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Link from this blog to another

Hello all!

I don’t tend to use this blog very much anymore (just about out of my allotted space in terms of content!) but I wanted to share a link to a blog I posted for the University of Victoria’s German Department: https://onlineacademiccommunity.uvic.ca/germanicslavic/2015/08/19/robyn-gray-my-work-as-a-fremdsprachassistentin-in-berlin-as-part-of-the-p-a-d-program/

This link leads to a blog I wrote about my year-long experience in Germany, as a way to offer context for students that would potentially like to spend a year there in the way I did. I absolutely recommend a year away like this for anyone – it was a life-changing experience!

Thank you so much for checking out this blog! If you would like to hear more from me, I occasionally post to the following blog: https://thebagpippinlibrarian.wordpress.com/ – it’s basically the same content, but more based on my love of libraries and my journey through the Master of Library and Information Studies program at Dalhousie University.

Aufwiedersehen!

-Robyn

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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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A Christmas in Berlin – and New Years Too!

Hello everybody! I may have made the mistake of waiting too long to write this post…I figured it would be a good idea to wait until after Christmas was over before writing, but now there are so many different things I want to tell you about! But allow me to start at the beginning.

During my last week of classes before the holidays, I accompanied a grade six class on a field trip. We headed first to a Christmas Market by Potsdamer Platz, where the kids got to play a few ice games and slide down a snowy hill in tubes. I’m pretty sure they all had a great time, despite the bitter cold wind that kicked in about halfway through our two hours outside.

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We first got to Potsdamer Platz by train, and I found that riding a train with 24 students and two teachers on it was a very enjoyable gongshow. It was a bit stressful making sure everyone had boarded, but I loved the happy chaos of it all.

After our time outside, we headed to Legoland. The kids had taken part in a competition to raise awareness against smoking, and their prize was this trip. For a free trip, I found it extremely enjoyable – there were a few fun “4D” movies to see, a small ride to go on, and naturally lots of cool Lego structures. There was one room with lots of famous buildings in Berlin built from Lego, and that was exceedingly impressive.

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I got to know the other two teachers a bit better, which was nice since I hardly ever talk to them outside of class. We went on the little ride with two of the students – the ride was very slow with lots of Lego structures to see, and at the end during the “scary part” a photo was taken. I pulled off one of my notoriously-good horrified facial expressions, but regretted it a bit when one of the students actually bought the photo to remember her lovely time at Legoland. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.

That Friday was the staff Christmas party, which was hosted at a restaurant. I ran into one of the teachers on the train, and had a very proud moment when I knew where the restaurant was better than he did (thank you, google maps). The restaurant was Bavarian, and my female coworkers pointed out that it was very manly with all the mounted deer heads and tons of meat on the menu. But the Christmas decorations were lovely, the food was tasty, and someone made the mistake of bringing chocolate and putting the bowl beside me. I also got to have a few good conversations (albeit in English – the teachers were thrilled to be able to practice) and established one of them as a crocheting buddy for the new year.

On that Saturday, Sebastien and I were able to meet up with some good friends that were in Berlin for a brief time. We went to the Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas Market and were able to spend a few hours walking around before it started to get dark and therefore busy. I was able to try a few foods I hadn’t had the chance to last time I was at the Market, such as “Langos” – a deep-fried bread with sour cream, garlic, and cheese. It was amazing. We also went to a brewery in the area for a drink and a chat, and a great time was had by all.

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On Sunday Sebastien and I attended a karaoke birthday party. Those of you who know me well will know that I kicked it at “Baby Got Back”, and for something new I pulled off a wicked “Grace Kelly” by Mika too.

Monday was the 23rd, and so began the Endreekat Christmas family festivities! We headed over to Sebastien’s parents’ house in the afternoon, and I got a chance to meet Pupping – a friend who always joins the family for Christmas. The word “Puppe” means “doll” in English, so “Pupping” is basically the equivalent of “Dolly”. We began by decorating the newly-bought Christmas tree all together, and then enjoyed tea and baked goodies. After that, Pupping gave me my very first lesson in crocheting – we were able to complete a cellphone case for Sebastien by the end of it (which Santa mysteriously placed in his stocking a few days later).

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The next day was Christmas Eve! In Germany, this means something quite different from what it means in Canada. At home, my family tradition has always been to go bowling on Christmas Eve. There’s a family with which we go every year, and have been doing since I was 2 years old – this was sadly the first year I was unable to make! We even have t-shirts that say “Christmas Eve Bowling League” on the back, and our names on the front. While it began as a way to wear out us kids before going to bed on Christmas Eve, it now has been a lead-up to going back to my Dad’s house for chili and meatballs and fooseball. On Christmas Eve I’m allowed to open one present, and then Santa comes during the night to fill our stockings (just for those of you that don’t know the drill!)

