After a very long journey to the other side of the globe, I have now finally arrived in Flensburg, my host city for the next 12 months! Travelling to Germany was certainly a small adventure in itself, and included mishaps such as lost luggage, flight delays and an unexpected overnight stopover in Singapore. Despite this, I have now made it to Flensburg with plenty of newly learnt international travel experience.
I was warmly greeted by big hugs from my host parents at Hamburg airport, which instantly made me feel at home with my new family. We then drove for another two hours to the city of Flensburg in the early hours of Monday morning.
After a good night’s rest, my host father and I walked into the city together and I began to apply for a German visa and finalise my school enrolment. The city of Flensburg is just a 15 minute walk away from my new home. It is a beautiful city and is full of historic buildings, colourful houses and majestic old churches. Since my luggage had not travelled with me from Frankfurt airport to Hamburg, I was wearing clothes kindly lent to me by my host family. This walk was a good introduction to Flensburg, and allowed me to find my bearings. Since Flensburg is a relatively small city, everything is within walking distance. Along the way my host father told me of some of the history of Flensburg, and outlined how the city was once Danish territory. This is certainly a subject I would be interested in reading more about.
Usually Germans eat a hot lunch together as their main meal; my host parents finish work around lunch time and my host brother comes home from school. We then all sit down at the table and eat together. This is similar to the way in which we eat dinner in Australia. I have now received my new school timetable, and I finish school at 1 o’clock on 3 out of 5 days of the week. In the evening, the family eats a lighter meal usually consisting of some form of bread and meat or cheese.
On Tuesday, I saw my first snow! Small droplets of snow began to fall right outside my window. Although I have seen snow before in the mountainous regions of Australia, there is certainly something very different about seeing the streets covered in white snow and ice. However, the sensation couldn’t last long as it wasn’t cold enough for the snow to settle.
My host mother invited me to go along to work with her on Wednesday morning. She is a teacher at a Montessori primary school in a small village, 20 minutes outside of Flensburg. This was an interesting experience as I’m not familiar with this method of education. The children are grouped together in a class of mixed ages, and mostly work independently on their own tasks and when the teacher does give them assistance, it is usually one on one. When it was time to go out for the break, the playground was covered in snow and ice. Everyone has to go outside regardless of the weather, and some were even dressed in snow suits. The children could even slide down a hill on a small toboggan!
The temperatures have become progressively cooler this week, until yesterday when I found myself walking into the city as it was -2 degrees outside! By now, it is definitely cold enough for the ice to settle and the snow is here to stay. I have even had to buy a new snow jacket to cope with the subzero temperatures. I have now successfully navigated my way into the city by myself and to my new school, where I start on Monday.
My first few days in Germany have been excellent, and it already feels very natural to be living here with my host family. It has certainly taken some adjusting to learn to integrate in a new style of family life, and to begin coping with the cold winter weather! My German is improving and I’m growing more confident in the language every day. Living abroad on exchange is full of learning experiences, and everyday is full of adventures and unique opportunities to learn new things.