Hi! I'm Leanna and I'm going on a Rotary Exchange to Marl, Germany for one year.
Here I will be posting about my experiences in Deutschland over the year :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Deutschland Tour

For Oktober break, I went on a two-week round tour of Germany with the 60-odd other exchange students in my district. It was AMAZING! Here is a recap of what I had the opportunity to see.

Day 1 – This morning I left bright and early at 6:30 am. We left from Duisburg on our Coach bus that would be our home for the next two weeks. We went to this beautiful city called Heidelberg. This town is really old, and has the oldest university in Germany. The whole city looks very old, with cobblestones and old buildings and fountains. From almost anywhere in the city, when you look up, you can see the castle that is on the mountain/hill on the outskirt of the city. The city also sits on a river, and has an old bridge that crosses it, so this was very beautiful to see. Today was also warm, and we didn’t need our jackets! (Turns out this would be the ONLY day we wouldn’t need our jackets). Outside our youth hostel was a zoo, so we watched the zebras out our window.

Day 2 – Today we went on a tour of the castle. The castle has been bombed and damaged many times, so it is not in prime condition. We walked around the outside and went into the center courtyard of the castle. After this, we took the bus to Freiburg, where we went for a city tour and saw the Cathedral in the center of the city. I ate at Subway :) That night we went to the youth hostel and played get-to-know-you games. That was a little crazy.

Day 3 – Today we took the ferry to Insel Mainau, which is an island in the lake that is between Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This island is dedicated entirely to flowers. There were plants, trees, and flowers from all over the world on this island. I saw palm trees! There were also fountains and statues, as well as a butterfly garden, and it was all very pretty. On this island, there is also a castle and a Cathedral, and everything used pastel colors.

Day 4 – Today we went to Schloss Neuschwanstein. This is such a beautiful castle! This is the REAL Disney castle, meaning this is what Walt Disney based his castle off of. Next we went to the Weiß Church. Very pretty, a little white Church on top of a hill.

After this, we hiked up this mountain to get to our hostel: Oberammergau. This was a converted farmhouse. This hostel was not your typical hostel. The boys were bunked down in the basement in “boxbeds”, which were basically two boxes on top of each other. No ladder. The girls were housed in the attic, and each one had a division of the slanted roof with a cot and a curtain. We were served a HUGE meal for dinner, of all typical Bavarian food. It was delicious! There was so, so, so much of it! I don’t think I have ever eaten so much.

Day 5 – Today we went to Munich. We went to city center and Marien Platz. We had a tour of the city center. Munich is huge! For dinner we went to a traditional German restaurant. The waitresses wore dirndels and there was lots of German music.

Day 6 – We stayed in Munich, and went to the Deutschesmuseum. This is mostly a museum of technology, so lots of planes, ships, and cars. We went to the English gardens, and saw quite a few random things. First, we saw two men surfing in the river. There is a wave generator in the river, so people can surf there. It was really odd to see two people surfing in a German river in the middle of a park in October. :) Next we saw a photoshoot. There was a model and kids were throwing leaves at her and there were photographers. After dinner, we went to the Bayern Munchen stadium. We didn’t go to a game, but the Allianz stadium was glowing bright blue.

Day 7 – Today we went to the historical site of Dachau concentration camp. It was an incredibly grey and cloudy day, which matched the mood of the morning perfectly. It was a good experience to be able to learn about the history of World War Two, but it was a very difficult experience to go there. There is a huge museum-like exhibit, which shows information about WWII. Later, we went to Rothenburg. That night, we had a night tour of the city, with a man who was dressed as a Nightwatchman from several hundred years ago. He was really funny and taught us a lot of history about the city.

Day 8 – Today was our longest bus ride. 6 hours to Dresden. We went on a night tour of the city. This was so pretty because the city center is lit so that all the buildings are illuminated.

Day 9 – We went on a tour of Dresden by day. This really is a beautiful city, and it has a river that runs straight through it. We went to Meissen porcelain factory, and we got to see how porcelain things are made. It is amazing how precise everything is. But you pay for it! Even a small cup costs more than my whole Deutschland tour! That night was our talent show. Megan, Santiago and I tried (and failed) to learn some magic tricks to present.

Day 10 – We went on a bus tour of Berlin. After this, we had free time, in which I bought lots of souvenirs. We then went to the remains of the Berlin wall. The wall is heavily grafittied and it is amazing how divided the city was. For dinner we went to Route 66 restaurant.

Day 11 – Today we had a walking tour of Berlin. It was freezing cold, raining, and windy. When we were given free time, we checked out Checkpoint Charlie, which is a historical point in reference to the Berlin wall, and then we went to the History Museum. It is so huge and I could’ve spent hours and hours there. Germany is such a historically rich country! That night we went to the disco, which was lots of fun :)

Day 12 – We went to the Schwerin castle. This is the first castle I have been to that still has the thrown available for viewing. This really was very pretty. Also, the walls had really pretty murals. There was a big garden surrounding the castle, and it was located on the water. We went to the Cathedral in Hamburg, and then for a night tour of the harbor. Also, the fire alarm went off in our hostel that night, so everyone dashed outside into the freezing cold in pajamas!

