Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

Today is my very last day in Germany. The time has flown by. I have been reflecting a lot on my experience here in Germany these past couple of days. I keep thinking back to this time last year when I wasn't even sure if I was going to participate in the international student teaching program. I am so thankful that I chose to come to Germany and I definitely think I would've regretted it if I had not come. I have learned so much about the world, about teaching, about love and friendship and even about myself.

Just two weeks ago my host family and I were complete strangers other than the little communication I had via Facebook with my host sister, Jule. Now I feel as if I have become a part of their family. I feel so comfortable here and always enjoy spending time with them. It's definitely going to be hard leaving them in about 15 hours. That just gives me a reason to come back and visit though! I've developed lifelong friendships with my host family, with our coordinator, Heike Armbrust (who is amazing by the way) and with the other students in our group.

This experience has obviously widened my perspective on the world. It has inspired me to want to travel to all of the places I do want to visit. Prior to this experience, I didn't think it was possible to go visit all of the places I want to see but now I know it is possible! This experience has given me confidence in being able to travel internationally but it has also given me confidence in myself in general. During this experience, we were thrown into situations where we had to adapt. We were thrown into a host family that we did not know. We were thrown into classrooms with students who spoke a different language than we did. We were thrown into another culture that was unfamiliar to us. I now can say with full confidence that I can handle any obstacle that is thrown my way. This experience has not only given me confidence in my ability to be a distinguished teacher but it has given me an immense amount of confidence in myself in general. It was the perfect ending to my college career and it has made me extremely excited to see what my future holds. I know this is only the beginning of life's adventures and I cannot wait to experience all of the others! I will be leaving Germany tomorrow at 3 A.M. with a heart full of love and gratitude. The memories I have made here in Europe will be something no one can ever take away from me. For now, tschüss!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Monday was my very first day at the primary school or what we call elementary school. I couldn't wait to finally be working with the younger children. Stephanie, Ashley and myself are at the same primary school. We have our own classroom and the teachers bring their classes to us. We teach grades 1 through 4 at this school. We had originally planned to play some games with them such as Sparkle but little did we know, they would not be able to understand the game. We didn't even think about how basic our directions and speech would have to be. It is especially challenging to talk to the Year 1 students who only know basic colors and counting to 10. Luckily the teachers are in the room and can help translate to the students so they understand what we are saying. On Monday we did basic introductions and had all the students say, "My name is ____ and I am ___ years old." They all did very well with this activity. Then we did a color scavenger hunt in the room. We asked the students to find an object in the room that was blue or red and they pointed to it. They enjoyed this activity very much. On Tuesday, we taught weather to the 2nd grade students. We brought a song about weather and hand motions to go along with the lyrics. They absolutely loved it! When I witnessed how excited they were about the song, I instantly felt so accomplished inside. They were starting to understand the basic weather terms such as cloudy, sunny, rainy, etc. After completing the weather activities with the students, I gained so much confidence as a teacher. Even on the first day I was very anxious and felt very lost on what to do with students who did not even understand me. After we finally understood that we were going to have to keep it very basic, use hand gestures and act out what we were trying to say, we finally started to adapt to these new challenges. It felt absolutely amazing to overcome that challenge. I now feel much more confident in my ability to differentiate instruction in my future classroom for my ELL learners.

On Monday night, my host dad, Peter, and I went to Munster. Peter drove on the Autobahn in his Audi and we hit 250 km/hr which is approximately 155 mph. It was an adrenaline rush and I loved it! In Munster we walked around the city square and even went inside an old Catholic church. It was massive! There were 3 cages at the very top of the steeple where they would put people inside. After we walked around the square, we went to a restaurant called Ja Piano! It was an Italian restaurant that had mainly pasta and pizza. I ordered the scampi pasta--it was absolutely amazing! On Tuesday afternoon, my family and Tyler's host family (they are cousins) went together to see a couple of castles in nearby cities. They were absolutely beautiful. Can I come back and get married at the "mini Versailles"? Today is my host mom, Rita's, birthday. Last night at midnight we celebrated with champagne and I gave her the book and card I bought her for her birthday. She loved it! Today we had cake and coffee around 4:30. Peter and Rita's parents came over to celebrate. It has been a great day! I've gotten very close to my host family this week and the thought of having to leave next week makes me very sad. I definitely couldn't have asked for a better host family. I cannot wait to see my family and friends back home though! Really starting to miss my family and best friends. So many mixed emotions going through me right now! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Magical Time in Paris, FranceI bou

On Thursday morning (May Day, a holiday in Europe), Ashley and I boarded the train in Werne to leave for Paris, France. That morning my host dad came into my room at 8:00 AM so that we could all eat breakfast together before Jule left for her festivities that day. I finished packing, showered and we left for Paris! I was very anxious about the trip. I was quite nervous about just the two of us traveling to another country alone. Would the metro systems in Paris be confusing? Would we make all of our trains on time? Would we be able to find our hotel once we got into Paris? A million questions were running through my mind. Around 4:30 we arrived in Paris at the Paris Nord station. We bought a 5-day metro pass and found the route to our hotel. Our hotel was located near the Arc de Triomphe. We found our hotel very easily, went up into our room and settled into our new home for the weekend. It started to rain very heavily once we got into our hotel so we did not venture out into the city that night. We had packed sandwiches and chips earlier that morning so we ate those for dinner.

