Sasha Hart is on exchange at Salem in Germany
Sasha Hart’s final post from Germany
I am approaching the end of my time here at Schule Schloss Salem so I will give you all one last update before I return to Athenian. My time here has absolutely flown by. Just as I’m beginning to get comfortable in this environment and have figured out the ins and outs of school here, it’s time for me to head home. It has been such a great experience for me, especially as I prepare to head off to college this fall. I think one of the greatest things I’ve gotten out of this experience is a better sense of self-reliance. It’s not always easy adjusting to a living situation and academic system entirely different from that of home and living in another country where they speak a foreign language. It forces you to do things outside your comfort zone to get the most out of your experience.
After I last updated you all, I went to London to spend a weekend with a friend there. I had to take three different trains to get to the Zurich Airport. The school is far out in the countryside where there’s not much of an international presence, so they only announced things on the intercom in German and I had no idea when my stop was coming up. While it was a little bit anxiety inducing, it felt like quite an accomplishment when I actually arrived at the airport having made all my connections correctly. I had a lovely time in London. It was very cool to have the luxury of being in a place completely different from Germany, with a completely different culture, after only an hour-long flight. I’ve been to London a few times before but it was nice to visit again. We went to see Big Ben, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, and the National Gallery.
The following weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Theresa’s family in Munich. [Theresa is a Salem student currently on exchange at Athenian.] This time I was not as on top of it with the trains and accidentally got on one going in the opposite direction from Munich. I quickly realized my mistake, got off at the next stop, and luckily made it back to the station to catch the next train to Munich, as I had missed the one I was supposed to take. I got into Munich an hour later than I was supposed to but, hey, at least I made it! I’m really glad I got the opportunity to see Munich, as it is a beautiful and historic city. As soon as I arrived on Saturday afternoon we walked around the downtown area and saw the Marienplatz (main square) and Viktualienmarkt (outdoor market). The following day we went to the Olympic Tower, where you can see all of Munich and beyond, all the way out to the Alps. After that we went to BMW World across the street, which has a lot of electric concept cars as well as all sorts of other cars. And finally we went to Nymphenburg Castle, where we were caught in a bit of a snow/hail storm. We only got to look at the castle for a little bit before we were running to the car for shelter. Luckily, I didn’t have to take a train back to school. I’m not sure I would’ve made it back in the dark, changing trains four times.
This past weekend we had Carnival, or Faschingsfest as it is called in German. It was a lot of fun to dress up in costume and experience a holiday that we don’t celebrate in the states. It was an evening filled with lots of music and dancing until about one in the morning. It was a very fun experience.
I’ve gotten to work at Kaffee Hahn, the café here on campus, a few times now and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. It has been a great way to become acquainted with other teachers and students. The coffee machine hasn’t caused me any trouble, so that’s something to be thankful for. There’s another girl who works with me as well which is great. If she wasn’t there, I don’t think I would remember which drinks go in which cups and what everyone’s name is.
That’s the highlights from the past few weeks. I’m savoring my last few days at school here before I go back to my regular routine in California. Exchange hasn’t been the easiest experience the entire time; however, all of the opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of–experiences I’ve had and memories I’ve made–have more than made up for the bumps in the road. I would definitely encourage anyone who is thinking about going on exchange to go for it. No matter what, it will be a great learning experience and something you will remember for years to come. See you all soon!
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 student 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 and is 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. 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. 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 Son 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. 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. I’m really going to miss all the great people I’ve met here and experiences I’ve had.
Until next time! Auf Wiedersehen!