Day 13 – We walked down to the harbor and went on a boat tour. Hamburg’s harbor is huge, and I saw so many different types of boats. We went on a small tour of Hamburg, and then we went to visit the “Rickmer Rickmer’s” ship, which is very old and historically preserved into a museum. So we went on a tour of this ship.

Day 14 – Get up early, and head home :( Deutschland tour was absolutely amazing!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Hello Everyone,

I am sorry that this update is so late. Everything is so busy here, and time is just flying! I have been here for over 2 months now; I got here on August 3. I can’t believe how fast time goes. Here is my updated Rotary jacket:

School consumes a large amount of my time. I have finally memorized my schedule and room numbers, and after many changes, I think I am finally satisfied with my timetable. Originally, I had chosen Math and Art as my two “majoring” subjects. But after being completely lost in Math, I switched to English as my major, and I take Math as just a regular class. English is actually a good class for me to take, because as they learn the new words in English, I learn what the Deutsch word is. A translation goes both ways. We are studying Shakespeare in English, and I am enjoying reading the plays and sonnets. Also, I quite enjoy Art class, partly because it is something I am able to do without understanding a huge amount of German, and also because Art is actually very fun. It’s been a few years since I took Art.

I have been taking German lessons at Die Insel. My lessons run twice a week. The classes are taught entirely in German, as all the people in the lessons speak different languages. There are no other English speakers in the group, but there are people from: Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Poland, The Congo, and Kazakhstan. When someone doesn’t understand something in the lesson (which is quite often), everyone teams together to give examples in simpler German. We communicate through a lot of synonyms and hand gestures. All the other members of the group are adults; no other exchange students like myself. No surprise there, as I am the only exchange student in my city and in my school.

So far we have had two orientations with the other exchange students in my district. Everyone lives within about a two-hour radius of here. There are 3 others from Canada! The whole group is filled with really amazing people from all the corners of the world :)

On the weekends I do various things. I have seen a lot of the area around here; and I have seen two castles and many fests. I have been to an open market and a ceremony to commemorate Germany’s reunification anniversary. A few weeks ago I went to Münster, and got to see a bit of the downtown area. I went to the Cino (movie theater) this week and watched “Eat, Pray, Love” in German. Although I didn’t understand any of the jokes, I did understand the main idea and I did enjoy the film. If only they spoke at about half the speed I think I could understand so much more!

As always, my German has improved. I think it gets better every day, but there is still so much I do not understand. If I focus very hard and the speaker speaks slowly, there is a good chance I will understand most of what they say, as long as they are using common language. (An example I like to give is that I can have a legitimate conversation about the weekend, but I cannot have a conversation about the biology experiment.) Some of the things I am doing to speed along the language learning process are: Deutsch lessons at Die Insel, keeping little sticky notes of common phrases all over my desk, keeping a notebook of common words I forget, conjugating verbs in the back pages of my sketch book, and working out of a nice new learning-German textbook.

Here, the meals are quite different than in Canada. For breakfast, it is typical to have brütchen (bread rolls) with spreads such as jam, or Nutella :) or with cheese (and there is not cheddar cheese here; it is all REAL cheese) and meats (such as salami!). The main meal of the day is served around 2, when Linda and I arrive home from school. This is the warm meal, and many meals are similar to what we eat in Canada. However, potatoes are served more often in Germany than in Canada. Also, often meals are different types of stews/casseroles; many different foods mixed together. The dinnertime meal is the same as the breakfast meal; but often with more types of meats and cheeses. Also, there are so many different kinds of cakes here. It is common for people to get together with friends or relatives for an afternoon of coffee and cakes. I have sampled many different types of cakes and desserts. Delicious. All in all, I really enjoy the foods here.

Here is a picture from my neighborhood: I have gotten very used to the biking; I can now bike to school in about half the time as it took me the first time, and I know my way around the city: to the bus station, the mall, the bank, my school, the supermarket, etc. For those of you who know me well, you know that is quite the feat :) Public transport is very handy here too. Buses run to several of the nearby cities, and with the train I can get almost anywhere within a few hour radius. The train leaves every hour out of Marl, so it will be very convenient if I want to go visit other towns.

On Saturday I am leaving for a two-week tour of Germany with the other exchange students of my district. I am so excited to see so much of the country! I will definitely blog a post about my trip when I return, so check back!

Well that’s all I have time for folks! If you want to know something specific about my life here in Germany, send me an e-mail or a facebook message! And if you want a postcard, send me your address!