In Germany, Santa actually comes during the afternoon on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts, and children usually must perform a song or dance for him before they get their presents. We went to Sebastien’s parents’ house early in the day, and after sitting down to tea at a very well decorated table, we had a bit of a concert.

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There were lots of piano performances, as well as some violin, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, and small pipes. Any guesses as to who performed what? In any case, Santa unfortunately was a bit too late for the performance – but we luckily got our presents anyway.

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Once Santa came, we all opened our gifts. I was definitely spoiled! Received a puzzle, a beginners crochet kit, and a popcorn maker (finally I can have buttered salty popcorn again!) – amongst other things. We then had a delicious Raclette dinner, and played a few games (most notably, Telephone Pictionary). It was a lovely way to spend Christmas!

On Christmas Day, Sebastien and I still kept up a few of my home traditions. I had saved my gifts from my family for that day, and opened them in the morning. It also appeared that Santa remembered to come back that night and fill my stocking, because I received a new book and some goodies from him. We got the chance to Skype both my parents, and spent a lot of time relaxing. That night, Sebastien and I cooked our own duck! It turned out extremely well, and we enjoyed it with corn, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

In Germany, the 26th isn’t Boxing Day, but instead “Second Christmas Day”. We went back to Sebastien’s parents’ house for the evening, to socialize and have a nice dinner. I had just about finished my new crocheted hat by the end of it! I don’t think anyone would go shopping on the 26th the way that people in Canada do, although since then I have noticed quite a few sales in stores.

On the 27th, we drove to Lenzen to see Sebastien’s grandparents. Lenzen is an extremely small town, about 3 hours away from Berlin. It was lovely to see his grandparents again, and I think my German has improved a lot since I saw them last summer. I also completed my crocheted hat, and got a lot of knitting done on my scarf.

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Once we returned home, we took it pretty easy for a few days. As for New Years Eve, one of our friends had generously offered for us to have a small party at their house to celebrate. First thing in the morning that day, the fireworks slowly began. In Germany, it becomes legal to buy fireworks on about December 27th up until New Years Eve. And on the day, you are legally able to set them off from 6pm on or so. There weren’t exactly a lot of people enforcing the time designation, and the fireworks began in earnest as soon as the sun was beginning to set. It was quite the amazing thing to hear so many going off all the time – and it was nice when you got to watch them. The unfortunate part was that often, the only people able to see them were the ones that lit them since there were so many buildings.

In any case, we headed out for our party at 8 or so. It was a fairly small group of people, and we talked and danced. I was excited to find out that the hostess had a doggie, and we were glued together for part of the night. At midnight, we went outside to see the fireworks and light off some of our own. It was absolutely insane; fireworks everywhere! They were going off from all sides of us. It was quite the sight to see! The following pictures aren’t good quality by any means (fireworks usually don’t photograph well!) but I was trying to capture how they were absolutely everywhere. In one picture, you can see the sparklers that a few girls and I are holding up.

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Eventually we went back inside to continue the party. I got to partake in a neat New Years tradition; you lay a piece of thin metal on a spoon and melt it. Then, you toss the metal into a bowl of cold water, and the metal takes on a shape. The shape would then depict something that would characterize your New Year. My metal turned into a hedgehog/snail/bug – I can’t remember what a hedgehog means, but a bug means “you will have new love in 2014”. Seb and I aren’t worried though – we figure it means I’ll get a dog. I would love that!

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I managed to get home in time for Calgarian New Years, although by then it was time to go to bed instead of celebrate all over again.

And so we reach New Years Day. I’m doing great with my resolutions so far: write more blogs, play bagpipes every day (I played yesterday, and will play in a short while), and finish up my university applications (I am now halfway through). I also intend on finishing the puzzle I started right after Christmas, and doing lots of knitting. Perhaps those aren’t proper resolutions, but I figure my chances of going through with them are pretty good!

And so concludes the blog about my Christmas and New Year in Germany. There are things I missed about not being at home, but it was fun to take this year as a chance to try something completely new. I’m so lucky that Sebastien’s family welcomed me for the holidays, and I had no shortage of fun things to do and see.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope your holiday season was filled with good times with loved ones 🙂

Frohes Neues Jahr!

-Robyn

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Es fängt an! (And so it begins…)

Hello all!

As promised, here are all the details about my very first day at work!

While the orientation was exceedingly helpful in providing me with information about what to expect this year, there were a lot of things that could only be answered once I began the actual job. What sort of dress code I would be expected to uphold, if I should address my coworkers with the formal “Sie” or the informal “du”, whether I should let the students know that I speak any German or not. So, while part of me wished that the orientation could have lasted longer (great food, great scenery, great company) I was anxious to actually begin and see what the deal was.

