of, not only Languages and cultures, but also banter, jokes and memories.
The home leg was very much a good time, getting to know one another, and enjoying the near-empty Alton Towers on the Sunday, (Hooray for trips in March!). It was a wonderful experience for all, and, despite the circumstances of some of the students (May I harken to the Coast to Coast team, whose training ran through all of this) the home-leg of the exchange was a truly enjoyable time. Most of the students, such as myself and my partner Paula, had already interacted through social media or email.
Four months later, we left school just after lunch and after a couple of hours to look around the airport, we boarded Flybe flight 433 from Birmingham airport to Hannover, Germany. The first sight I can remember of Germany that we got was the motorway stretching in front of us, as we were surrounded by the stunning countryside of the German summer, and the setting sun in the back of the sky. We were all tired, and so, after a quick snack, we retired to our beds in our new German houses.
The next day we woke up with a start, my day started at six thirty, when I hopped into the shower and headed downstairs for a bowl of a German favourite of yoghurt and cereal, something that I had never previously thought of putting together. Later on in the holiday, though, I discovered another luxury that we are not treated with here in the UK, Mango jam.
We spent the morning of the Friday at the Ratsgymnasium, our exchange school, to experience their lessons and the way they’re taught in Germany. After class, we went over to the canteen and got treated to a wonderful drink of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, after our tour of the school, we were walked into the town centre of Stadthagen, where we were quizzed on town trivia until the end of the school day. After dropping home, we encountered what was, in my opinion, the most exciting and interesting part of the exchange, the school play at Ratsgymnasium. The play was ‘The Great Gatsby’, and, though the whole play was in German, the actors were so talented that following the play was almost simple. It was beautifully done, and it was the first time I have ever thought to myself, “I wonder when their next play’s on…” So much so I forgot that I was even in Germany.
The following day we visited Hameln as a group. Our English speaking guide, dressed up as the Pied Piper himself, gave us a most amusing and captivating tour round the medieval town of Hameln.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with our families, and so we, and one other family, travelled to the home of the infamous Wilhelm Busch, just around the corner from Stadthagen. It was incredibly interesting travelling around the home of the author of Max and Moritz.
The Sunday was also spent with our families as well, and a group of the exchange girls had arranged between themselves that we all met up at Sara’s house, and had lunch together. We made our own Pizzas, and then feasted on them. Following the Pizza adventures, we travelled to the local swimming baths, Tropicana, or affectionately known as ‘Tropi’, at Tropi, there was a large pool area, as well as smaller, warmer, pools, kiddie pools, and a sauna and steam room. Personally, my favourite part of the whole, immense swimming pool was the outside pool, which was a heated pool out in the open skies. We grabbed dinner from the side of the pool and then went back to our families.
With the start of the new week, we woke up with a brisk start on the Monday, ready and able at the train station at Stadthagen at ten past eight, ready to board the trains to Berlin. Another interesting cultural and architectural difference between the UK and Germany is Germany’s stunning usage of double decker trains (an investment I definitely think we should take up here in England!) We were shown around Berlin by a tour guide, and passed the shortest metro in the world, the Berlin holocaust monument and, the most breathtakingly stunning, Brandenburg Gate. I cannot express the sheer wonder and amalgamation of feelings that overcame me as we walked up from the subway station to see the Brandenburg Gate, it truly felt like one was walking straight into something amazing.
Our next main stop on our Berlin trip was the Mauermuseum, also known as the Berlin Wall Museum. It was stunningly interesting, and so packed with information that, despite our time there, we didn’t have nearly enough time to go through all of the boards, which were covered in information. However, in the lowest part of the museum, was a segment on the prison camps on North Korea, something I found particularly to my interests.
Tuesday brought us to an extremely technologically advanced, albeit now a little controversial, location. The VW headquarters in Wolfsburg. We spent the first half of our day there travelling through the fun segments of the WV HQ, followed by an interesting bus tour of the VW factory, where we saw the cars being made as assembled, though, we saw nothing of their magic test detectors!
Finally, we had a party at the “Old Police” building in Stadthagen, a leaving do with a bring-and-share buffet to signify the end of the exchange. The atmosphere was warm, and Jolly, and we enjoyed walking around the town while the adults and teachers continued to enjoy themselves in the building.
The German exchange, though, was an experience I will never forget. From the walking through the golden gate of Berlin to the afternoons sitting in Eiscafes and munching on Spaghettieis. It was immensely memorable, and I would most definitely do it again. Of course, none of it could have ever happened without Mrs Grigat-Bradley, from Stadthagen itself, who organised the entire exchange. German exchange is set to continue long into the future, and gains more interest every passing year.