Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer's here!

Dear All,

we've just about reached the halfway mark, and our students are already heavy-hearted with the thought that our time here must eventually come to an end. We've been busy and time just seems to go by faster and faster, like when one approaches the end of a toilet paper role (ok, this is an inside joke, our students have to explain. Klopapier!).

Gorgeous weather has finally reached Germany, ranging somewhere up in the lower 30 degrees Celsius, but without the humidity that seems to currently be plaguing you folks in Indiana. We've made good use of the weather thus far, and last Monday our students either enjoyed the public pool with mega slides (ok, admittedly, it is no Holiday World), or a classic soccer match at the park. Come Tuesday, we were busy doing our creative activities, which continued through to Thursday. Wednesday night was very important, because Germany played a qualifying match to move onto the next round. Just yesterday, we played a historic match against England, and won 4-1/2. Next up is the match this Wednesday against Argentina . It is so lovely to see that all of our students have really gotten involved in the whole spirit of these World games. We really hope that Germany will endure to the final round, and even more that they will ultimately win the Cup. It would make for such an awesome memory, "Yea, I was there, when Germany won the World Cup in 2010...."

On Friday, we finally visited Castle Linn as a group. We've teased our dear student Lynne for some time, that we would be visiting her castle very soon. So when we finally arrived, our students kneeled before her and she was crowned with a crown from the 1 Euro store. It was all very funny. The castle itself was a the perfect opportunity to apply some of the culture we had learned about. The castle originates from the 1000s, and is deeply marked by significant historical episodes, such as the crusades (Barbarossa), mediaeval culture, the Thirty Years' War, and modern times. Everyone was fascinated, and especially enjoyed climbing the castle tower to enjoy the panoramic view of Krefeld and beyond.

The weekend appeared to have been eventful, many travelled beyond Krefeld to cities such as Hamburg or Muenster, the namesake of Munster, Indiana. Our students are very independent, but value the time they share with their peers and host-families, and so the appropriately manage their own time, by planning trips to the city center, enjoying a public viewing of the World Cup, eating German food (none have been tempted by McDonald's, though everybody seems to be craving brownies!), and much more.

Today, Monday, we enjoyed the weather on the edge of town by playing some mini-golf. Everyone enjoyed the game, even when they semed to rack up the points. Each student played with good humor and were even able to laugh at themselves - it seems they've all overcome their inhibitions, something they had to do from the start in order to fully immerse in German.

For this week, we are looking forward to our field trip to Aachen to visit the Dom, Charlemagne and all the other gothic goodies. It is going to be a decadent feast of historic delights.

Until soon, and all the best from us,

The Krefeld Team and Co.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Busy Kinder!

Dear All,

time seems to just fly by. Yet another week has passed and there is so much to remember. While our students are always busy getting to know their host families better, we also take the initiative to bond as a group of peers and instructors. Though the German National Soccer team has since lost a match against Serbia (but not all is lost - check out tomorrow's match against Ghana), we were still very much elated on last Monday, when we played a friendly game of soccer ourselves. Our teams were appropriately named "Deut" and "Schland" - all in the spirit of getting acquainted with Germany. We also played on the playground (very interesting, since there is a lot of curious and strange equipment there that had to be experienced), rode some paddle boats, hiked around the city forest and ate ice cream in a gorgeous beer garten. The weather was wonderful and no one wanted the day to end.

On thursday, our students joined their host siblings or those of their friends on a visit to a German school. Surely, it must have been a curious experience, but it seems they may enjoy our school just a wee better! :) After all, we are a special bunch and do an entirely different kind of learning. During this time, we instructors had a relaxing Kaffeeklatsch with our students' host parents, just to get some feed-back on the progress of our students. The responsive was overwhelmingly positive and most parents discussed opportunities for joint family activities. We are so proud that our students are described as being polite, intelligent and independent. What else can we ask for? We need not emphasize that during all of this, our students' German skills are constantly improving.

On friday, we had the pleasure of meating the vice mayor at the city hall. We were well received and, in our honor, the city of Krefeld raised a special flag of red-white-blue. Our vice-mayor stressed the importance of the relationship between the US and Krefeld, and Germany in general. Our students represented the US with poise and grace and asked very mature and political questions. Once again, a successful event! We also were in the newspaper, with the title: "The Indians are here!"