On Friday, we were going to explore Paris! I could not believe I was actually in Paris. It seemed like a dream honestly. First, we ate lunch at a deli on the Champs de Elysses and then we walked through the different shopping stores along the street. We went into a chocolate store and I wanted to buy everything! We went into an H&M and some other French stores. After we finished looking around the shopping stores, we decided we wanted to go visit Notre Dame. We determined which routes to take on the metro and after walking around a block once or twice, we finally found Notre Dame. It was absolutely beautiful! It was such a neat experience since I taught my 6th graders at Natcher Elementary about Notre Dame during my student teaching. The cathedral was even more beautiful as it is in photographs. We decided not to go inside since the line was extremely long and it was rainy. We wanted a creppe so we found a cute little cafe on the corner of a street where they served creppes. I ordered a peach creppe and Ashley ordered a chocolate creppe. Mine was very delicious! After we finished eating we went back to the hotel and waited for Jennay and Stephanie to arrive in Paris. We were all 4 going to visit the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower that afternoon/night. After Jennay and Stephanie texted us telling us that they were finally in Paris, we decided to meet them at the Louvre. Once Ashley and I arrived at the Louvre, we took several pictures and walked around the area to look at the different buildings. We finally found Jennay and Stephanie so we went inside. You had to enter the glass pyramid and go underground to enter the museum. We actually got into the museum for free since we were under 26 years old and it was Friday night. We were thrilled that we did not have to pay! We found the famous Mona Lisa--it was very small and was fenced off. The crowd of people around the painting was unreal. We saw some other famous works of art and then left the museum. We decided then that we wanted to go see the Eiffel Tower--I was so giddy that I felt like a small child! By the time we made it to the Eiffel Tower, it was dark outside. The Eiffel Tower was absolutely beautiful but little did we know it would be even more gorgeous at the very top! We waited in line about an hour and finally made our way to the very top. The view was incredible! I didn't think I was afraid of heights but as soon as I got to the very top, my stomach felt a little uneasy. It was probably the coolest experience I have ever done in my life! We left the Eiffel Tower around 11:30 and went back to our hotel. Ashley and I got McDonalds on the way home since we hadn't had dinner. It was such an amazing day in Paris!

On Saturday, we wanted to go to the Palace of Versailles. We bought our metro ticket to travel to Versailles and hopped on the train. It was very tricky figuring out how to get out there but we made it. We only were able to tour the palace--we could not go to the gardens. I was disappointed that we had gotten there too late to buy the garden tickets. The palace was the most lavish thing I had ever seen! It blew my mind that someone actually lived there! The Hall of Mirrors was amazing. Had to take a selfie there of course. After we left the Palace of Versailles, we went back to Paris and walked around several shops downtown. I bought some super cute wedges at a shop downtown. By the end of the day, I was sad that our time in Paris had come to an end but I was excited to see my host family again the next day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

First Week in Werne, Germany

Sorry I haven't been able to post much! I stay very busy in Europe! I will update you on what has been happening since my last post. On April 27, we rode trains from Berlin to Werne, Germany. I was sad to leave Berlin because I loved it there but I was also very excited to meet my host family. Our host families were going to be waiting for us at the train station when we arrived. Once we boarded the very last train from Dortmund to Werne, I started to get very nervous. A lot of thoughts were going through my mind. I don't think I really thought about living with a host family until this very second. As we were getting off the train, I recognized my host family waiting for me (Peter, my host dad, had sent me a family picture via email a couple of months prior to the trip). They greeted me with hugs and smiles. Peter, Rita (my host mom), Jule (my host sister) and Malte (my host brother) were all there. We got into the car and drove a block down the street to our house. It is a 2-story brick house with a beautiful backyard (as they call it the garden). They showed me my room and it had a "Welcome Amber" sign on the door. They gave me a tour of the house and even told me I would have my own bathroom. I was pretty pumped about that, can't lie! Peter told me that dinner would be ready in about 30 minutes. We had lamb, white asparagus and potatoes. I hadn't had lamb before this and I ended up loving it! After eating and talking to my family, I knew it was going to be the perfect fit for me! They are extremely nice, welcoming and willing to do whatever to make me feel comfortable! I couldn't ask for a better host family. After dinner, Jule and I walked to Anne-Frank-Gymnasium, the school that Heike teaches at. It is a 3 minute walk from my house which is extremely convenient. After we walked there, I came back, unpacked my clothes and FaceTimed some of my family and friends. It was a great first night at my new German home!

