So time is passing, and with it the end of my exchange draws ever
nearer. I can’t say I am looking forward to returning quite yet,
rather I am intent on a little more time in the paradise that has been
my year in a home away from home. For that is what it feels like now.
Home. I can never place it above our land down under, for that is my
true home and there is no comparison to be made; but nevertheless,
there is a strange bond connecting me to this place. It is one that
has resulted from a relationship between myself and the world around
me. How I interact with my friends at school, the love my host family
has shown me by treating me as one of their own, and the vast network
of exchange students that has made my exchange the most exciting time
of my life. Although my last few weeks are approaching, let’s
concentrate on the past, as I attempt to recount the various happening
which have occurred most recently.

Rather reluctantly it seems, the weather has finally decided to make a
notable shift into the winter cycle. Over the past few weeks, the days
have become cooler and darker. I find it a rather oppressive
atmosphere, something the other students from the Southern Hemisphere
definitely agree with. A 0630 wake up most mornings for school greets
me with a dark sky and a frosty air that chills to the bone, requiring
me to put several layers of clothing on just to prevent my body
becoming numb on the ten minute bicycle ride to school. My host mother
commented rather deviously that the worst is yet to come and it will
most likely be more than twice as bad as what we are experiencing now.
Yay! Europe… Although the weather is making a fairly decent attempt
at keeping us indoors, my best friend and I have been running almost
everyday through the city, in order to remain fit in these harsh

But enough about the weather! School is going well for me. I am
beginning to understand most of what the teachers are telling the
class, though learning does come quite reluctantly to my brain, which
has decided to take the year off. I just hope it remembers to switch
back on when I begin university late February. I am now in the 13th
grade and have picked up a Spanish course. I have been learning a lot
of Spanish with the Latin American exchange students and am doing
quite well. Though the class is in its third year of Spanish, I am not
finding it too difficult to follow, and my trusty translator never
goes astray. Other than that, nothing much more interesting to say
about school, except that it will be ending in two and a half weeks;
something I am very excited about. After the Christmas break I will
have just a few more days of school before my return flight.

Which brings me to my next topic; Christmas. The season is approaching
and there are signs everywhere that, in just a few weeks, St. Nick
will be visiting to drop a thing or two off to every family. Each city
has set up Christmas markets for the month and it is very common to
find the city full of people, waddling through the city in their five
hundred layers of clothing, shopping for gifts and the like. Though I
am sure there are several people exploiting the warmth in the city
center generated by so many bodies. I have yet to do my shopping, but
there is plenty of time left for that I’m sure (everyone’s excuse…).
So the decorations are up, the music rings through the city, the
people are happy despite the weather, the world’s largest Christmas
tree stands tall and proud in Dortmund, and the world is beginning to
take on a surrealism brought about only by the magic of Christmas in
Germany. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

About a month ago, around fifty exchange students, including myself,
made a trip around Germany with Rotex (Germans who were previously on
their own exchange). It was an amazing experience, as we were given a
chance to visit the nation’s most well-known landmarks and cities such
as Hamburg, Potsdam, Berlin, Dresden, Weimar, Munich and the famous
Disney-like castle at Neuschwanstein. Spending ten days with my
friends and learning all about the country of my exchange was
unbelievable. Though it went by faster than I would have liked, it was
definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, knowing
an opportunity like that will most probably not come around again any
time soon. The bus broke down and we ended up returning home five
hours late at midnight, and although the trains were not available so
late, my kind host mother made the one and a half hour drive to pick
three friends and I up from the group.

My German language skills are progressing as always. It is not
difficult at all anymore to have a decent conversation with someone
about something and anything. Although my grammar and general
vocabulary could always be better, I now have the confidence and
knowledge to speak as I wish. I am taking a course for two hours a
week to help foreigners like me to learn and appreciate the delicate
intricacies involved in the excruciatingly painful grammar the Germans
use. I now have a deep respect to the locals, who have managed to
master such grammar, a feat I consider extremely admirable.

My host family are extremely kind to me and I really love them. I have
a younger sister, Henrike (11), and two younger brothers, Ole (13) and
Malte (16). They are great, and we are always doing family things
together and having fantastic conversations, whether it be about the
whether, news, football or even my future plans. It is always a
pleasure to be around them. Two weeks ago they took me on a trip to
Köln, where we visited the Dome, an internationally recognised
architectural masterpiece dating back almost eight hundred years to
the initiation of its construction (which actually took about six
hundred years to complete). My family and I took a tour around the
Dome, only six of the twenty thousand tourists that would visit the
cathedral that day, which makes it Germany’s most visited landmark. We
also visited a science museum and had a typical German lunch
consisting of bratwurst! I really love it how my family makes me feel
like one of their own, treating me no different to their own children,
apart from the fact that I am two years older than Malte of course. It
will be sad to part with them when the time comes, but also not too
depressing, as my real family lies on the other side of that plane
ride. Without a doubt, it will be a day of mixed emotions.

I tried to include most of my experiences in this letter, but if you
would care for some more details or anything else, don’t hesitate to
shoot me an email.

Bis zum nächsten Mal alle zusammen!

Yours truly and with hearty greetings from Deutschland,


“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to
lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are
constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things –
air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the
eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese