Louis Bhose

The German Exchange
The Story of What Happened when Two UCS Boys and Eight NLCS Girls Went To

It was on a wet and windy day that I found myself going to Hamburg with
eight strangers and only one vague acquaintance from school to stay with
people I barely knew. As soon as I got to the airport (hours early thanks to
an irrational paranoia that I have of missing a flight) I knew that this
exchange was to be like no other: mix two innocent young UCS boys and eight
sharp and clever NLCS girls and you will always have the constant
possibility of things going very, very wrong. Add to that mix Mr. Plow and
you are guaranteed a trip never lacking excitement.
When I first arrived at Heathrow Airport, I was shocked, and slightly
disappointed, that Ed Fenwick, the other UCS boy, had not yet arrived. I was
faced with the terrifying prospect of talking to girls older than me who I
had never met before. I am sure that many others have been put in this
frightening situation and they will know that it is compulsory to keep calm.
So, naturally, I started chatting to Mr. Plow while trying to catch bits of
the girl’s conversations. These were highly amusing and often involved much
talk of Justin Timberlake’s abdominal muscles. However, I felt that I was
being scrutinised, and I could just imagine them dissecting me mentally:
“Hair too greasy. Nose too big. Fashion disaster.”. I was, therefore,
feeling incredibly self-conscious but it was not long before Ed arrived.
Ed’s entrance signified the start of the trip, and we all checked in
together shortly afterwards.
Although I would very much like to skip the whole story of the plane
journey, I feel I cannot hide this for much longer. The takeoff was a bad
one and there was a lot of turbulence. Suddenly the plane hit a gigantic air
pocket, the sort you see on “Plane Journeys that Went Wrong”. I yelped and
grabbed on to the two people sitting next to me i.e. Ed and Mr. Plow. Ed,
always the cool man, was asleep. Upon my frenzied rush of expletives, he
woke up and lazily asked, “Where’s the food.”. Mr. Plow just laughed at me
and the whole ordeal left me very tense and drained. I was forced to admit
that I was indeed, a ‘major wuss’. But the rest of the plane journey was
fine, and we arrived promptly at Hamburg airport at the correct time.
I must now take this chance to say something about my exchange and his
family: they were saintly. Anything I wanted I was assured just to ask and I
was extended every luxury. When they first met me at the airport I felt
immediately that they were good, kind people. They took me back to their
house (a lovely, clean place) and showed me to my room. In fact, it was
Philip's (my exchange) room and I thought it very kind that he was letting
me sleep in his room. The first night he showed me his area, which was a
nice little suburb with big houses and lots of trees. Indeed, one thing I
found out about Hamburg is that it is one of the greenest cities in Europe:
and it shows!
The first day in Hamburg we got up at six thirty (which felt earlier than
it actually was) and Ed and myself arrived at the Heinrich-Heine Gymnasium
at seven thirty with our exchanges. The second we walked through the gate,
we received several cold stares. I couldn’t work out why people were being
so unsociable towards us. Then I realised it was because our jeans were not
skin-tight. Apparently it is the latest fashion to wear jeans that could
probably be best described as denim leggings. So we made haste to the main
hall where we met our fellow female companions once again. I still remember
the greeting I received from one when we walked in. It went along the lines
of “ Yo breah. Allow bare cotch. Standard.”. My immediate thought was that
this was in fact a German exchange, but when she carried on talking in
perfect english, I realised that she was speaking in what I later found out
to be the ‘NLCS Ghetto Language’. At first I found it hilarious but soon I
too was drawn into the trap of speaking like a badly educated four year old.
In fact, NLCS is the top girl’s school in London so I am mystified why on
earth they persist in talking that strange language.
The first day we went to see the Hamburg city centre. This involved
traipsing around the the cobbled streets, and, although beautiful, left
everyone dying for a traditional german Macdonald’s. However, there were no
Macdonald’s to be seen and so the entire of our free time was spent in the
largest H & M in Europe, with Ed and myself trying on pinstriped jackets and
thinking we looked incredibly dapper. But time was short, and a mere hour
was allowed in Hennes before we were back off on our tour going via the main
road. As we saw on this first day, Hamburg is an incredible place, with many
beautiful streets and buildings. We also saw how different German MacDonalds
were to the English ones. This was a cause for much research throughout the
trip, and many visits to this high-class restaurant were made to sample the
superb German cuisine.
The weekend we spent with our families was very enjoyable, as they really
made an effort and succeeded in packing in almost too much in two days: on
Saturday we went to a theme park. This was called the Heide-Park and
involved many stomach-churning rides but sadly I felt I was not able, or
willing, to put my body through pointless stress just to say I had been on
the world’s largest wooden roller coaster. But after this excursion the
Massaro family even had time to take me on a boat ride on the Alster. This
was one of the best parts of the trip and was exceedingly beautiful. For
those who are not acquainted with Hamburg, the Alster is a river culminating
in a lake right in the middle of the city. As you glide past on the boat you
see enormous parks and spacious, modern houses looking sleek and elegant in
the evening haze. This experience assured me that Hamburg was indeed a most
beautiful city.
The remainder of the trip was spent on two day trips to Schwerin and Lubeck
respectively. They were both fantastic places and I especially enjoyed
Lubeck, where there was exceedingly good Marzipan.
Unfortunately in Schwerin, the bell tower which we were supposed to go up was closed and
this, I am told by Mr Underwood, was one of the highlights of previous trips.
However, all too soon came the last night; a social affair and a noisy one
at that. A large table was reserved for the whole party at a steak house
appropriately named Blockhaus. The food was excellent but even better was
the sense of achievement: we had come here nervous and unsure, but left with
much more knowledge of German than when we came.
Then it was time to go home; and everyone was very sad to part with each
other. We had built up a strong camaraderie over the seven days we had been
together, and were unwilling to part. But all great things must come to an
end, and we left the german party smiling and waving as we checked in. The
trip was capped off with the awards. I cannot remember the exact details; all
I remember is winning best hair. This was somewhat ironic as all trip is had
been caged underneath a trucker cap, but it was clear Mr. Underwood was
poking fun at me; but not for the first time on the trip!
All in all it was a highly enjoyable experience and I recommend anyone
doing German to do the Exchange as it will improve your spoken and written
German beyond measure.