April

 

100 DAYS!

I saw a post a few days ago by an exchange student from the U.S. in my district in Germany. It talked about how they’ve only got 100 days left until they return home. On May the first, I will have spent 100 days in Germany which is pretty crazy. Time is flying and it’s both so exciting and completely terrifying. It’s like the time between each of these reports just get shorter and shorter each month and it feels like it was such a short time ago that me another Australia to Germany exchange student were in Frankfurt airport trying to find our gates and order soup in a coffee cup.

We knew we had no idea what we were doing that day (especially when we walked into the bathrooms at the Frankfurt airport and spent an embarrassingly long time trying to figure out how to use the soap and the paper towel dispenser) and while I don’t think anyone’s actually figured out what’s happening or what they’re doing, that’s just part of the fun.

So much has changed in the past nearly 100 days that there’s really not that much that’s the same as it was in Germany. In Australia I never spoke German and I never had to figure out German bus timetables. Being at Bishop Tyrrell since Kindergarten, I’ve never had to learn to go to a new school or learn the names of the 25 people in my class. But now I’m doing all these things and more and I’ve had an amazing time doing it.

There’s been a lot of hard days when I thought that maybe I would like to sleep in my bed in Australia just once and maybe spend a couple hours with my parents but then I remember all the times where I just couldn’t stop laughing with my friends because of a mistake in my German or even the numerous mistakes that I make in English or like this morning when my neighbour was out for a walk and let me pat his two tiny dogs and then none of that other stuff matters as much anymore.
Like every month, April was packed with some really cool things. This month we had our two-week Easter holidays and my host family invited me to a pony farm where they teach you how to ride a horse. There were over 50 kids there ranging from total beginners (like me) to people who come every year and some who come twice a year. It was my host family’s seventh time at the pony farm as both Lilia and my host mum ride horses. It was six days with an hour in the morning and then another hour again in the afternoon. We also spent half an hour or so each time brushing the horse and getting it ready for riding.
I had never ridden a horse. I assume that learning to a ride horse is hard but I was also doing it mostly in German which caused a couple of misunderstandings but we got there in the end.

My horse was called Emily and was absolutely beautiful. By the last two days we could gallop and I understood a few more German words. You could tell that all the instructors really loved the animals and they were incredibly nice to both them and to us. It was a really good week.

It was ANZAC Day was last week and although I’m not in Australia, I still think it’s an important thing to remember and commemorate. There’s a WWI memorial site only a five-minute walk from my house and so on the 25th I went down and laid some flowers.

A few of you who have added me on snapchat may have seen my attempt at ANZAC biscuits the day before ANZAC Day. As always, it seemed as if my attempt at baking didn’t go quite as well as it could have. For example; I called over my host sister to help with rolling the biscuits and she asked me if I had put in the rolled oats yet because they’re a pretty important part of the biscuit. I had not. There was also the forgetting to put the golden syrup in with the butter until much later than I should have and also the coconut that fell all over the ground. Not my finest hour.

Luckily, they’re pretty hard to mess up and they taste heavenly. There are a couple of things that I think I’ll do differently next time and I have to do it again because there’s a few things I want to try differently and also because I now have a 500 gram bag of rolled oats (yeah, nearly a hundred days and I’m still terrified of German shopping centres).

My parents surprised me this month with a package from Australia. Some of the very exciting things were a few Cabury Easter bilbies for my host family, some chocolate eggs, and Kangaroo, Crocodile, and Emu Jerky. I also now have Vegemite coming out my ears (if anyone in Europe wants to stop by Germany and take some Vegemite, please do-I have so much). There were also some ANZAC biscuits and 1kg of Bundaberg Golden Syrup which I used in mine. Thanks so much Mum and Dad xx

Very exciting news is that Sunday, I’m going on my Eurotour!! It’s 19 days long with heaps of other exchange students. We will travel to six different countries in Europe. We’ll first go to the Czech Republic, then to Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, and then back to Germany for a few days. I’m so excited because I’ve looked at the itinerary and from what German I could understand, it’s going to be great!

There’ll be over 100 exchange students with about half from districts other than my own. We’ll be on two busses with some nights spent in the bus and I’ll be sure to bring my Tim Tams and my Vegemite.

I’ll have my camera with me and I’ll make a post about it once I come back so expect lots of photos!

I’ve got to finish packing now but I’m really excited and there was so much work put in to this by the district organisers and so I know it’s going to be a great time.

