Since my last journal entry, a lot has happened. I'm sitting here in class, trying to understand what the teachers and students are saying. I've always been that student in class that worries if she gets anything lower than an A so, coming into a new class setting, with a new language, as the new girl, I was so scared of what would happen if I didn't do my homework or didn't pay attention or didn't take the exams; I didn't know what the teachers were expecting of me or what I should be doing. However, sitting here, I can honestly tell you that the way the head mistress explained it was so clear: "You did not come here for the schooling. You have come here to engage with new people, new ways of life, new cultures." This year, you do not need to stress about when your homework was due, or whether you have a test or not.
Besides, your peers, the teachers; they are all really impressed that you're willing to even sit down and pay attention to what they have to say (even though they know you aren't understanding a third of what they are saying). It's impressive; to put yourself in a situation like that; to go through the fear of starting a new life in a different country where you don't know the language. It is an experience that is so important to learn; especially early on, surrounded by people who want to know more about you.
*****TIP #1: LISTEN. When you're in class, listen. Or at least pretend to listen because your teachers will like you so much more if they see that you're actually trying to learn. It earns you respect. You'll be surprised how many words you can actually pick up.
Now, of all my classes, I really try to understand and pay attention in Music, English, German, Gym, French, Choir, Singing, and Religion because I know I can handle them. Also, it is very probable your English teacher will ask you to answer some questions or help them out. However, I am taking online classes but it's honestly a decision you have to make. Take into consideration how much time you think you will have on your hands and how diligent you really are. There is no shame in not graduating on time. If that is one factor holding you back, take it from me, this year is well worth it. Who cares if you graduate a year late?.. You get to live AN ENTIRE YEAR ABROAD!
This exchange is a definite challenge. It is a process. It is slow and at times painful (emotionally, mentally, sometimes physically -believe me, hiking is NOT ANYTHING like what it looked like in sound of music.. You SWEAT. A LOT. And your muscles feel like they might give in at any moment. You walk like you have noodles for legs while an Austrian 5 year old passes you by). Don't feel discouraged if there are other exchange students that speak German better or more fluently. Remember that there is always someone that is better than them too.
*****TIP #2: Speak to your friends IN GERMAN. Your exchange friends; your school friends; your parents' friends'. SPEAK AS MUCH GERMAN AS YOU CAN. When you do this, your friends will kinda take a step back and realize.. "hmmm, this exchange student ACTUALLY WANTS to learn German."
As dumb as you may feel, because, believe me, I feel really REALLY dumb sometimes, do it. You don't sound as bad as you think you do. If you want to get to a state where you can tell jokes fluently in German or speak to your friends without them turning their heads like puppies trying to understand what you're attempting to say, YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE. And starting somewhat kindergarten-ish is where we all start.
It is so vital in this year that you take this seriously and completely submerge yourself into the German language. German TV; German music; German traditions... because if thats not the reason you are doing your exchange, I'd reconsider your decision.
As annoying as this may sound, the best way to learn german is by SPEAKING it. Whenever I would watch videos on how to learn German quickly (which I have learned the hard way is NOT an overnight process), the point people most emphasized was actually SPEAKING GERMAN.
*****TIP #3: Even if you're sentences are as simple as "Was machen wir?" "What are we doing?", your friends will respond to you in German and WANT to include you in their plans because they won't be thinking "Man, this is going to be AWKWARD.. I don't speak good english, she doesn't speak great german... lets just avoid that and NOT invite her."
*****TIP #4: DON'T BE AFRAID OR EMBARRASSED TO ASK QUESTIONS! This is how you will get better. Ask your friends after you've said something in German: "Did that make sense" or "Is that how you would say it?"
*****TIP #5: Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. That is one of the most important pieces of advice my mom ever taught me. Whenever someone speaks to me in German, and I ask them to repeat it, they will usually say it slower or break it down, and even though it sounds perfect to me and I'm like "FINALLYYYYYY!" a lot of other students will find it hilarious! Or when I use a word incorrectly like if I were saying "When I AM four..." they think thats really funny too.Laugh with your classmates when they laugh about the way you speak or the words you use because they'll be like "Heyyy, she's cool! We can joke around with her.." instead of "Oooooooh, maybe we shouldn't have said that..".
When they laugh, I laugh. Even when I don't understand what they're saying, I'll laugh because someone else's laugh makes me laugh.. Theres A LOT of laughing.
*****TIP #6: Say YES to everything you're offered. Believe me, in my first month here, I can honestly tell you I've gone to more places than some people go to in a lifetime.. Restaurants, towns, castles, villas, mountains... The places I've been blessed enough to visit have shown me that, oh my gosh, there is so much of the world that we don't see. So many cultures we don't know of. That reminded me of how important this opportunity is.
You will be blessed enough to see places you can't even begin to imagine; places you thought would have stayed in the past; crumbled away; places you thought never have existed; places that look like they've been plucked out of a universal set from the Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast movies...
*****TIP #7: Try to indulge yourself as much as you can in the culture. Just a couple days ago, I got an Austrian made Dirndl! Surprisingly, a lot of the youth use them in festivals like Volksfest and Oktoberfest.
*****TIP #8: Listen to German and/or Austrian music. My favorites so far have been Julian Le Play and Cro. Cro is EXTREMELY popular here and for good reason.
Start listening to your host countries music! If you tell an Austrian that you love music, the music they refer to is CLASSICAL MUSIC. They will ask you who your favorite composers are and they wouldn't mind you dropping a couple Austrian names into the conversation.
All of this is a learning process. I'm sorry if my journals are long. I just really appreciated it when I got to hear oldies (past exchange students) share their experiences and give us tips. I'll share some of my experiences in a different journal entry!
Till next time,
Bis später alligator:)
Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs