People had asked me why I chose to study in Germany but honestly, I don’t really know. All I knew was that I wanted to study abroad. I remembered taking three or four German lessons in high school but I had forgotten everything by the time I decided to go to Germany. I was actually a little scared when I submitted my application because I could not believe it was happening!
On June 8, 2002, I flew on Singapore Airlines to Frankfurt, Germany. I recalled being both shocked and happy when they served us Häagen-Dazs ice-cream. The lady who sat next to me was also very kind. We started a conversation and when I told her I did not exchange any Euros, she gave me some Euro coins in case I needed to make phone calls. After landing in Frankfurt airport and retrieving my luggage, I remembered the kind gentleman who saw my confused look and directed me to the train platform. From there, I rode the train to Kassel, which was located about 2 hours away, northeast of Frankfurt. I finally arrived to Kassel and my host parents were already waiting for me at the Bahnhof (train station).
My school, Europa Kolleg, was located on Wilhelmshöhe Allee, the main avenue in the city of Kassel. Everyday, I traveled on the StrassBahn (streetcar) to and from school. I lived in the countryside called Lohfelden and I smelled cow manure nearly every day.
My first week in Germany was pretty frustrating because everything was so foreign to me. Second week became better. I made friends with the American students and I probably spoke too much English. There were also a number of foreign students who arrived from Russia, France, Switzerland and Australia. Our conversations became a mix of languages and we laughed as we guessed what was said. I was particularly happy that we had an excellent German teacher who made learning German really fun. We joked, we laughed, and we learned a lot.
Every Wednesdays, we would go to a museum in downtown of Kassel and on Saturdays, we would go on field trips to towns outside of Kassel. For lunch, we ate at a big cafeteria, called “The Menser,” where people of all ages would eat there. The food was cheap and plentiful. During the weekdays, we would have speech training after lunch and most students would leave the school around 15:00 – 15:30. Normally, it would take me about 40 minutes, per trip, to return home, but one time, I purposely sat on the wrong bus and I was the only remaining passenger. The bus took me further and further away from Lohfelden or deeper and deeper into the countryside. I did not know where I was going nor did I feel afraid. I just sat there and enjoyed the views but then the bus driver noticed something was wrong and asked me where I was going. I managed to communicate in German. Of course, I was way-past my stop but fortunately, a bus was coming from the opposite direction and the bus driver was kind enough to stop the other bus driver and told him that I was lost and directed him to drop me off at my station.
On the last day before I left Germany, I walked about 10 minutes to the ice-cream parlor and with my limited German, I ordered an ice-cream sundae. I told my host mother about my adventure and she said I was so brave to go alone because I remembered the roads and I attempted to speak German. Honestly, “Haben Sie zwei Euro?” was probably the only complete German sentence I dared to say while I lived there but I guess my host mother was right about me being brave. I thank the delicious ice-cream as my driving force!