The First Rotary Weekend

My rotary district held an exchange student orientation weekend from the 3rd-5th of March in Strauβberg which is only 30kms east of Berlin. The orientation was the one of three with the other the sixty or so exchange students in my district (with one more Orientation in Strauβberg in a few months and the final one in Paris (!!!) towards the end of the year).

We were able to spend a few hours in Berlin before we went to the camp we would stay at and during those hours Harry, Paloma, and I met up with a few more exchange students from the district- some hosted in Berlin and some who travelled by train like us. During those few hours we saw the Reichstag building, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We all chatted for a while while we ate lunch and then it was back to the train station to go to Strauβberg. We arrived at the camp at 6:00 that night and the newbies (3 of us- one New Zealander, one Aussie from Melbourne, and myself) got to talk to some more of the oldies (about 60 from all around the world who have already been in Germany for 6 months).

One part of the orientation was when we were to present our countries to the other exchange students and a few guests- including a few outbounds from that district who will be leaving soon. Some of the countries went alone such as Brazil who did a dance but most paired up with other countries like the USA with Canada who did a sketch on what American school is like in reality and in then movies. A few of the European countries stood up and fought over what country has the best food (of course that ended in the floor being littered in paper drawn to look like pizza and a few baugettes broken from being hit over the Italians’ heads- also I should tell you that all the Italians in this sketch had chefs hats made from a few pieces of paper stuck together with sticky tape). There was also a lot of food like chocolate from Norway or a Mexican lolly called Mazapan.

It all tasted so good but it felt like there was something missing. Something strong and salty but in just the right amounts. Vegemite. I’m sure everyone was estatic that I had brought some along with me from Australia. Most were a bit wary of it, but a few dug right in with their broken baguette pieces. In the end almost everyone tried some and I know of at least 5 out of the 60 people who said they liked it (it is irrelevant that three of those five are made up by two Australians and a New Zealander). Vegemite really is an internationally loved food.

This orientation was the last of the three for the oldies so the next time we’ll be all together like this again is for the Eurotour at the end of May when we will go with another rotary district around Europe for 20 days! (I’ll tell you more about that trip later).

It was a really awesome weekend and it was so good to be able to get to know more of the enchange students around me. I’ve already started planning to meet up with some of them and I can’t wait until we’re all together again for Eurotour. Less than 5o days to go!

Last hours in Australia

It is now less than 17 hours until take-off! I have been, with the help of my parents, packing, unpacking, and repacking my suitcase and am now almost ready to go (with the exception of the last minute Carmello Koalas I still have to shove into my suitcase somewhere). Tip for future packing: probably don’t weigh your suitcase every time you put something new in it.


^ Half way there!

So what did I pack? Nearly 300 badges to share with other Rotarian exchange students, of which about 120 I made myself from the sheepskin scraps I got from my old bosses at Mortels, Tony and Stephanie and the old name badges from my Dad’s travel company All Australian Journeys. It was a big job cutting them all out but hey, they are unique!  Of course there are the obligatory three jars of vegemite, gifts for my host families and friends I meet along the way, and of course the technology: one la top, an ipad, three cameras (down from the planned four), and of course my mobile (I had realised early on the only way I was going to get a mobile before I turned 16 was to go to another country).

packing-vegemite-jess-aitchison

Right now in my host town it is about 35 degrees colder than I have been experiencing for the past month here in Australia so it will be quite the change. I have been talking and getting to know my host family through emails, text, and skype and I am quite excited to be able to meet them in person very soon!

Actually, I’m a bit nervous about the language thing…apparently the four or five hours I have been taking to painstakingly translate my email responses has been a little too effective…my counsellor complimented me on my German yesterday – boy is he in for a shock when he tries to talk to me! Lucky my first host family speaks perfect English…!

So this is my last night with my family before I leave and while I’m going to miss them a lot, I am excited for what’s to come. 


^Before we left for Sydney

I am staying in Sydney tonight before my flight and it’s kind of like a dress rehearsal. I am relieved to find out that the only thing I have forgotten to pack so far is a bangle my mum gave me a few months ago- not my passport. It’s ok because we’ve discussed how it was going to be a pain to get through security while I was wearing it and I don’t want to lose it- it’ll be something to look forward to when coming home 🙂

Fingers crossed that’s the only thing I’ve forgotten. Wait! Where’s my wallet?! Oh yeah, it’s in my bag. Probably time to go to bed before the packing panic really sets in.

I best sign off for now…maybe a bit of German to set the tone…Auf Wiedersehen.