After Friday's classes, our students were free to begin their weekend. Most of them ran home just in time to tune in on the (sad!) game between Germany and Serbia. Others opted to join us on an excursion to the zoo. We didn't miss one minute of the game either, since we tuned in via the radio. See, old technology still works! The zoo was absolutely lovely and we even got to feed and touch the elephants.

The weekend activites were filled with many private activities. Some students visited the Netherlands and Roman ruins in Xanten, while the majority celebrated Hannah's birthday at her parents' house. Good times were had by all. We know, we've seen the pictures!

There is still plenty to report, but it will have to wait for just a day. It is late and tomorrow is a school day, ha!

We wish you all the best and can relay the message from all of your children: "We miss you!"


The Krefeld Team.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cup of Good Hope

Dear All,

now it has nearly been a week, and we had some fun these past days. Classes are in full force, and our dear students are fully engaged in topics of culture, grammar, conversation and literature. This weekend has been wisely used to cure our jet-lag, but also to get acquainted with the German culture. At the center of all lies the awesome performance of our German national team in the FIFA World Cup game against Australia in Durban, South Africa (4-0 if you are interested, ha!). Today our students still had smudges of "war-paint" in colors of black, red and gold on their cheeks, and eagerly shared their stories of their screening sessions with their host families and friends. Watching the game is a family affair! We anticipate many more opportunities to spend time together as a new extended family. After our regular courses, we have organized extracurricular activities. On our usual schedule we have creative outlets, like choir and theater, and today we made a special visit to the KRESCH theater here in Krefeld (a theater for and by young actors of Krefeld) to do some improvisational theater. We all had a blast and some full hearted belly laughs. Our students are so creative and know no inhibitions. It really brought us together as a group. Tomorrow we plan to spend the afternoon at the city park to play some sports and do some other nature oriented activities. This is something we've been hoping to do as the weather has been improving. We will update soon with more photos and stories as the week progresses.

We send you the best from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Steps...

Dear All,

we are sure that you craving some news, so here it goes! We've made it through the first 24 hours just fine. We met Wednesday morning (I write this at 1 am on Thursday, German time) at the VHS (our instruction site), to begin our placement examination. It took some time, but while individual students had to undergo the "oh-so-terrifying" oral exam (it was a breeze, our students did great!), the others bonded over some card games, frisbee, and lunch. We, too, partook in some card games and were mightily impressed by our students' communication skills and lack of inhibitions- imagine explaining the rules of a card game in a foreign language! One can call that an accomplishment!

When we finally wrapped up our last formalities, Peter took us on a city tour of his native Krefeld. There were a lot of cameras! Around 3 p.m., we finally made our way back to campus and the students were free to do as they please. Many of them explored the city on their own (straight for the stores, I think!) or had made prior arrangements with their host families. All in all, they all made a very comfortable impression.

Tomorrow we begin our first proper courses and activities. We will soon follow-up with more updates!

If you are on facebook, we encourage you to join our official fanpage to view some first pictures. We will try to find an alternative to facebook if there is a demand.

Best greetings from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Departure Day

Dear students, today is the big day - the Honors Program in Krefeld starts with your departure to Germany! We hope you are all as excited as we are - we are going to have a wonderful time in Germany! Have a save trip! And remember, German-only once the plane touches ground.

Dear parents/guardians, from now on we will post updates about our time in Krefeld and Germany once a week - so check the blog regularly!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Der Döner!

One of the most popular foods you will find in Germany is “ein Döner”. This delicious and addictive meal can be bought for a few Euros in almost every city in Germany. Although based on Turkish cuisine, the “Döner” as we know it today was create by Turkish immigrants in Germany.

Traditional döner is made from milk-fed lamb but a healthier alternative—tavuk (chicken) döner—is popular as well. Today it's not unusual to see twin döners, lamb and chicken, sizzling side by side. For all the vegetarians among us, don’t worry, there are alternatives available that are equally delicious. In addition to a choice of meats, one can also select various ingredients ranging from yoghurt, red & white cabbage, cucumber, feta cheese, and much more.

To honor this delicious food, the IU Honors Program has established the “Dönertag”. Every Thursday (or Donnerstag – get it?) during lunch, we go and visit the local Dönershop around the corner. Although everyone has to pay for his or her own lunch that day, it has been extremely popular – some students even ate Döner everyday (not recommended).

