Colliding worlds

Picture the scene. You have more than a decade of learning a foreign language behind you, you’ve lived for an extended period of time in a country where it’s spoken and survived without any major hitches, and now you’re in need of a bit of cash. Feeling lucky, you decide to apply to your chosen country’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and hey presto, you’re accepted! It’s a foolproof method; at home you always manage to get the questions right up to about £50,000, and besides you’ll have the 3 lifelines to help you along the way. Deep breath, here we go. First question for €100:

What would go through the head of an English groundskeeper if a flare got set off in the stands once again?

A: Zewa  |  B: o.b  |  C: Kleenex  |  D: Always Ultras

Err…OK, back to the drawing board.

Fear not, I haven’t gone bust and humiliated myself on German TV, this was a question posed to us 2 weeks ago at Schloss Dhaun, the famous meeting of all of the Warwick University German students currently abroad. While all of the other Leizpig assistants who go to other universities had begun stressing out about dissertation deadlines, I wandered off to a castle in Rheinland Pfalz for the weekend to do translation, literary analysis and discussion by day, and have a good time with all my old uni friends and lecturers by night. A unique feature of Warwick’s German degree, it’s often slated as the highlight of our time at university and I have to admit that that’s probably true. The castle was in a beautiful location, we all had the chance to catch up with the people we haven’t seen for the best part of the year, and thanks to some pretty challenging work (which, to my surprise, was quite enjoyable) it got us in gear for final year, which is looming ever closer! A word of advice for those wanting to study German but not sure where to apply: go for Warwick auf jeden Fall! It really is the best department ever and it feels much more like a family than a bunch of people who just happen to study the same subject. Where else could you spend an all-expenses paid weekend catching up with old friends and dancing with lecturers into the small hours?

The reason we were asked the question above was to highlight a slightly depressing fact: despite the fact that we can at the very least survive here, we will never truly fit in in Germany. Coming on a year abroad is like two worlds – our British one and the unfamiliar German one – colliding, and although we can do our best to understand it, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever become integrated enough to be able to answer the easy questions on Who Wants to be a Millionaire that rely on you having a lifetime of cultural knowledge. Having said that, a really strange thing happened on the way back from Dhaun – as I got off the train in Leipzig and emerged to a beautifully sunny day with the trams thundering past, the city centre towering in the distance and Saxony accents everywhere, I felt as if I was coming home! I might not be able to master it completely, but this strange little world for all its quirks has become very comfortable. And of course, the German kids at my schools can benefit from this collision of cultures, too:

This will probably only make sense to readers from Corby, but you have no idea how long I'd been waiting for an opportunity to teach this!

This will probably only make sense to readers from Corby, but you have no idea how long I’d been waiting for an opportunity to teach this!

There have been some other very welcome reminders of home lately; these include a trip to Amsterdam with Jess from university, a visit from my coursemates, Tom and Marie, last weekend and in 2 weeks time, a long-awaited visit from my parents.

Further off into the future, I’ve got some more trips coming up including Konstanz on the Swiss border, a school trip to Berlin and possibly a mini-excursion into Poland. Lots to write about then! Bis zum nächsten Mal.


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