After spending an excruciatingly long time trying to figure out what to wear for my first day, I hopped on a bus to begin my trip to school. Then I hopped on a train. Then finally hopped on a final train. It takes me an hour to get from door to door – I figure I’ll be reading a book per week with all the time it gives me! While Sebastien and I had done a trial run the day before, complete with locating the secretary’s office, it was about 20 times more intimidating to approach the school when there were a ton of kids running around. But I headed straight to the office, and it wasn’t long before I was found by the English teacher I had been communicating with. He introduced himself in English, and we started going over forms and the tasks that I have to complete such as getting a German bank account and registering my address. It’s a bit frustrating that the registration office is booked for a week solid, because I first have to register my address before I can get anything else done! But as of next Monday I can officially get the ball rolling on other things.

The staff there immediately made me feel welcome; I was introduced to various teachers as they were coming in and out of the office, and I was told right away to address people informally with the “du” tense. I had a meeting with the principal, head of the English department, and another teacher to sort out some of my working details. They were surprised that I could speak any German, and the principal was very complimentary at how good my language skills are. We sorted out my schedule for the semester, and I have been given Fridays off so that I can travel or do other things. The earliest that I start work is 8 am, and the latest time I leave at is 1:15.

At the orientation, the program manager had told us that teachers would be very excited to have us there to talk about our cultures, and we should make sure to speak up about anything else we wanted to get involved in. He said that some people in the past got into the band program at the school, or taught the kids about British sports, and some of them would join in on German classes. I definitely underestimated how true this would be! Everyone was very enthusiastic, and I’m pretty sure all the English teachers are fighting over me. The head of the English department recommended that I hold an English speaking class in the afternoons, where we can read a book or watch a movie and discuss it together (of course one teacher figured that the class will only have one or two students in September, and become full when it’s almost exam time). I mentioned that I play bagpipes, and was told that I should definitely take part in a show that will be held in December.

One aspect of the high school I’m working at is that it has a few partner universities – including the university that my boyfriend attends. I’m not sure exactly how this connection works, but when I mentioned the fact that I want to either take a German class at a university, or else join in a German class at the school, the principal was very accommodating. If I decide on what sort of class I would want to take at a university, he could get in touch with the department there to help me out. As for taking German at the school, there is apparently a student from France that is getting private German lessons with one of the teachers, and it would be possible for me to have one on one time with a teacher. And last but not least, I asked if there was any chance that I could volunteer at the school’s library. I’m planning on applying to a Masters in Library Science when I’m back in Canada, and I could use a bit of experience! They told me that the high school does not actually have a library, but they could possibly get in touch with one of their partner universities and see if I could work there. In regards to all of these different things, I’ll have to wait and see how they’ll pan out – but I was absolutely blown away at how willing they were to get me as involved as possible! It made me feel so incredibly welcome, and I’m so excited to start getting into the rhythm of things. Also, I found out that I will be receiving a student card, which will get me a huge discount on my bus pass from now on. Considering that my transportation was one of the larger expenses I was prepared to budget for, I was very happy to learn that!

After some of those details were sorted out, I was shown around the school and told a bit about it; the school is for grades 5-12, and while they don’t have a particular designation as an “Arts School” or “Science School” they do offer Honours classes and a wide variety of sciences. I will be working with grades 7-10; apparently the grade 8s are learning about Canada right now so I should try to prepare an entire lesson based around that (yikes!!) and present it to several grade 8 classes. This week I will do a ten minute introduction of myself for each class, and then spend some time observing what all goes on. I guess often I will do “partner teaching” with the main teacher, which sounds good to me. I have been given my schedule, and tomorrow I have one class from 8-9:30, with grade 7s. I have to be at the school at 7:30, so it looks like I’ll be waking up around 5:30 to prepare for a 6:20 bus. Luckily I won’t be starting quite that early every day!

When I left the school, I was feeling quite confident that this year is going to be a great success. Here is the photo I took as I was leaving:

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When I looked up the website for the school, I saw a photo of it in the fall, with yellow leaves on the trees…I’m really excited to see fall in Germany! I always love summer, but this year is going to be so full of new experiences.

On Friday night, I went out with Sebastien and his friends – it was great seeing them again! One of my friends from the orientation also came out, and it was a lot of fun chatting with him in German. I’m very determined to learn as much German as possible this year, and insist on people speaking with me in German instead of English most of the time.

As for what else is in my immediate future: tomorrow after class, I am going to do a free trial at a gym in downtown Berlin, to see what I think and find out if I could afford to continue going there. I’m a bit anxious about trying to communicate with people in German without Sebastien around, but we’ll see how it goes. Also, on Wednesday I will be attending an orchestra rehearsal, and reviving my long dormant bass-playing skills. Sebastien’s mom has kindly invited me to join her orchestra, and I’m excited (and nervous!) to see how it goes. At the orientation, we were told to say yes to everything we can, so I’m off to a good start!

Wow, that was a lot of writing, and unfortunately I couldn’t think of a lot of visual aids to add. But if you’ve read all the way to the end, I am so extremely appreciative! I’ll be sure to write again soon 🙂

Bis bald,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2013 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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