Greetings from Salem International College in Germany!
I’ve been here for almost a month now so I figured it was time to send an update to you all. The first week I spent getting to know the place and the people. I met the other exchange from Markham College in Peru, as well as the other girls in my wing, Mädchenbau 1, including my roommate Delia who is from Switzerland. During that first week I got to take a trip to the town of Überlingen which is about a 15 minute bus ride from campus, where most of the people from Salem go to do their shopping, go out for dinner or see a movie.
Since they don’t do exchanges into twelfth grade here, I am taking classes in the 11th grade in IB (International Baccalaureate) Year 1, which is the program where the classes are taught in English. There are two academic programs at the school, the IB and the Abitur. The Abitur is the German speaking academic program and about 2/3 of the 300 students here are in that program, including my roommate. Luckily, most everyone has, at the very least, a pretty good understanding of English. I am living on the 11th grade campus called Spetzgart, a beautiful old castle overlooking Lake Constance. The 12th graders live a five-minute walk away at the Härlen campus, which was built in the early 2000’s. Similar to Athenian, there is a morning meeting at the Härlen campus every Monday where there are announcements and things of that nature so I’ve gotten to spend time at both campuses.
Another thing that is different about Salem is that there are classes on Saturdays. While this was a little bit of a surprise for me, I’ve found that it is not so bad to have class on Saturdays especially because my only class on Saturdays is Art and I have plenty of free periods during the week to explore Uberlingen or hang out with friends. In fact, the way that my schedule is here is similar to what one would typically have in college, rather than high school, with classes meeting once or twice a week for an hour and a half each meeting. Some days I don’t have a class until noon! They also do something called Dienst here every Monday, which is basically community service. Some people help out with the fire service or mentally ill or at the café on campus as well as many other things. I will be working at the café where I will hopefully make all the drinks correctly; I’m told the coffee machine is idiot proof.
It has been interesting to experience life at a boarding school as everyone at Salem is a boarder and so not only have I gotten to meet people from all over the world but I’ve also come to learn what it’s like to live at school. It’s great to be able to have your friends just down the hall from you so there’s lots of socializing but at the same time, if you’re trying to go to sleep and someone upstairs has just discovered a mouse in their room it might be a little while before you have peace and quiet. I got to be part of my wing’s photo for the yearbook where we all dressed up as stereotypical types of students (nerds, sporty kids etc.). I was supposed to be a stereotypical American high school girl, which to them meant I had to either dress up like the Mean Girls characters or the Gossip Girls characters. I don’t think I pulled off Blair Waldorf’s look but I think they were satisfied with my attempt to look the part.
I could go on and on about what is different and what is similar about Salem and Athenian but I’ll leave that for another time. I’ll just briefly mention a couple of things I’ve done since arriving here. After my second week here, I convinced another girl to come with me to tour another town on Lake Constance called Meersburg. There is both a big winery overlooking the lake and an old castle there. The castle is where a famous German poet lived and worked until her death. It was really interesting to look around the castle and see all the different rooms and how they lived back then. As there aren’t any organized excursions for the exchanges here, I’m going to London this coming weekend to visit a family friend and the next weekend I will be staying with Theresa’s (the exchange from Salem at Athenian right now) family in Munich and they are going to show me around there. The weekend after that we have Carnival here at Salem which as I understand it is a weekend of parties where you dress up in costumes and have a good time. Then another week and I will be home.
My time here is flying by and I’m really going to miss all the great people I’ve met here and experiences I’ve had.
Until next time! Auf Wiedersehen!