Musings on the Hamburg Exchange 2012

This year we decided to set up a collaborative approach, using Google Drive, for participants of the exchange in order to give us their thoughts and share their experiences.

- It was a cold, Hamburg morning and we had spent the previous couple hours in class with our exchanges. I and half of the group had just finished an hour of Drama, attempting to perform a sketch (in German!) to some of the younger children at the Heinrich-Heine Gymnasium. We had a short break until further exploration of the city, so decided to have a look around the school. A couple of us were walking through the playground and stopped to watch a football game taking place between maybe 7 or 8, what looked like, 12 or 13 year olds. After a couple minutes of discussion we asked if they wanted a match. Very proud to be speaking German one of us asked ‘Können wir mitspielen?’ to which they seemed very happy at the possibility to face new opposition. The three of us then took part in most tiring 30 minutes of our lives! No training session at UCS could have prepared us for how well these little Germans were passing the ball. A crowd began to gather, and after, what felt like, endless waves of German counter attacks we found ourselves at 12-11 down. With five minutes left of break we knew something special would be needed to turn this game around, luckily that’s where a brilliant left foot volley from Jonnie Byre saved us from the humiliation we’d certainly face if having to tell Mr Underwood we’d lost. As the ball sailed into the back of the net, I knew where this was heading…penalties! Sudden death and our German friends missed their first shot; it all came down to Jack Drew. He stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, crushing all the stereotypes of how notoriously good Germans are at penalties, and declaring us victorious!

- After an early start we made our way from the Poppenbüttel train station to the Hauptbahnhof in Hamburg, where we boarded the rapid train to the capital, Berlin. After the journey was over, and yet some more giant German pretzels had been demolished, we set out on a day of sightseeing and headed towards the Brandenburg Gate. Despite the mass numbers of tourists posing with dressed up American soldiers, we were all taken back by this great piece of history.

- One of the most interesting parts of the trip was the day in school. We got to see how their lessons worked and what the German pupils studied. Some of us got to see a variety of different English lessons and a lucky few were able to perform a sketch by German comedian ‘Loriot’ in front of a class of year sevens! The English lessons were very interesting as were able to see how the language is taught in a different country. We also had lunch with our partners and their friends. Altogether it was a very interesting day and we learned a lot.

- After a distinctive walk through the rather explicit Reeperbahn, we came across the Hauptkirche Sankt Michaelis. As we came to the front entrance, many of our exchange partners decided to pull out from entering the church - they didn’t tell us why. As we took the staircase, said to be over 2000 steps, we finally realised why they were so hasty about joining us – they had completed the feat at the weekend with their host families! Nonetheless, the views of the harbour and city centre were spectacular and definitely worth the climb in the end.

- For me, the Hamburg exchange was a trip to remember; it started off with the weekend, as this provided the chance to spend some time with our exchange partners. We had great fun on the Saturday with activities ranging from a heavy lunch in Subway, to shopping in the huge Alsterhaus Einkaufszentrum to almost getting lost countless amounts of times. Not to mention the evening gathering at the home of one of our host partners. However, the highlight for me was the football match which took place at the Heinerich Heine Gymnasium. We were all eager and ready to go and play our hearts out against the Heinerich Heine faithful. It was a tense encounter that swung in our favour. With the score line against us and 11 hungry German students playing the ball around with confidence, the English took control and were on the march to victory. The game came down to penalties and the always reliable Jack Drew stepped up and coolly slotted home the penalty to send the English following crazy. Overall, the trip was a huge success and we hope to see our German partners again sometime in the future.

- My experience on the Hamburg exchange was somewhat different to what I had expected in the weeks building up to the trip. My weekend in Germany (though not always in Hamburg) was undoubtedly a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The weekend in Hamburg usually consists of the host’s family giving a tour of their city, often visiting the many famous churches and going down to the River Elbe. I, however, was driven south on the Autobahn, hurtling at full speed until we reached the small town of Ratzeburg; it was there that my trip began... I was about to undertake two days of camp with my exchange partner, as she and her confirmation group prepared for their confirmation. I, being an atheist, was deeply underprepared for the tasks that lay ahead of me as the Germans invited me take part in their board games, one of which was resembled the liturgical year. Imagine my predicament as I had to display my limited knowledge of Christianity in German!

When I arrived back in Hamburg, I met up with the others for an evening of bowling. I was introduced to the other exchanges and warmly welcomed by everyone. My weekend came to a close with a perpetual stream of questions about my time on the camp! The rest of the week we spent exploring Hamburg, Lübeck and Berlin and we enjoyed a morning in school, as well as a great leaving meal in Block Haus. The week went by extremely quickly!

- The much anticipated return of our exchange partners to London created vast amounts of tension among us as we congregated in the Great Hall in early April. Discussions on what we should do bellowed throughout the Hall. Camden? Piccadilly? Many suggestions were voiced …none happened in the end as our exchanges had a more sequacious concepts running through their heads, mostly involving shopping!

- Thanks so much to Mr Underwood and Dr Plow for organising such a great trip. I can’t wait to go back to Hamburg and visit my partner next year.