Recently I availed of an opportunity to participate in a German exchange. I spent six weeks in Frankfurt, Germany and attended Weingarten School. It was a phenomenal opportunity and as the weeks to my departure drew closer, my anticipation began to build up. Fortunately, I was able to sit down and have a nice chat with Jane, the exchange company agent and she filled me in on the ins and outs of the program and was open to all queries, questions and concerns. Flying independently was new to me and quite exhilarating really and I was glad to know that my host family awaited me at the airport. I spent the first day settling in and getting to know my host partner, Katharina. She is a lovely, well-grounded individual and the weeks we spent together truly did fly. She introduced me to her friends at school, who although were not quite as friendly as the Irish were polite and kind in their own manner. I perceived them to be quite serious. However, over time I came to the realisation that it was just their way and they genuinely were caring people. At first school was difficult. The hours seemed long even though they were only from 7:45- 13: 30. I think it was my brain adjusting to drastic change in dialect. I napped every evening for an hour or so to recharge. This all stopped after a few weeks and after some time I had an epiphany. I could understand what was going on! I studied a wide variety of subjects including Ethics, Art, Politics etc. I found Maths to be quite difficult. The Germans had gone into much more depth within each chapter but surprisingly I found myself having a better understanding of the subject itself! Personally, I liked attending school, became used to the early 6:30 rise and reluctantly came to ok terms with the waiting outdoors in cold temperatures during lunchbreaks. Although I was living abroad for academic purposes, that’s not to say I didn’t get to have any fun. In fact, it was very much the opposite. My host family who were very kind were as good as professional tour guides as we toured around the city, stood atop the famous Frankfurt tower, went rock climbing, swimming in a fabulous resort, ice skating, horse riding, to a restaurant and a sushi bar, shopping, and even flying to a whole new city called Dresden! I really loved Frankfurt and best of all trying its famous foods e.g. “Die Beste Wurste im Frankfurt” which translates to “The best sausages in Frankfurt”. I found this hard to believe but didn’t argue once I had tasted them for myself. Yum! I enjoyed most of my meals with my host family and with Katharina’s talented cooking abilities it was rarely a problem. However, if I ever felt like I did not like something, I would simply politely mention it and the family would kindly provide me with something else. I was also always in contact with Jane in Ireland and Claudia in Germany who were able to help me with any problems or concerns. I had a good relationship with my host family. Katharina and I came to know each other as we cycled to school some days and got the bus on others. Fortunately I was in Germany at the time of ‘Der Karnival’ which is a huge event celebrating the coming of spring and there were various parties, celebrations and a parade in honour of this. I loved dressing up and it was entertaining to see all the different costumes worn at these events. Overall I really did enjoy my stay. After the six weeks my German had really improved. I was ready to come home and meet up with my family and friends again. I am grateful to have been gifted such a lovely host partner and family. They made me feel welcome through it all and I look forward to our plans of further stays in the near future. I hope Katharina will enjoy her exchange in Ireland.

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