Lots of love,

Leanna Gründel

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Die Schule

I have been here in Marl for one month now :)

Today I had my second day of school. My school is actually only a 10-15 minute bike from home, and I have been biking with a few of my classmates who live nearby. My school days vary slightly in starting time, each day starts between 7:45 and 7:55, and Monday to Thursday end between 1:15 and 1:30. Fridays end at 2:20. I like being home so early so that I have the entire afternoon to do other things besides school. For example, after school today I had a German lesson and later tonight I am going to a Rotary function.

The classes I am taking are:
Kunst (Art)
Sport (Which, from what I could understand of what the teacher was saying, is gymnastics for half the year and badminton for half the year)
Franzosisch (French)
Deutsch (With the Grade 5's)

I wanted to take English, but it didn't work with my timetable. My Grade 12 class has 250 students in it. The school is from Grade 5 up until Grade 13. I am in Grade 12, and many people in my grade are 18 as well, so I am not too old for my class. The school is rather large, with four buildings, but most of my classes are in building D. I am meeting a lot of people, and even though many of the students can speak a fair amount of English, I try very hard to use only German. Or at least, as much as I possibly can. So far, I have not been on any of the teacher's attendance lists. So when the teachers do roll call, at the end, I put up my hand and say, "Ich bin Leanna. Ich komme aus Kanada, und mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut". Then I am added to their lists.

I have learnt a lot more Deutsch, and when people are speaking slowly to me, and using simple words, I can, for the most part, carry on a simple conversation. However, when my teachers are speaking, their language is too fast and too complex for me to comprehend any of it. Today at school, I had French, Religion, and Art. In French, I understood everything that the teacher said in French. However, when it came to writing a translation, I could not translate it into German, but I could translate it into English. So, I knew exactly what was going on, but I could not do the assignment. In Religion and Art, I really did not know what the teachers were lecturing about.

When I first arrived here, I went to Die Insel, where they have language courses. I wanted to register for a level 1 Deutsch lesson beginning in September, but I was informed there was only level 2, on Mondays and Wednesdays. So for the past month I have been self-teaching from the textbook, as well as taking private lessons with the teacher who teaches at Die Insel. So on Monday, I will begin my level 2 Deutsch lessons. :)

Here in Marl, it rains a lot. It doesn't rain all day long, but it rains for at least a portion of each day. Mostly for short amounts of time, like 30 minutes. It is also quite a bit colder than Kelowna. I brought so many pairs of shorts, but I have only worn them three times, and I have been here all of August. I realized that bringing only one pair of closed-toed shoes was a mistake, as well as choosing to not bring my winter jacket. I was happy to hear that here in Marl, there will be snow, so maybe my hope for a Schneemann is not too far-fetched.

I am having a great time with my host family. They are so helpful and they are always taking me places, such as shopping or sightseeing, and introducing me to people. My host parents are Ursula and Herbert, and my host sister is Linda, 14. She is the same age as my sister. We also have a rabbit, Emily, who is allowed to run around the backyard during the day, and a guinea pig, named Krummel. My host family's other daughter, Lydia, has gone on exchange to Chicago, so I have moved into her room.

Well, that's all I have time for now.
Send me an e-mail or skype!
Bis bald

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Here In Deutschland

I arrived here in Marl on August 4. I was picked up at the Dusseldorf airport by my awesome host family. They labelled the whole house in German so that I can learn what everything is called. They have been teaching me so much German, but I still can't carry a conversation. :)

We have done a lot of sightseeing; Frankfurt, Essen, Ludinghausen, and other small towns around Marl. In Frankfurt I saw many old structures important to German's government history. Very culturally rich city. In Essen we went to an old coal factory, as well as a museum showing history dating back to prehistoric times, with artifacts and fossils from Germany. In Ludinghausen we went to a castle (my first German castle!) with a moat, and I really enjoyed that.

School starts at the end of this month, but I still don't know what classes or even what grade I will be in. I will bike to school, I do know that! It is about a 25 minute bike ride. Here in Marl, EVERYONE bikes. You see people of all ages (and I mean ALL - many 70 year olds on their way to the market) biking.

It is harder to drive here because the roads are so narrow and only one car can drive down it at once. So the other driver must pull over to allow the other to pass. Also, you must park on the sidewalk so that other cars can drive past on a residential street.

So far, this exchange has been awesome! Keep checking back for updates!

-Leanna Gruendel

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Going On Exchange!

This summer, I will be leaving to stay in Marl, Germany for about 11 months. I will be staying with host families, and I will stay with each family for a few months. The purpose of this exchange is to learn a new language and culture.

Marl is in the west of Germany. It is just north of Essen on this map. Marl has about 90,000 people. The school I will be attending is called Geschwister-Scholl-Gymnasium. There, I will be doing grade 12 again. I have posted links to my city's and my school's websites on the side bar.

I am so excited to be able to have this amazing experience. I do not know when I am leaving yet, it will be sometime between August 1 - August 15.