First Orientation on Föhr!

Orientations have a reputation for being amazing and special weekends, which are easily some of the highlights of exchange. This weekend on Föhr was certainly no exception. The 3 day event spanned from Friday to Sunday, the 21st – 23rd of March. I didn’t have to attend school on Friday morning, as my class was writing a German exam for 3 hours, instead I spent the morning packing and preparing myself for the weekend ahead.

To reach the island of Föhr, we first had to catch a bus from Flensburg to Niebüll. Every exchange student living in Flensburg travelled together. Once in Niebüll, on the northwestern side of Germany, we caught a train to Dagebüll. By this time our group had met up with the 60 something other exchange students living in Schleswig Holstein. Most of them have been living here since July, and this was unfortunately their last orientation weekend. From Dagebüll we hopped on a Ferry which took us to the island in the North Sea.

Arriving at Wyk, Föhr’s main port, we promptly disembarked the ferry and finally boarded our last bus which took us to our accommodation for the weekend. The usual shenanigans occurred as everyone found a room and began to make their beds and unpack. I ended up sharing a room with Carla from Brazil, Juhie from India, Sabrina from Taiwan, and Pie from Thailand.

During our free time before dinner, the swapping of business cards and pins began. My friends and I had repaired all my broken handmade pins back on the bus to Niebüll. I’ve now accumulated a nice collection of new pins to add to my blazer, which now isn’t looking so naked anymore.

‘Rotex’ are a group of past exchange students who were outbounds from my German Rotary District, but have now returned from their year abroad. They organised many activities for us throughout the whole weekend, the first of which was a nighttime walk to the beach, after dinner. It was dark, cold and very windy as our large group set out for the beach. The walk to the coast probably took around 20 minutes. Some brave souls wore swimmers and planned to take a quick dip, which they did successfully do, and they do deserve some credit for the somewhat insane feat. The tide was out, so it was a hilarious sight to see freezing bodies run about 200m across the sand before actually reaching the water. I patiently waited with the rest of the group, who were given the task of holding everyone’s clothes and towels.

Games organised by the Rotex team followed the rest of the evening. But to begin with every exchange student introduced themselves in German, only saying our names, where in Germany we live and our country of origin.

Following breakfast on Saturday morning, two exchange students from India organised a Holi colour festival for us all the take part in. The action began by everyone becoming wet through the throwing of water balloons, and later coloured powder was introduced. Although it was fun, the cleanup process wasn’t particularly well thought through. The colour was more permanent than we had once thought, and a rainbow was soon painted in every shower. Having everyone attempt to clean themselves at once soon became chaotic and the bathroom facilities took a long time to clean. I ended up being stained yellow for the duration of camp, but of course now all I can do is look back and laugh.

Afterwards our first Eurotour information session was held. We were given an overview of the route and the different sights to see and foods to eat, and what we might like to buy in each of the cities we will visit. It is now less than a month until the big trip, and is a journey everyone has been looking forward to for a long time. Everyday the excitement and anticipation is building.

For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was a walk along the beach on Saturday afternoon. We walked all the way from our campgrounds, to Wyk where the port is located. Once we set out it began to rain, but the weather soon cleared and we enjoyed some sunshine. The beach was very serene, as the tide was out, and only small waves reached the shore.

Our walk took us to back to Wyk, where everyone then took part in a scavenger hunt organised by the Rotex, and had us rambling all over town, searching for answers to questions and certain locations to take team photos.

The end point of our scavenger hunt was a nice Hotel looking out towards the beach. They hosted us for afternoon tea, where we were provided with a buffet of cake in many varieties. Everything was absolutely delicious. I only tried two slices, one pear and one with raspberries and chocolate.

Next up on the agenda, were short presentations given in German by each of the ‘Summer Inbound’ exchange students. as a Winter Inbound, I will give the same presentation about my favourite school subject at our next orientation in September. Because the Winter inbounds weren’t required to speak, we instead helped the Rotex group continue to meticulously clean the showers and bathrooms, which were still stained with a rainbow of colours from our Holi festival earlier in the day.

Our group of 6 ‘Winter Inbounds’ (students who arrived in January) were then gathered together and given a brief talk including a welcome to Germany and another recap of the RYE rules. We were also each given a shirt representing our Rotary District. It is made from navy striped cotton and is the typical outfit of a fisherman here in Schleswig-Holstein.

After dinner on Sunday night, everyone participated in a 2 hour ballroom dancing class presented by a professional dance couple. The evening ended with a dance party, which continued into the night.

All too quickly Sunday morning came around and it was then time to clean out the rooms and pack our bags, early before breakfast. Following breakfast, another session on the Eurotour was held. We listened to a recap of what was said the day before, and then played a game of charades, with each team acting out a scene to represent of the individual cities we will be visiting. Prizes included food unique to these individual cities.

The journey home was identical to the way there, but this time perhaps with a little sadness as our time together was over. In September and December, two more orientation weekends will be held, however I will then be known as an ‘oldie’ and will have a brand new group of ‘newbies’ join me and the six other oldies. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to bond with a worldwide family of exchange students, whom I will never forget. Despite our differences, the Rotary Youth Exchange program has brought us all together.

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