Monday through Wednesday we had school at Anne-Frank-Gymnasium which is a school that has grades 5 through 12. We did not actually go to a classroom on the first day. The German news crew came to film us that morning. We all went to the Werne city square and filmed some segments. We even got some ice cream in a parlor downtown. It was yummy! Germany knows what they are doing when it comes to ice cream. After filming we went back to the school and it was time for lunch. Heike gave us a chip that we would scan to get lunch each day. The lunch was a buffet style. They have a pizza bar, pasta bar, salad bar, hot meal and desert bar every day. After school, Jule and I went downtown on our bikes to see the city square. It is such a cute town square and anything you could ever need is there. On Tuesday, we actually got to go into the classrooms to observe English classes. I enjoyed observing the different classrooms! An acting company from England came to their school that day to perform the play, Romeo and Juliet, and we actually got to watch it! It was in English by the way! That night I went to handball practice with Jule and I actually practiced with her! Well for half of the practice hehe. It was pretty intense but fun nonetheless! On Wednesday, we were with Heike for the first two lessons of the day. She had warned us that she would throw us into teaching when we were in her classroom. She taught the 7th grade class past perfect verb tenses and then gave them some exercises to do. All 6 Elementary Education major students were in her room that day. She came to back of the room where we were sitting and asked us who wanted to teach first. I volunteered to go first (thought I might as well go for it!) I went over the answers of their exercise with them and told them to form sentences with past perfect verb tenses on their own. After they created their own, we shared the sentences. They created some great sentences. I had fun teaching them! After I finished teaching, Ashley and Stephanie went over another set of problems with them. After the two lessons, we were finished for the day! Ashley and I came back to my house. She was going to stay at my house that night since we were leaving for Paris that next morning. We came back from school and ended up taking a 3 hour nap, woops! After this, we ate lunch and went into town with my host mom. We went to the supermarket to buy breakfast for the next morning and went to the bank to withdraw money from the ATM for our trip. That night we played the German version of the board game "Sorry". It was such a fun night! The game ended around 10:45 PM and I hadn't started packing yet! Surprise, surprise! I packed my stuff for Paris and we went to sleep to prepare for our weekend adventure!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

First Week in Berlin!

It is now Day 4 in Berlin, Germany and we have done soooo much! I haven't had free WiFi much because in our hotel we are only given 30 minutes free a day between Ashley and I in our room. All of you all in America, be thankful for free WiFi in public places because there isn't much here in Germany. Oh and there also aren't free public restrooms..yep that's right you heard me, you have to pay to use the restroom here. Insane. But I wanted to share my day to day adventures with you all so here it goes!

On Tuesday, our plane landed in the Berlin airport. It was an extremely smooth plane ride. We hit some turbulence but not much at all. I expected to be able to see the Atlantic Ocean but all we could see were the clouds we were flying over. I didn't sleep much on the flight. I think the exhaustion caught up to me because at the end of the flight, I felt nauseous. I got sick at the end of the flight and ended up staying sick that whole day. Heike, our German coordinator (who is amazing might I add) brought me a Coca Cola to help my stomach. Although it tasted very good, it did not really help my stomach. I had to lay in the hotel bed all day because of the nausea.

On Wednesday, I was extremely thankful to be feeling much better! We woke up and went downstairs to the breakfast buffet. It is definitely one of the perks of our hotel! There are everything from muffins to bacon to fruit on it. And it's included in our stay here. Our hotel is located near a train station which is very convenient. We hopped on the train and got off at the main train station in downtown Berlin. We took a short walk to the Reichstag building (Germany's Capital building). The building has a huge lawn in front of it where people were sitting and taking pictures. It was a very beautiful building and the German phrase on the front of it meant 'For the German people'. We actually were able to go inside the building and even venture to the very top. The top of the bulding is a glass dome where you can get a pretty incredible view of the entire city. After we spent some time at the top of the building, we got the chance to meet a couple of guys who work for the woman who represents Werne. This was one of my fave parts of the day because one of the guys was veryyy attractive. Actually his name was Stefan (it even sounds beautiful). After we went to the Reichstag, we ate a snack in the cafeteria and walked around the town for an hour or so. Then we went to dinner as a group. I ordered a salad because I was still full from the snack we had. After dinner, some of the group ventured into the city to find some pubs to hang out in. We found one after walking around for a bit and hung out there.

