Hattie's time in Dresden

I set off on my flight to Dresden with a will to learn and explore, but also a nervousness - what will the school and family be like? Will my German be good enough to communicate properly? I needn’t have worried - everyone I met on the trip was incredibly lovely and
always happy to help when I didn’t understand something or was struggling to say something.

My brilliant host family, who I’m so grateful to for their kindness and hospitality, also actively helped me learn about Dresden’s history and culture, taking me on trips after school and on the weekend to places such as the Zwinger, the Frauenkirche, and even the Semperoper to see, 'die Zauberflöte’.

The combination of old buildings and new was fascinating and particularly evident at the Frauenkirche, which we were fortunate enough to be given a tour of. It was interesting to see how the new lighter bricks of the reconstruction contrasted the old darker ones that survived the bombing of WW2 which serve as a reminder of war and its destructive consequences.

A particularly impactful part of the trip was visiting Buchenwald, which existed as a Nazi labour camp from 1937-1945. A group of the English students and two members of my host family took the train to Weimar and walked along the old train track to the camp, where there had been memorials laid for many of its victims. I found that learning about this important aspect of Germany’s history by visiting where it happened was very powerful and educational, although it was also emotionally challenging.

Other trips included a hike in the Sächsische Schweiz, which was one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever been, and going kayaking in the picturesque Spreewald. As well as being fascinated by the scenery, I was kept occupied, as always on this trip, with interesting conversation (in German of course) about cultural differences and similarities between our two countries, German politics, and also light-hearted topics like our favourite childhood shows and books.

St. Benno Gymnasium was a great school to attend during my three weeks in Dresden. As a school with plenty of exchange students, there are plenty of people who can relate to the experience (both other foreign exchange students and German students who have previously been on exchanges themselves), making the school a really welcoming environment.

Although some of the language used in the classroom was difficult to grasp, the lessons were engaging and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the religious studies lessons where we were discussing traditions and exchanged some of our favourite festivals and traditions - I of course had to mention the Gloucester Cheese Rolling Competition. My favourite lessons though were probably English and German given that I study their equivalents for my A-Levels.

I felt a real sense of achievement when I managed to fully understand the text being studied in the German lessons and even start to analyse it, and it was interesting to see how English was taught in Germany, and how they focused on current events rather than working to a very strict syllabus, for example we started learning about the life of the Queen following her death which happened during my stay in Dresden.

I found my trip to Dresden to be one of achievements; I picked up how to speak more colloquially in German, I became more confident in my speaking abilities, I started understanding the language better, I learnt tonnes about Germany’s history, I managed to navigate the city on public transport alone, I got over my fears of not understanding and not being understood... I could really go on forever. I was given a truly rich cultural experience and met some amazing people along the way, and I would recommend a trip like this to anyone.

You can read Hattie's Versöhnung essay here


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