UK-German Connection Trip to Thüringen

The UK-German Connection is an organisation “dedicated to increasing contacts and understanding between young people in the UK and Germany”.  As part of its work there is a ‘calendar of opportunities’ throughout the year ranging from ‘Host a German Teacher’ to ‘Magical Christmas Trips’ and of course longer study trips to Germany.  Why not take a lot at the list of ‘German Pupil Courses’ here.  Ben Bonnici, an A-Level student studying German went on a UK-German Connection trip this summer – here he tells us more.

I found the UK-German Connection trip to Thüringen incredibly useful in helping me improve my German skills, as well as intriguing, as I discovered many interesting cultural quirks during my two week stay.

In my group there were 12 people from all over the UK, including Northern Ireland! We flew to Frankfurt Airport and then drove the remainder of the journey to a small town called Friedrichroda. The town was beautiful, surrounded by verdure and mountains. I stayed with a lovely host family for the duration of the trip, and they were fantastic in the way they completely immersed me in their regional culture. I ate countless types of sausages over the two weeks, but my favourite kind was the Thüringen Bratwurst (which tasted even better with a dash of Senf!).

UK-German Connection enthusiasts in Friedrichsroda!

Every day, I took the bus in to school with my Gastschwester and attended a few hours of German grammar lessons with the group of 10 from the UK. After the morning session, we would then sit in on lessons with our hosts, and it could be any subject. It was quite amusing sitting in on an English lesson, and interesting to see how they taught the language. In the afternoons after eating our packed lunches, that usually consisted of Schwarzbrot sandwiches with all kinds of meat, the UK group would then go on some kind of outing, whether it be visiting a castle, or going to a local primary school to teach English to the children there! My favourite outing was the Erlebnis Bergwerk Merkers, a visit to a salt mine 800m underground, where we got driven around in the endless labyrinth of mining tunnels.

Meeting one of the locals in Thüringen

Due to the constant exposure to the language, I found that by the end of the first week, I had started thinking in German, which unsettled me at first, but was also quite amazing. By the end of the second week, my German had improved a lot and I really felt like I had a much deeper understanding and appreciation of both the language and the culture of Germany.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is currently learning German and would like to further improve their linguistic skills, whilst having a lot of fun and making friends in the process.

Ben Bonnici, Magdalen College School, Oxford

Reflections on my first year studying German at Oxford

Back in Michaelmas Term 2015 (Autumn/Winter 2015) some Student Ambassadors suggested that OGN launch a blog.  And that’s exactly what we did!  In this post Zoe Aebischer, one of those students, reflects on the first post she wrote for OGN and indeed on her whole first year studying German at Oxford.

I’ve just looked back at the first blog post I wrote at the beginning of my first year studying German, and I am shocked/amazed/confused that the year has passed so quickly and I am now only a few days away from starting second year (eek!). I arrived in Oxford having read very little German literature, so the fact that I have now read works by German philosophers, playwrights, poets and novelists, ranging from being written in approximately 1190 (‘Gregorius’ by Hartmann von Aue, an epic poem, the plotline of which was always amusing to explain to my friends) up to 1975 (‘Einen Jener Klassischen’ by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann), has taught me that you can achieve a lot more than you ever thought possible. It definitely helps build your confidence knowing that you can, you can do more than “just” recite a list of vocab in a foreign language (although that’s still something I need to work on…), but can analyse a poem or write an essay on the narrative voice of a novel written in a foreign language.

Views of Oxford and Worcester College

I think the most important thing I’ve learnt in the last year (other than how to include German puns in as many places as possible, or how to…endure…a two and a half hour philosophy seminar while being ill with the flu) is that, although Oxford is at times incredibly overwhelming, pressure-piling and demanding, every other student is in exactly the same position, and this leads to the creation of some really close and supportive friendships. There is also, of course, time to squeeze in things that are fun and relaxing, such as dressing up for the colourful and chaotic college bops or going to see poetry slams by Julia Engelmann (if you haven’t already, I would highly recommend looking her up on YouTube!).

And so I go into second year feeling generally positive: I’m looking forward to helping my college children (new first year students) navigate life at Oxford; to many more amusing moments in German classes (I’m reminded of the time in a translation class when we were given a chunk of text in English: one person translated it into German, then passed it to the next person who translated it back into English, then to another person who translated this sentence into German and so on until we had gone round the whole group – somehow from ‘The fog came pouring  in at every chink and keyhole’ we ended up with ‘Chaos permeated every chimney and every keyhole’… ok so perhaps it’s not that funny, but it’s these kinds of moments that bring a bit of light to your day.) I’m even (sorry to any medieval German enthusiasts reading this) looking forward to studying more medieval German texts – despite my initial sensation of pure fear when, last year, I saw the medieval German text on my reading list.

Best of luck to everyone starting or continuing at Oxford this year!

 Zoe Aebischer, Worcester College, Oxford