I am currently on the train in Germany, on my way to Düsseldorf to catch the plane to Spain. About a month ago I left my beloved Tudela, my wonderful home in Spain to set off on an adventure for Europe. This month has passed incredibly quickly, and I have had the greatest time, experiencing a range of different cultures, languages and people. It has been so nice to see people that I haven’t seen in a while, and see their homes and where they live. I can’t believe that my last leg is coming to a close, meaning that my exchange is drawing to a close. In ten short days I will be heading to an airport again, but this time in Madrid; heading to my home in Australia, my next new adventure.
This week I became an official uni student. I will be attending the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. I am so excited to be finally starting this new part of my education. I will be studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies and Culture Change. UNSW is situated in Sydney; about a two hour commute from my house. I will be catching a train and bus everyday to uni, which has been really surprising to many people in Jordan and here in Germany. I have been staying with Benne, an old exchange student that stayed in our house in Australia in 2007. It has been so lovely to spend the time with him and his family. He will be starting uni like me this year, and he is planning on moving to Münster, where he will be attending university. Münster is about a half hour or twenty-minute train ride from Emsdetten his hometown. I would love it if I only had to travel for half an hour everyday! Anyway, I’ll be starting university the 28th of February, and am really looking forward to it!
I can’t believe the amount of things I’ve been able to do this year. I have been able to see so much, and go to so many places. I often fail to realise just how blessed I’ve been with a generous and supportive family, and the opportunities to travel. I love travelling. Growing up, my Dad was in the Navy, so we moved a bit; I’ve grown up in different states, and have been lucky enough to see a lot of Australia at such a young age. Travelling has always been a big part of my life, and I feel like I have got the travel bug ingrained into me. I am sitting in a train, in the middle of Germany, about to head off to another country. My total hours of travelling today will be eleven hours by train, bus and plane. To get from Jordan to Germany it took me sixteen hours. Although they are long days, I am perfectly happy to pass the day looking at the scenery, listening to the different languages, cultures surrounding me. I love travelling. Because I have been travelling non-stop for the past month, it seems normal to me, that everyone must be doing it that I often forget that what I am doing, what I am seeing and experience is so special. How many nineteen year olds get to spend a year in another country, learn the language, make another home, and spend a month travelling around Europe? I often forget, and forget to thank God for the amazing life he has given me. This past month has been a month of realising just how much God has blessed me, challenged me, and helped me grow this year. I have seen so much; been to so many unique places, and I thank God so much for that. These past nineteen years have been amazing, and I can’t wait for the next nineteen. I am excited to see what God has in store for me.
This week I have spent in Germany. I have absolutely loved my time here. Staying with the family of Benne this year has been some of my favourite times this year. I was able to spend a week with them in December, and a week this time in January. I arrived on Sunday night, after flying in from Jordan, and just felt at home. I love the family of Benne. They are such a colourful bunch, with kind hearts and wonderful smiles. Benne’s parents are so wonderful, and so funny! I often tell Hans, his dad that he should become a tourist guide, because he knows EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. He is such a funny man, and makes me think of my own Dad and how much I love Dads. On the Monday I went to a city called Essen, a little further north (?) of Düsseldorf with Benne’s Dad as he had a meeting there. It was nice to just walk around the city for the couple of hours that we were there and see another German city. My favourite part though, was the drive, learning the word for traffic jam (Stau) and hearing stories of Benne’s family. After Essen, I had lunch with Hans in Münster and just walked around the city, enjoying the buildings and the German feel of it all. I love walking around cities with my Ipod playing; it was a really nice end to the day. The Tuesday I spent relaxing, as I have had a pretty busy past couple of weeks, and it was really nice to just… relax. On the Wednesday I got accepted into uni, and went to Münster to look around. I spent most of the day by myself, as Benne works everyday until 9, his parents work and his younger sister is at school. On Wednesday night Benne and I went to the pub to meet up with his friends, which I really enjoyed. They were just really lovely people, and reminded me of people from home.
