Sophie Yewell says farewell to Salem and Germany
I cannot believe how fast time has flown by as I start to wrap up my exchange. I have had an amazing time here in Germany and am not ready to return to the US. The friends I’ve made and the memories we’ve shared will last me a lifetime.
Throughout my time here I’ve had to get used to boarding school and I’ve actually grown to quite like it. I thought I would miss the privacy of my own room, but I can honestly say that I don’t. I am happier than ever living with my two roommates, not to mention everyone else in my wing, Junibau Oben. All of my friends are only few steps away all of the time and I love it. I’ve gotten used to the freedoms and responsibilities that come with living so far away, such as getting to freely take the trains to nearby cities or buying things, like food, for myself whereas, before, my parents might have done it for me.
The hardest part of my exchange was definitely the language barrier as I made many friends in the German system. It was sometimes difficult because I had to get used to not understanding everything 100% of the time. Despite the fact that this was hard every now and then, I don’t regret it. I made some amazing friends who, if I was struggling, would always stick up for me. I quickly found that everyone was willing to speak English, I merely had to put myself out there. Even in the event that the big group wanted to talk in German, there was always someone who was willing to chat with me on the side. Through my experience with the language barrier I’ve surprised myself quite a lot, noticing myself growing more talkative and outgoing, which is something I am very proud of.
One of my favorite parts of living at Salem is the baggersee. Baggersee is a lake that is located roughly 2 kilometers away from the school and we go there quite often. At the edge of the lake there is a big ship with places to jump off, ropes in the middle to climb back up, and lots of other things to climb. Many of my evenings were spent here; listening to music, laughing, and pushing each other in. At one of the earlier baggersee trips, a couple of friends taught me to watch out for the term ‘austauschülerin, schubsen!’, which means ‘exchange student, push!’ Of course now when we go I know that there is no ‘watching out’. I am going in, end of discussion.
As I attended Salem during the sixth epoch, the epoch of end of year exams, I also got to participate in the Sommerfest that takes place in the last week of school. Since finals are over, it is basically a weeklong celebration of the coming summer holidays. Each wing prepares a dance, which they preform at the end of the week at a school wide competition. I was particularly nervous about this, as I am not a very good dancer. Yet, to my dismay, my wing ended up tying for first place! After the dancing there is a big party held in the castle courtyard with lights and music. Although I am sad that my time has ended, I was glad to spend one of my last nights this way with all my friends by my side.
Words cannot explain how much I am going to miss Salem and all of the people that come with it. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.
Sophie Yewell arrives at Salem
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! 🙂