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!