On Thursday, we went on a 5 hour bike tour through Potsdam. I was feeling very anxious for this adventure. I hadn't rode a bike in years so I wasn't sure how well it would go but it ended up being very fun! It was more of a leisure ride than a fast-paced ride. We ended up riding 12 kilometers total! We actually got the chance to visit the place where the Potsdam Conference took place-that was very cool to me! We ate lunch in a cafe that used to be a dairy farm. I ordered a hashbrown dish, after Heike translated the menu for us. It was hashbrowns that were topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of applesauce. It was an interesting meal. After lunch, we rode our bikes to Frederick the Great's palace. It was massive! I could not believe someone actually had lived there. After the bike ride, we rode the train downtown and grabbed dinner. I tried currywurst for the first time. I can't really say that I liked it too much but I can at least say I tried it, right?! After dinner, Ashley and I rode the train back to our hotel and rested. Trust me, I was exhausted!

On Friday, we woke up, ate breakfast and then rode the train downtown. We had a walking tour scheduled for in the morning. We met our tour guide and started our tour at the Brandenburg Gate. We learned that the Brandenburg Gate signified freedom to the Germans and was the gateway between the East and West parts of Germany during the time that the Berlin Wall was up. Hotel Aldo was located near the Brandenburg Gate which is where Micheal Jackson held his baby out the window (thought that was pretty fascinating). After visiting the Brandenburg Gate, we went to the Holocaust Memorial site. We were allowed 20 minutes to walk through it. It had rows of concrete slabs, some very tall and others very short. The pathways would curve up and down and it was almost like a maze. I felt very lost, confused and empty walking through it. After visiting this, we walked to the French Dome, the German Dome and a fancy musical hall. We then had lunch at a cafeteria inside a shopping mall. It was buffet style and I accidentally ended up spending 17 Euro on my meal (which is ALOT). After dinner, we split up and visited the East Side Gallery. This was where different artists had taken sections of the wall and painted on it. Ashley and I then wanted to go to the Potsdamer Platz so we took the train (all by ourselves might I add) and found a nice little restaraunt downtown with cute little umbrellas outside. They even had English menus for us! We ordered a desert to share and I ordered a Berliner beer with lemonade mixed in. It was delish! After sitting there awhile, we decided we were hungry so we ordered some food too. We took a bus back to our hotel and ended up figuring out how to play Frozen on my laptop. The perfect ending to the perfect day!

This morning we went to a concentration camp called Sachsenhausen. I have always wanted to visit a concentration camp since I started learning about the Holocaust in middle school. We got there and paid 3 Euro for an audioguide that was in English and a map. We walked along a path to the entrance of the camp and walked through the gate. There was a German phrase on gate which meant 'Work Liberates'. I did not expect to feel the way I did when I walked through the gate. It felt very heavy and haunting. The audiotape said that 200,000 prisoners went through this camp and 12,000 died there. It was very eery but I am glad I was able to experience it. After the camp, we rode the train back into town and ate lunch at a cafe in Tiergarten. Ashley and I split a club sandwich and french fries. It was delish! After eating, we walked through a flea market and then headed back toward our hotel which is where I am now! We are going to dinner tonight and then we are leaving Berlin tomorrow for Werne. I am so excited to meet my host family and teach at the local elementary school! I will try to post more soon with pictures!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Counting Down the days, hours and minutesss

Guten tag! 

My name is Amber. I'm an Elementary Education major and a soon-to-be graduate of Western Kentucky University. Crossing my fingers for a teaching job come August (might want to cross my toes too). Before I graduate, I am flying across the globe allll the way to Germany to complete the final lap of my student teaching! To say I'm excited is an understatement. I have been extremely blessed with my two student teaching placements so far--2nd grade at Briarwood Elementary and then 6th grade at Natcher Elementary. I have absolutely fallen in love with this career and the students. They make my heart so happy and I now know more than I ever have before that this is EXACTLY what God wanted me to do in life and what my purpose is in this life. 

Soo let's cut to the chase. On Monday, at 8:55 AM, this small town girl will be boarding an airplane en route to Germany--can't wrap my mind around that still! But I do have several things to do before I am even remotely prepared for this trip. It's Friday, haven't started packing. Typical Amber. Actually I haven't even done the laundry I need to do to be able to pack so that's going to be my Friday night. Nonetheless, I'm excited to go home this weekend and enjoy the last few days with my family and friends until I'm all the way across the world. No big deal. Although I have no idea what to expect in Germany, I am completely ready to immerse myself in the culture and let this experience change my life. This is an experience of a lifetime and I plan on making the absolute most of it. Of course I wouldn't even have this opportunity without the love, support (and lets be honest here, funds) of my family, especially my mom and dad, and my friends. I can't wait to share my adventures with you all :)