Emsdetten is about a two and a half hours train trip from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I had really wanted to visit Amsterdam for a day, and found cheap tickets (19 euros each way) to go on the Thursday. I booked my tickets and knew that I would have about six or seven hours in the city, before having to come back to Emsdetten. I don’t know German. This week I have learnt a few phrases and words, but I really do not know or understand German. At the train station, the notice board said the next train to come was the train to Amsterdam. Little did I know that the announcement that I heard said that my train was delayed. A train came, and as the noticeboard said it was my train, I hopped on, unsuspecting. After a little bit, I wondered if I really was on the right train. I asked some people and they just nodded and went on their way, giving the impression that they didn’t really understand my English. When the ticket man came around, he took my ticket and shook my head. I asked him if I was on the right train, but he didn’t speak English. He kept on pointing to the ticket and shaking his head. I tried explaining my situation, pointing at Rheine, a train station, saying “I. Got. On. Here.” I would then point to Amsterdam. “I. Want. To. Go. Here. Am. I. On. The. Right. Train?” He would then look at me stupidly and then shake his head rambling off in German, pointing to his little portable computer at Amsterdam, and writing in red. After successfully achieving nothing, he shook his head once more and left me, more confused than ever. I stayed on the train for about an hour and a half, until the train stopped at a station called Emden. Knowing that this wasn’t Amsterdam, I was surprised to see everyone get off, and train shut down. I got out and went into the station into the tourist information. Asking how to get to Amsterdam, the lady quickly told me that I had to go to Rheine, (where I’d just come from!) on the train at the platform (where I’d just gotten off!). I then knew I had definitely come the wrong way, and hopped back on the train. The ticket man this time knew a little more English and said the trains to Amsterdam were delayed. After another hour and a half, I arrived back in Rheine, at about 11:30. I was meant to have arrived in Amsterdam at 11. Surprisingly I wasn’t upset or stressed, as the journey to Emden had been quite beautiful. I still had no idea where I had gone to, but it didn’t really matter. I caught the ten o’clock train for Amsterdam at twelve, two hours delayed, and got into Amsterdam at two. My train back to Emsdetten left at five. I asked the train station if there was a later train, but the only one after five left at seven, and I would have had to swap trains four times. After my little mistake earlier in the day, I opted for the safer option. I did a quick whirlwind tour of Amsterdam, and absolutely loved it. I love Amsterdam! I think it is such a beautiful city. I went to the palace, to the monument; I tried to find Anne Frank’s house and walked along the canals. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and the sun was shining. I had the perfect time just walking along, turning right, then left, getting lost in the small streets and the canals that shape the city. The time went too quickly, and before I knew it, it was time to catch the train again. I said my goodbyes to Amsterdam, with the hope that I’d come back again one day and explore it with my time and ease. The train trip back was uneventful, and I got home safely without catching the wrong train! Benne’s family laughed so much when I told them I went to Emden, and I found out that Emden is on the coast of Germany, right at the top of the country, where you can catch ferries to other places. I figured out that I spent nine hours on a train on Thursday and three in the city, and I was completely happy. I really enjoyed my day, looking at the scenery, getting lost and not understanding German. When I was in Barcelona and Madrid I always seemed to get annoyed at the announcements made in English, thinking, “No one needs the English announcements, they should just learn Spanish. This is stupid.” Knowing Spanish, I had no problems getting around or knowing where to go. But after being in Germany, with no language skills and going to the completely wrong part of the country because of my lack of knowledge of German, I now feel very grateful to all those English announcements.
Something that I’ve loved this week has been listening to Benne and his family speak German. When Benne was in our house in Australia, he didn’t speak German (obviously), and I have absolutely loved hearing it so much this week. I really would like to learn German one day, as I think it is a really beautiful language. The pronunciation for me is really difficult, but it’s something that I’d really like to learn.
This week in Germany has passed incredibly quickly, and I really hope to come back one day soon and spend some time here and learn German! (And eat lots of their delicious bread!)
Today I head off to Spain, my last stop before arriving home. I have ten days left before I board that plane and say goodbye to my exchange, and hello to Australia, my family and friends and the new and exciting adventures that await me. I am spending two days in Madrid, going to the museums I’ve yet to go to, exploring the city a little more, before heading down to Sevilla for five days. I hope to spend these five days relaxing, exploring Sevilla and its surroundings. I’ve never been to the south of Spain, and am a little anxious about their dreadful (probably not dreadful, just ‘different’, though dreadful is how people from Tudela describe it as!) accents, and if I’ll have trouble understanding them and visa versa. After Sevilla, I will head back up to Madrid for my last couple of days, hoping to go on day trips to Toledo and Segovia. Then, on Wednesday the 2nd of February, I will head off the airport, board the plane, say goodbye to Spain, my second home, and get excited about heading back to my other home, in Australia. Some days I just want to get it over and done with, rip the bandaid off and get home already, the other part never wants this to end. I suppose it’s a little bit like leaving Australia. Only this time, I don’t know when I’ll be back. Gosh, I’m going to miss having Spanish in my life everyday. Never again will I have this experience.
Thank you, thank you, thank you God for this experience. I will never forget it – the good bits and the bad bits. And thank you to my parents. If it weren’t for my parents, their support and love, I wouldn’t have been able to leave everything for a year, and learn about life. So, thank you.
I have learnt so much this year, and I don’t know what God has planned for me, but I hope that I will take this year, all that’s been challenging, all that’s been easy, all the learning and use it to be living my life for God. I’m so excited to be getting back into church, into fellowship. Although that aspect has been really difficult for me this year, the lack of fellowship, I know that God has shown me how important fellowship, community, church really is.
The scenery is beautiful, so I am going to go and enjoy it. I love travelling (and listening to German)!