Entry 2, Staring School and Birthday Celebrations

The weekend before I started school on Sept. 6, my host mother decided to take me to Erfurt, which is one of the more touristy areas in Thuringia. The area is known for its grandiose cathedral, St. Marien, which was built in 742 and is very beautiful surrounded by all the German scenery. 

I really enjoyed Erfurt, the weather in Germany was in the lower ’70s and the square was bustling with energy. While walking around we ate our bratwurst with ketchup and mustard from one of the many nearby food stalls. We shopped around and I attempted to buy a couple of things in German while we ate some mocha ice cream. 

When I got to Germany, I was most anxious to start school. I had done some research on German schools before being accepted into the program, but it turns out there was a lot that I still wouldn’t understand. 

A traditional high school in Germany is called a Gymnasium which at my school is between 5th-12th grade and focuses primarily on core classes. I am going to a Gymnasium in Dingelstadt named St. Josef, an old Catholic school with an interior that definitely matches its European background.

When I first walked into my school for enrollment, I was in awe, it was beautiful and included four stories of beautiful staircases and decor. I have been at school for two weeks now and I still stop sometimes to look at the interior. 

Overall, my first day of school went pretty well, it felt familiar given the whole day was spent gathering materials for students and teacher introductions. Given the relatively small size of the school, it was funny how fast a teacher would guess that I was American. The school day ended quickly, and the only trouble I had was with the buses. 

German busses can be very frustrating. I’ve learned the hard way that they can be either 10 minutes late or early, which is ironic considering how punctual German trains are. On my first day, I missed my bus because I was waiting at the wrong stop. After some help from another CBYX alumni who had gone to my school, I found the correct bus stop and route. 

After a few days, the bus system was pretty easy to understand. The buses follow a schedule, so about every 30 minutes, the bus that you need to take will make its way to every bus stop. I would often miss my bus on the first few days of school so it was reassuring that another bus would return. 

In Germany, the class schedule differs drastically from a typical American school schedule. Unlike in American school, every day my classes are different, I have days with multiple breaks and days with none. 

This is my schedule, it stays the same every week, and my classes are highlighted in blue. German classes tend to come in double hours, which occurs commonly in my schedule. For example Wednesday I have two hours of geography from 8:05-8:55 and then a break until 1:20 when my next class starts. 

Since students have such a long break they will commonly take the bus back home, spend time on homework in the cafeteria, or walk around Dingelstadt possibly getting some food along the way. 

I really enjoyed the breaks, the chance to explore the area or get some German homework done. After a week of school, I had mastered how to use my time during the breaks. I would make lunch, do some homework, do laundry and then take a walk around town with some time to spare. 

On the first day of my second week of school, I celebrated my birthday with a new class. I had walked this week with a new schedule, so I had no idea what class “sp2” was and where “TH” was in my school. After asking around, I learned that sp2 stood for sport and TH was Turnhalle, a building that was a 15 walk away from my school. 

Since classes had already started, I had no time to walk and was able to get a ride. I had no gym clothes, so I spent the entire class running and playing badminton in my regular clothes. 

Despite starting the day out rough I had a lot of fun. After classes, my host surprised me with a visit from some other CBYX participants who lived within the area. It was really great to relax and exchange embarrassing stories with students who knew exactly what I was going through. 

I really enjoyed my first week of school with the 12th class. We’ve already started discussing a week-long class trip to Dresden in October, and I am super excited to go. After talking to some German students about major holidays in Germany, I grow more excited every day for the upcoming months which include a few notable events such as Oktober Fest and Carnival.

– Bis Später, Anna