From the 12th of May to the 8th of June 2017 I lived in Dachau, Germany, with the brilliant Knüppel family. It was without doubt the best 4 weeks of my life! I had wanted to go to Germany, Munich in particular, since I'd began learning German in secondary school. Unfortunately, before TY, it hadn't worked out. That was until my teacher suggested an exchange to Germany. At first I gave no thought to it at all. I was completely pessimistic and just couldn't picture myself doing it. I'd never been away from my home for more than 10 days, so spending a month alone in Germany sounded completely out of the question. But the more I thought about it the more it seemed a possibility.

We got in contact with Jane, and received information on a family living in Dachau, just outside Munich. There was no pressure on me to do it, we said we'd think about it and get back to her. I just couldn't not take up the opportunity to go, and I decided to do it. We had Julian in our house for the month of April, and right away we got on really well. You'd be surprised how quickly you get to know someone when you live with them, and after a week or two it was as if we'd been friends for years! Julian left, and it was only a week and a half after that when it was my turn to go to Germany. I remember, on the morning of the flight, being extremely nervous, but I also remember being hugely excited. From my point of view, leaving my parents at the airport was the toughest part of the exchange, but once I got on the plane, I just knew it was going to be the best time of my life. The family met me at the airport and were extremely welcoming, friendly and overall just genuine people. It was relatively late, so we didn't do much that night other than a small tour around their beautiful town. The next day the exchange really began for me, I got to meet some of Julian's friends and on the Sunday we went to the Allianz Arena to see a match, which has always been one of my dreams, and we ended up behind the goal with the extreme fans chanting and shouting for the whole match! It was definitely one of the best experiences of the exchange.

After only a few days I felt settled in and was comfortable around the family and in the house. I was also quite nervous before the first day of school, but I'd already met a few of his friends that were extremely sound so I could only expect the same from the rest of the class, and they were too. The school was very different from my school, but after only a few days I began to enjoy it more and more. Some classes were really hard to understand, but I found that after a few days of really trying to listen to what the teachers were saying, it became easier to understand and also easier to engage in conversations with his friends. For the second and third week of school, I was actually going to bed excited for the next day of school, something which I definitely didn't think would happen! For the last few weeks, it began to feel as if it was my normal school. I didn't even have to hang around constantly with Julian, I was able to go around with his friends on my own at the breaks, in between classes etc. And there was also plenty of sport in the school, with lots of soccer which was really important for me! 

On Wednesdays and Thursdays the school finished early so on those days we'd go and visit places around Munich and Dachau. Munich was an incredible city, with so much to see and do. We were in the Olympia Park, Nymphenburg Schloss, Marienplatz, Englischer Garten and so much more. The family knew Munich really well, so they were able to bring me to all the proper Bavarian spots in the city and I got a real feel of the city from this. The days that we spent in Munich were just amazing, it was surreal that one of the biggest and thriving cities in the world was only 15 minutes away on a train. We also took many trips to places around Munich. We hiked up a 1700m mountain one day in the Bavarian Alps, and at the top were definitely the best views I’ve seen in my life! We were in tourist destinations such as Andechs, Garmisch, Schloss Lindehof, and so much more! The mountains were just incredible, as I'd never seen anything like them before. As well as all of that, we went to places such as the Concentration Camp in Dachau, Ingolstadt, Freising, the list goes on and on and that was just with the family! We'd often meet up with friends and go to places such as the nearby lake, the cinema, the swimming pool, Volksfest in Dachau, Parties (x3!) and sometimes just relax, chat and play Fifa or watch soccer matches.

One of my worries before the exchange was the food, as I'd heard the Germans eat a lot of cheese, which I don't like very much! But it was absolutely brilliant, each day I got to try more and more of the typical German cuisine and I loved it. There was plenty of meat, vegetables and variation. My German has also improved so much over the month that it's unbelievable. I didn't even notice until it was pointed out that I was fully taking part in conversations and fully understanding what everyone was saying. It was a very cool feeling to be able to understand and speak an entirely different language!

The worst day of the exchange was probably the last day, because I didn't want to leave! It had already been difficult on the last day of school, a week before I had to go, because I had to say goodbye to a few of my new friends that were going on holidays. It was very difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but once I got home to my family and friends it was really nice to see them. I was really sad to leave, and I miss everything about the exchange, the food, the language, the country, but most of all the people I met and got to know on the exchange. I've made so many new friends that I know I will have for a long time. Thankfully, we have lots of contact with each other and have organised for my exchange partner and a friend to come back to Ireland, and also for me to go back to Germany. I can't wait to go back!

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