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.
The 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.)
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!