October sure came quickly! The city has been bustling in preparation for the big Reformation Day celebration (October 31st). On October 18th a new American-style shopping mall opened. It has been very busy; I still prefer the charm of the small shops down Collegienstrasse.
Phase two of my grand German adventure, my first clinical teaching placement, has ended. My last day teaching at Lucas Cranach Gymnasium was bittersweet; I was sad to leave my wonderful students and colleagues, but excited to begin my second placement. My last meeting with the headmaster at LCG confirmed that I will always have friends to visit when I return to Wittenberg.
Now begins phase three of my adventure; on Monday I will start my second clinical teaching placement at Evangelische Grundschule. I have moved back to my first host family (location, location, location), and look forward to the next nine weeks here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
I have had many opportunities to travel, most of which have been last minute (last minute trips are the best, in my opinion). I spend a lot of time with my friend, Claudia. Originally from Italy, she is in Wittenberg on her European Voluntary Service. The EVS is a chance for students to gain valuable work experience before jumping into the “real world.” While it is unpaid, volunteers receive a stipend for living expenses. Many Europeans take advantage of this service, and for good reason!
The last weekend in September Claudia and I traveled to Prague, Czech Republic. What a beautiful city! We saw the famous Charles bridge, castle, and cathedral. Although it rained the entire day, we were able to enjoy our tour! Claudia has a friend who studies in Prague, and he gave us a “behind the scenes,” informal tour; a city is best explored in the company of a local!
I also traveled to Leipzig last weekend with some friends. The highlights of the trip included a tour of the Stasi Museum and dinner at Auerbachs Keller. The Stasi Museum, is located in the original Staatssicherheit headquarters. There we were able to get an inside look at the former East German secret police. It’s amazing what lengths the police went to behind the Iron Curtain. Regarding Auerbachs Keller, legend has it Goethe once dined there…all I can say is that the food was Fantastic!
Although I sometimes still feel the pangs of homesickness, I have come to feel at home here in Wittenberg. My host family has become like a real family to me and I am comfortable here; I wave at familiar faces on the street, joke with my colleagues, smile at the groups of tourists coming to see Luther’s city…My German is still developing, but almost everyone I try to speak German with is willing to help me learn! I find myself asking my students “der? die? das?…” Student teaching in a new culture has been as much of a learning experience for me as it is for my students!
One preconceived notion that has been challenged since I’ve been here is the directness of the German language and culture that I’d confused with impoliteness. I had an “aha” moment when my host father told me that sarcasm doesn’t exist in German. In MN, I have found that it’s very common to be circular and indirect in conversations. However, I’ve learned that the direct-nature of the German language is not impolite. In fact, politeness is almost demanded in cultural settings; for example, formal registers are strictly adhered to until participants in interactions agree to speak informally to one another (Sie vs. Du). Living with two different host families has been the source of my greatest learning experiences here.
I look forward to traveling to Poland next weekend, southern Germany in November, and all the other impromptu trips I am sure will come.