My name is Sarah, I have recently spent 8 weeks in Lerkusen, Germany.  I am a Transition Year Student so I felt it was the perfect opportunity to do a homestay.  Like most people I was a little apprehensive before I went however due to the fact that I was only assigned to a family about one month before my departure I really did not have that much time to be anxious.  I flew over with my dad, which was helpful and eased my nerves.  When we met the family at the airport I was immediately comfortable and reassured.  The first night away from home might have been difficult but I was so tired I feel straight to sleep.  I found the first day quite strange.  I suddenly found myself in another country with strange people and the reality of the huge language barrier became evident.  Everything around me felt so different.  After studying German for 3 years in Ireland I can honestly say that on the very first day I hardly understood a word.  The difference between learning a language in the classroom and having to speak it to communicate with people is huge.  I attended school for the eight weeks.  For learning purposes I was assigned to a class of students who were 14 years old which worked out very well and both the students and teachers were supportive and provided a lot of encouragement and explained words and phrases that I did not understand.  The classes were still very challenging, and instead of trying to understand everything, I decided to just listen and pick out various random words.  I then wrote a few new words in a copybook each day which really improved my vocabulary.  I shared a room where I stayed with Hannah with whom I got on very well.  She is 18 and was always so helpful.  This arrangement provided me the opportunity to be in regular conversation with someone and made learning very easy.  I feel that if I had my own room I might have communicated less with the family.  Hannah always made me feel welcome amongst her friends, inviting me to various social outings throughout my stay.  My host family also brought me to the cities of Cologne and Aachen which I loved.  Karneval a German festival consisting of parades and celebrations took place during my stay.  It lasted for a total of five days which gave me the opportunity to meet more people.  At the beginning I thought that 2 months was quite a long time but realistically the weeks pass so quickly that I would recommend anyone considering to do an exchange/home stay to spend no less than 6 weeks in the country.  I really started to notice a difference in my German after 5 weeks.  I was able to have a decent conversation with someone at this stage which made it easier to socialise with people.  I would recommend anyone doing Transition Year to strongly consider doing this.  For me it really made my year worthwhile and I don’t regret it for a second. I made so many friends which I hope to visit soon.  It was an incredible experience and I am truly grateful for it.

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