Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Versteck in the south of Germany

A photo of me in my medieval costume with one of the local children. Behind us is the view from the top of the 13th century tower where the play scheme was based.

In the beautiful surroundings of southern Germany I was able to do two things I love: speak German and work with children. For anyone interested in practising their language skills, I can definitely recommend volunteering at a children’s camp or play scheme. The children were all very forgiving of my many grammar mistakes and willingly involved me in their games. The forest in which the holiday club took place lent itself perfectly to hours of “Versteck” (hide and seek), interspersed with art and crafts. All the volunteers dressed up in costumes to go with the medieval theme of the holiday club, which inspired the children to create their own gowns and armour. A group of small girls transformed me into their fashion doll and added to my costume daily – finally resulting in a head scarf, veil, apron, 2 cloaks and small bag round my waste, in which we put ‘precious’ stones and jewellery. I loved being greeted by a shriek of “Jennyyyyyyyy!” every morning, and soon forgot the challenges of speaking a foreign language with the fun of being with children out-of-doors every day.

Outside of the play scheme, which lasted until 2pm each day, we were able to explore the surrounding area and visit the local museums and tourist attractions. The international volunteers stayed together in a youth hostel and we cooked for ourselves, often attempting to recreate typical dishes from our home countries. It was fascinating to learn about other cultures and taste their cuisine, and especially exciting to get to know people my age from all over the world. A highlight was probably the many evenings of card games and the fun we had trying to create little Russian felt boots, which the two Russian volunteers kindly but despairingly tried to teach us! I was also taken aback by the level of gratitude which the locals showed to us as volunteers, and we were frequently given free fruit from the market and on one occasion two large bags filled with bread from the local bakery. This interaction with other volunteers and with people from the area has not only boosted my confidence in speaking German, but has also made me more confident when meeting new people in general – which was perfect preparation for the first few weeks at university.

I would recommend this experience to anyone. Thank you, Concordia, for making it possible!