Check out the video by Wazzy Bourdain.

For other popular ‘fast-foods’ - in addition to the ones you know (e.g., McDonald) - check out “Currywurst mit Pommes”…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Der Ehrenkodex

As you know, the honor code plays a significant role in the overall success of the program. Without going into details, the honor code helps you to make the most of your participation, build trust between us as a group and our host families, and also create a safe and comfortable environment. By now you should be more than familiar with the honor code (i.e. website, orientation, you signed it); however, we created a simple German version that we will use and refer when on location (we can only speak German). Please review the code below and clarfiy any unknow words since you will be held accountable. For your parents, who don’t speak German, and we also include the direct translation. You will see, we tried to simplify the wording without losing the meaning of the honor code.

On Tuesday afternoon, we will hold a special ceremony to celebrate the honor code. Each student and instructor will sign the German honor code demonstrating that he/she fully understands and complies by it.

As a reminder, you are required to speak German the moment our plane touches down in Düsseldorf (but you can start earlier if you want). You will be able to speak English again once the plane lifts off at the end of the program AND when visiting schools in Germany. In the past, English teachers have asked to have native speakers contribute in English classes. ;-)

Der Ehrenkodex – Krefeld 2010 “einfache Version”

  1. Wir sind in Deutschland um unser Deutsch zu verbessern.
  2. Wir kommunizieren nur auf Deutsch!
  3. Wir sind mit allen gut befreundet und helfen uns, aber wir suchen keinen festen Partner!
  4. Wir sind gesund. Wir trinken keinen Alkohol und rauchen nicht.
  5. Wir denken nach, bevor wir etwas machen und wir fragen um Erlaubnis!
  6. Wir sind zuverlässig, - in der Schule und in der Freizeit!
  7. Wir respektieren unsere Gastfamilie!
  8. Wir verreisen nur mit der Gastfamilie oder mit der Gruppe und nie allein!
  9. Wir sind fleißig und folgen dem Ehrenkodex.
  10. Nach dem Programm werde ich ein Deutschfan in der Schule sein, denn Deutsch ist am besten!

Honor Code – Krefeld 2010: (english version for parents)

  1. We are in Germany to improve our German.
  2. We communicate in German only!
  3. We are good friends with everybody and we help each other but we are not looking for a partner!
  4. We are healthy. We don’t drink alcohol and we don’t smoke!
  5. We think before we do something and we ask for permission!
  6. We are reliable – in school and during free time!
  7. We respect our host family!
  8. We travel only with our host family or with the group and never alone!
  9. We are hard-working and follow the Honors Code.
  10. We will be a fan of German after the program because German is the best!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Was soll ich packen?

Although Christiane’s email and the Handbook already talked about the ‘packing list’, we want to provide a few additional guidelines that might help you decide what bring along (or not). As usual, these are just recommendations – although each of us has spent significant time in Germany. ;-)

- The weather can vary from rainy and cold to very hot, so try to bring clothes that can be layered. Last year, we faced cooler weather in the beginning and people were wearing sweaters and light jackets. Although it might be unheard of for you due to the conditions here in Indiana, you might have to don a sweater in June!!! And a light rain jacket will keep you dry and warm.

- Bring some form of entertainment that you can enjoy on your own (iPod, book, drawing utensils) and with the group (cards, Frisbee, chess). There will be down-time when waiting for trains or flying in the plane (8+ hours) and it is a good opportunity to make friends and get to know everyone. Of course, German word games are always encouraged…

- When packing, roll your clothing to save space and avoid wrinkles.

- Carry your passport and money on you when travelling. We also recommend that you bring a print-out of your itinerary if you plan to travel to Chicago by plane. Domestic flights tend to charge for your luggage but if you can check it through to Düsseldorf, you might avoid these fees! More money to spend on souvenirs!

- Don’t overpack! You can only check one free piece of luggage (up to 44 lbs) and you will have to get it through customs (and to our bus). So, leave towels (too bulky!), bed sheets (won’t fit!), hair dryer (different voltage), and anything you can find in Germany at home. Also, somehow one always brings more things back…

- In addition to your instructors cell phone numbers, write down your host family’s address. You can show it to cab drivers should you have trouble communicating in German…

And finally, ‘pack’ a positive attitude, your curiosity, and sense of humor. ;-)