Violet's time in Dresden
I was totally unsure on what to expect from my visit to Dresden. As someone who had never flown on my own before, and isn’t the most confident in talking to new people, it was definitely a step out of my comfort zone! However, it ended up being such a rewarding and enjoyable time which I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience.
From the moment I met my host family they were absolutely lovely and went out of their way to help me settle in and provide me with things to do. We went hiking in the Sächsischen Schweiz on my first weekend, and it was so beautiful - although I’m definitely not a fan of walking for overly long periods of time! I appreciated being able to spend time in nature; as a native Londoner, being so close to these beautiful mountains was very different, but amazing!
Another host family took me out there again to go canoeing with them on the Elbe, along with their daughter and host daughter – the generosity and kindness of the families in Dresden never failed to surprise me. My own host father took not just me but every other Dresden scholar there at the time on a trip to Buchenwald Konzentrationslager in Weimar. This opportunity to truly explore the reality of Germany’s history was invaluable and very impactful for all of us, and I know that I, and the other English students, cannot thank Johannes enough for providing us with that experience.
The structure given by the school day was something I found very useful, making sure I went out and interacted with a variety of people, but the freedom and independence to make my own plans as well was also great. I took a trip to Berlin for a night, and explored Museumsinsel and the East Side Gallery; this chance to explore an area of Germany pretty different to Dresden was amazing.
My time in Dresden also provided me with moments that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected going into it. The students at St. Benno were lovely (and it was very cool to find out that a German band who I already listened to, 01099, were former students of St.Benno, and 01099 was in fact their postcode in Neustadt – and also my postcode while I was staying there!), and the youth culture (ie. Beer ball) was pretty different but still so fun to feel a part of for a few weeks.
It brought me closer to both the German students, and the English scholars, who I feel so happy to have spent that time with and be able to call friends even after leaving Dresden. My host father told me about a Pussy Riot performance that was happening while I was there and I was able to get tickets; the speech being in Russian, with German subtitles that I had to mentally translate to English, was pretty difficult but it was such a memorable and though provoking performance that I’m so glad I was able to attend.
Being faced with talking pretty much exclusively in German was daunting for sure, but as I got used to being in Dresden, it became much more natural, and I can 100% tell how not only my speaking and understanding of German, but also just my confidence in the language, have increased so much from the 3 weeks I spent there. I’m so glad I was able to go just before starting university (I in fact got back home just 2 days before moving into uni!) because, as someone studying German, it made me feel so much more prepared to start up learning the language in a more formal setting again.
I definitely have too much to say to fit into a short report – I can’t be thankful enough for this period of total immersion in German language and culture, and hopefully I’ll be able to take a trip back soon!
You can read Violet's Versöhnung essay here