Monday, May 12, 2014

Week 3: The Primary School

This week has been full of fun and eye opening experiences for me. Amber, Stephanie, and I spent every day at the Uhlandschule Primary School, located just down the street from the Anne Frank Gymnasium. We were not entirely sure what we would be doing with the students once we got there. The only thing we knew for sure was that we would be working with students in the first through fourth grades. Upon interacting with the first group of students, we realized the limited amount of English these children knew. This is due to the fact that they do not begin learning English until halfway through the first grade year. We quickly adjusted our plans and ended up having a great time with the kids!

We spent a lot of time reviewing key concepts the students already learned, such as colors and numbers. We found the most effective way to review with them was to involve them in some type of game. We learned several games from the German teachers at the school and we shared some of our own as well. With all of the second grade classes, we were able to plan lessons that introduced them to the vocabulary words for weather. We sang a song together as a class, played a memory matching game in pairs, and made individual booklets on the types of clothes one can wear in different weather conditions. The students really seemed to love this! I think our time at the primary school really taught us a lot about teaching ELL students. I know we will carry that knowledge back with us to the United States.

Although we spent a lot of time at the primary school this week, we still had time to go on other adventures after school. One day after school, we traveled with our host dad and sister to Oberhausen, a town about thirty minutes away. We toured a very interesting art gallery and went to the largest mall in Germany for some gift shopping. We also visited the town center of Lunen, which is the town Stephanie and I actually live in. We did some more shopping and enjoyed delicious ice cream. Our family also took us to meet their Spanish horses, which was a real treat! Our host dad also took us to visit another local castle and we walked to the top of an old water tower, where we had a spectacular view of the entire town. I cannot believe I only have a few short days left here before traveling back to the United States!
Week 2: First Days in Werne/Paris

I am so behind on posting things because I have been so wrapped up in enjoying my time here in Europe! We arrived in Werne last Sunday evening and were immediately greeted by our host families. I, along with Stephanie Gahafer, am living with the Leutloff family, and they could not have made us feel more at home here. From the first time we stepped foot in their home they told us to make it our own. They are very fun and energetic people, always ready for the next adventure! Within the first few days we saw a local castle and toured the historic city of Munster.

We also spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the week at the Anne Frank Gymnasium. We observed several different types of English classes and participated in lessons whenever possible. Everyone at the school was extremely friendly and helpful while we were there. It was very interesting to see how a German school functions and compare that to what we are used to in the United States. So far, I think my favorite difference is the teacher lounge area of the school. Since teachers here are not given their own classrooms, they all have desks in a central location. This is where they come between classes to grab any necessary materials and gather their thoughts. There is more of a social element to it than we have in America and I've grown to enjoy it. Teachers are constantly coming in and talking with  one another, sharing ideas on how to teach certain concepts or deal with an issue in the classroom. It's definitely been an interesting thing to watch.

Once we completed our third day at the AFG, Amber Mattingly and I embarked on our four day trip to Paris, France. I was a little apprehensive about this weekend simply because of the varying opinions I received from talking to others beforehand. However, the trip could not have gone any better! We arrived at our hotel Thursday afternoon and immediately found the Arc de Triomphe only minutes from our street. It was so much larger than I ever could have imagined and it was very interesting to see it up close. The next day (Friday) we ate lunch on the Champ-Elysses, a very famous street in Paris with all the stores you could ever want to visit. Of course, after lunch we spent some time walking up and down the street and doing a little window shopping.

Afterwards, we headed to the metro and found our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I have never seen a church so massive. The architecture was absolutely beautiful and extremely intricate. Just thinking about how long it took to construct really blows me away. After taking some tourist photographs, we stopped at a local cafe and enjoyed some traditional crepes. They were absolutely delicious! Next, we hopped back on the metro and met up with Stephanie Gahafer and Jennay Dugan at the Louvre Museum. It was really wonderful to see so many historic works of art up close. We spent some time touring the different collections around the museum and then made our way to my favorite stop of the weekend - the Eiffel Tower!

