Musings on the Hamburg Exchange 2012

It was on 25 October 2013, that thirteen bleary-eyed UCS boys gathered in the halls of Luton Airport to embark for the North German city of Hamburg for the Heinrich Heine-Gymnasium exchange – a trip which we had all been eagerly awaiting. On arrival in Hamburg and after emitting a few of my best grunts in a language quite far from German, we were all whisked away by our exchange partners for a delicious evening meal. It was both comforting and refreshing to see the way in which these families welcomed complete strangers into their homes, and when the evening was finally over, our bellies filled with various traditional German delicacies, I was beginning to lose consciousness with the effort it was taking to communicate and so it was off to bed for an early start the next day.
I woke the following morning, still half-asleep, unprepared for the weekend ahead planned by my German family, a weekend in which many a UCS boy was seen down by the Hamburg docks, taking in the sights and smells of the city. Complete with a Sunday evening of bowling, where we had a chance to mingle with the other German exchange students, we all left happy and cheerful, if not slightly horrified at our sub-par bowling performance, returning home to another hearty evening meal and a good night’s sleep.
To start the week we were then escorted by Dr Plow and Mr Underwood to the city of Berlin, where, on a rather rainy Monday morning, we took in sights such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial/Museum. Later, we visited the Berlin Olympic Stadium which, in 1936, witnessed the memorable triumph of American black track athlete, Jesse Owens in the 100m sprint. However, at present, the stadium is currently used as the home venue for the Fußball-Bundesliga's Hertha BSC and, might I add, its extortionately priced gift shop, which we (of course) all visited.
The next day we had the pleasure of visiting the town of Lübeck, the birthplace of marzipan. Here, we were provided with a guided tour of the area including its various churches and numerous marzipan outlets, which were frequented by the UCS crowd and thus it was laden with bags bursting with almondly delights, that we returned to our homes once again.
The final day of our week in Hamburg was spent at the school of our exchanges, the Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium, where for half the day we were given the opportunity to take part in our exchange partners’ lessons, including 'self-defence’. The sight of thirteen gangly and uncoordinated UCS boys gyrating and rolling about on the floor proved to be absolutely hilarious. This was followed by an evening meal at the German restaurant Block House where we sat, chatted and laughed with our exchanges for one last time, before we headed home.
It was a great end to a great week. I can honestly say (hand on heart) that my spoken German has improved a great deal throughout the duration of our time in Hamburg. On behalf of myself and the rest of the UCS exchanges, I would like to thank Dr Plow and Mr Underwood for organising such a wonderful trip and wish next year’s exchange to be just as successful.

Joel Baraitser