Rachel's time in Dresden
The overriding feeling in the days before my trip to Dresden was that of apprehension and uncertainty: three whole weeks in a place I knew nothing about, surrounded by people I had never met and speaking a language in which I had limited confidence.
I am delighted to report therefore that never have three weeks passed so quickly, filled with so many wonderful experiences and fascinating people. To describe my time as enriching would truly be an understatement.
The beauty of the whole area around Dresden is certainly not exaggerated. I did not get used to passing over the Elbe on the tram to school each morning, enjoying a full view of the magnificent baroque domes and church spires of the Altstadt. Despite passing a series of afternoons exploring the wealth of monuments, museums, galleries, and gardens on offer, I still did not manage to see half of what I would have liked.
My host family also treated me to a number of unforgettable days outside of the city. We spent a day hiking in the Sächsische Schweiz, kayaked in the idyllic Spreewald and even visited three countries in one day! In addition to thoroughly enjoying myself on these trips, I was also continually immersed in the unique history and culture of each place I visited - be it the history of the Moravian Christians and their stars in Herrnhut, or that of the Sorbs in the medieval city of Bautzen.
Needless to say, I was completely exhausted by the end of my stay, but I would do it all again in an instant.
That said, the most interesting experiences I had were those of everyday life in Dresden. From the moment they picked me up from Dresden Hauptbahnhof, my host family welcomed me into their home and introduced me to all aspects of the German way of living. I did not expect there to be so many differences to life in England and I was constantly acquainted with new and exciting facets of Dresden culture.
At St.Benno’s Gymnasium the students and teachers proved just as happy to include me amongst their community. The surprisingly relaxed atmosphere allowed me to quickly get used to the routine of lessons and feel comfortable taking part. Having finished A Levels in England, I didn’t think going back to school could be so enjoyable!
Of course, it goes without saying that my time in Dresden was a language enthusiast’s dream. Suddenly having to speak German from 6am to 11pm really tested and stretched my abilities, but embracing the challenge was well worth the reward. Equally stimulating was the range of vocabulary that I was exposed to on a daily basis. I would read the Bible in Religion, analyse expressionist poetry in Deutsch and derive equations in Physics, all whilst running into so many - often very amusing - colloquial expressions and idioms. Although it was initially daunting, I found myself reluctant to speak English again on my return!
In short, my time in Dresden and the myriad of benefits I drew from the trip proved invaluable.
I am so thankful to the Dresden Trust for such an amazing opportunity and can only hope to return soon!
You can read Rachel's Versöhnung essay here