Maggie, Outbound to Austria

Language Camp

So in Austria all the Inbounds go to a Sprachkurs, or language camp for two weeks. It’s a time for the students to really learn german basics and to get to know each other. It was held at a boarding school on this beautiful lake called Traunsee. The first night we arrived, we were interviewed to determine which level class we should be in: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Initially, I was put into the advanced class (A big thanks to D6970 for all the language prep)! However, after one day of that class I asked to be switched into intermediate. We were going over more advanced grammar in only german in the advanced class, and while I could keep up, I felt like it wasn’t going to be very beneficial for my progress. After a few days of being in the intermediate class, I knew I made a great decision. I was learning SO MUCH and building a really strong foundation for my language skills. Also, I really bonded with my teacher. Her name is Kathi and she went on exchange to Australia with RYE and now she is a middle school teacher. She was so helpful with questions about German and exchange! She used her vacation from teaching, to teach! Her service made a pretty big impact on me. Honestly, I am so grateful for the Rotexes involved with Rotary here in Austria and back home in Florida. I was so glad to have her as my Lehrerin (teacher)! My schedule everyday went as the following:

Frühstück (Breakfast): 7:30

Unterricht (classes): 8:15-11:30

Mittagessen + Pause (Lunch and Break): 12:00

Unterricht (More classes): 1:30-300

Freizeit (Free time): 3:00-6:00

Abendessen (Dinner): 6:00

Unterricht (Study Hall): 8:00-9:00

Licht Aus (Light‘s out): 10:00

During my free time, I went swimming in Traunsee and to cafes with my friends. A lot of students weren’t thrilled about how much time we spent in class, but honestly it was my favorite part of camp! On the weekend, we had some really fun activities that Rotary provided for us. On Saturday we went on a really nice hike with a beautiful view! And on Sunday we went to the infamous Hallstatt. Hallstatt is this stunning Austrian town in Upper Austria. It’s also the first picture that pops up when you google Austria. In the morning we went into a prehistoric salt mine and went on-wait for it-Europe‘s longest underground slide! It was pretty cool guys. For lunch we picnicked on the mountain, and afterwards we hiked down. In the afternoon, we had time to ourselves to explore the beautiful town of Hallstatt. I had been looking forward to seeing this town for so long, and it did not disappoint! I think my favorite part of the day was going to and from Hallstatt. The view on the drive was sehr schön! While the first week felt like my entire exchange year, the second week flew by so fast! During the two weeks I was becoming very impatient with myself. I just wanted to be able to express myself in German. I wanted to speak freely in my host language. However, I didn’t realize how much German I was actually gaining. Things were slowly starting to sink in. By Saturday when my host mom and sister picked me up, we dove right into the German-and I was able to keep up. Of course they kept it pretty simple, but I was able to understand almost everything and reply! When I didn’t understand something, I would ask for them to clarify (In German) and they would find a simpler way to explain it (Also in German!). Later that day we had dinner with some family friends and I was able to keep up a whole conversation about politics, exchange, history, etc. with a really nice, older woman I had never met before. Was my german perfect? No. Not even close. I sounded like an American, attempting to speak another language-but I just went for it! I cared more about what I was saying and less about how I was saying it. While my two weeks of Sprachkurs taught me a lot grammatically, it mainly just gave me the confidence to speak a new language. I am so thankful to Rotary Austria for having this language camp for the Inbounds. It has really jumpstarted my language progress. I also want to thank RYE Florida and D6970 for all the training I was given. Every little thing I was taught or required to do, from the Research Paper to how to address Rotarians, was so helpful! In places where other exchange students were confused or struggling, I knew exactly what to do. Vielen Dank Rotary!

Advice for future OB‘s to Austria:

Focus- While language camp is about bonding with other exchange students and having fun, it is also a great opportunity to advance your language skills! When you’re in class pay attention!

Ask questions- At school in America, it can be easy to just stay in the back and not ask questions. Usually if you don’t understand something, you can fake it till you make it; but here, you’re in a foreign country learning a foreign language! If you don’t understand when to use Akkusativ or Dativ, or how to conjugate Reflexive Verbs, just ask. You’re here for one year, and there’s just not enough time to be embarrassed over a "dumb question".

It’s okay to ask for help- I’m a very independent person and I always hate asking for help. I guess I just don’t like being a burden. The thing is though, that you can’t figure everything out by yourself, especially on exchange! My dad once told me, "You will never get to know your neighbor if you don't ask to borrow a cup of sugar." And this is so true! Asking for help will not only clarify things for you, but also help you get to know more people on your exchange.

Take advantage of your time now- You are going to hear it a billion times: Learn the language. Let this be the time that it sticks! I thought I did really well when it came to learning the language. I studied often, I could talk a little bit with german speakers. I learned how to sound like I knew German (to non-speakers), and it helped with Rotary training, but once I got here I was really lost! And with that being said...

Learn vocab- When you get here, you will learn sentence structure and grammar, but the most important thing that you can learn now is vocabulary. Make flash cards, label things in your house, find sets on online, and make sure that when you learn the vocab, you learn the word, the article, and how to make it plural.

Show some Gratitude- The teachers who are there for you are volunteering two weeks of their vacation to teach you german! Bring some Thank You stationery and some American candy. Learn how to say thank you in german! The first german word I was taught by RYE Florida was “Dankbar”. It means grateful. You can also show your gratitude through your actions. Always be on time, stay positive, and follow directions. Don’t be one of those stereotyped, “disrespectful, complaining Americans”. The people at this camp help determine if you can go on trips or not, or go to places on your own. How you behave in these two weeks will also affect how easy they will make it for you to travel.

Well that’s all for now. Next week I start school in Austria! Bis Später Alligator!

Click HERE to read more about Maggie and all her blogs