Going to visit the Eiffel Tower was absolutely amazing! We arrived around the time the sun was setting, and after waiting for about an hour we finally began our ride to the very top of the tower. The first elevator dropped us off at the main platform of the tower, which was already very high to me. But, we waited in another line for a while and climbed into an even smaller elevator that took us 281 meters into the air. The city was absolutely breathtaking. Everything was lit up and sparkling and it was perfect. We stayed up there for as long as possible looking at the city from all sides and taking plenty of pictures. I am so glad we were able to do that while staying in Paris.

On our last full day in Paris, we decided to tour the Palace of Versailles. Just approaching the palace was breathtaking for me, due to its extremely large size. When we finally walked inside and began touring the different rooms, it was unbelievable. The amount of decoration and detail present in every room really takes your breath away. It is hard to imagine that people actually lived in such a magnificent place. My favorite part of the tour was probably the Hall of Mirrors. I have always wanted to see this famous room and it was really great to be able to walk through there. I am still amazed at all of the beauty I saw while I was there.

Clearly the second week of the trip was packed with activities and travel. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here and see so many historic sites in such a short time. This truly is the trip of a lifetime and I could not be enjoying it more!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Week 1: Touring Berlin

This week has been completely full of so many amazing things that I am not even sure where to start! We arrived in Berlin early Tuesday morning and immediately began touring the city. We got to know the area around our hotel and began to learn how to work the train system here in Berlin. After lunch and a short trip to the closest mall we were all given some time to relax and recover from the long day of traveling we experienced the day before. This rest was much needed considering all of the adventures we would go on in the following days!

On Wednesday we took the train to the Reichstag in the government district of Berlin. As we approached we had the opportunity to take many photographs of the Parliament building, as well as other surrounding scenery. Following a short tour around the area, we were able to go inside the Reichstag and walk into the glass dome located on the very top. The view from up here was absolutely incredible - it seemed like we could see nearly all of downtown Berlin! We were also given a short presentation over the functions of the government here in Germany and how it compares to the government in America. This was all extremely interesting and I loved learning about some the similarities and differences between our two cultures.

Thursday was probably one my favorite day of the whole trip to Berlin. We all ventured just outside Berlin to a place called Potsdam and took a guided bike tour through the entire town. In all I believe we biked about twelve miles! The things we were able to see on that trip were absolutely breathtaking. I was actually able to see the very place where Truman, Churchill, and Stalin met to divide up Germany after WWII. It was unbelievable. We also saw many castles and palaces from much earlier times that are still preserved throughout the town. I think we had a special experience by biking through Potsdam. It allowed us to see and appreciate many things that we may not have seen otherwise.

Friday we traveled as a group to Brandenburg Gate and went on a walking tour of Berlin. We learned the historical significance of several different areas throughout the city on this tour. We were also given the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Memorial located in that area and reflect on the emotions we felt during that experience. After visiting several other historical sites, such as a grand concert hall and the square where young Nazi students burned many significant German books, we stopped for lunch at another local mall downtown. We were given some free time following lunch to explore the city and experience some of Berlin in smaller groups.

Today is our last full day in Berlin before traveling to Werne for the rest of our stay in Germany. We made sure to get the most out of it! A small group of us left early this morning and took the train to the nearest concentration camp - Sachsenhausen - where we toured the entire camp independently for about two hours. This experience was one I will never forget and something that I have always wanted to do. There are truly no words for the emotions you feel while walking on those grounds. After completing our tour we came back to Berlin and met up with everyone else to eat at a local cafe in Tiergarten.

So far this trip has been nothing short of spectacular! I have seen more in the last five days than I ever dreamed possible and I am so grateful to be here. I am really excited about traveling to Werne and meeting my host family tomorrow night! I will be sure to post again after some more adventures!