I’ve been in Germany for roughly two weeks now and have had quite the adventure so far. In my first few days I was staying with my exchange, Petra, and her family. She showed me her hometown of Marl and we spend the next few days touring around Germany, going to cities like Hamburg and Husum. Things here are look as though they are out of a movie with cobble-stone streets and cottage-like buildings. After our little adventures, it was time to go to school.
Whereas in the US we have semesters and quarters to our school year, in Salem the school year is divided up into six epochs. Similar to our interim trips, students travel with their classes to different sites for some outside-of-the-classroom learning before the start of the last epoch. I got to join the group to Westerhever to study the biology of the Wadden Sea. We were studying the tide, which is significantly different than it is back in California; at low tide, the water is completely gone and at high tide it will have risen several meters high. Every morning after breakfast, we would hop on our bikes and ride through the sheep fields to the water and spend the day learning about all the organisms that live there. While biology is very exciting, what I loved more than anything else were the evenings. I got to learn of a game called tischtennis, which literally translates to table tennis but is very different than Ping-Pong. In this game, there is no limit on how many people can join. Everyone gathers around the table in two lines and the person at the front starts by passing it to the person across from them and then moving to the second line. If you miss or hit it out of bounds, you’re out. The game goes until there are two people left and they ralley for the win. At first I was always the first one out. By the end of the week, and with the help of new German friends, I even made it to the final round!
After that amazing week I was both sad to leave Westerhever and excited to go to Salem. In Salem, school is divided in two systems: the German-speaking group and the English-speaking. Obviously, I was put in the English-speaking group, but all of my new friends from the week before were in the German system. Despite having been nervous to meet all the new people, I can’t say that I wasn’t excited for a biology lesson taught in English for a change.
The environment at Salem is very different than Athenian. Instead of our usual six classes, here I have thirteen. Students meet with each class a maximum of twice a week, which has certainly taken some getting used to. Additionally, instead of moving to different classes with different people throughout the day, the people in an individual class always stay the same. Each class has one main classroom and only leaves its designated room for art, sport, or science classes. I like this aspect as it has made navigating the giant castle a bit easier. The day-to-day schedule is similar to our Monday schedule at Athenian with three long periods with breaks in between. The only difference being that lunch is at the end of the day at 2:00 and not in the middle at 12:00. After lunch, school is over and students then go to their various activities. I spend most of my time with my friends, going to the nearby lake of Bagersee, or hanging out in the torkel, which is a café located inside the castle.
Though things are very different here I’m having loads of fun and cannot wait for the rest of my adventure! 🙂