For the first 12 years of my life, I was your average girl next door. Going to public school, I wasn’t aware how sheltered I was until I moved to Germany where I attend an international school. Three years later, I have come home to visit and I’d like to share with you some of my experiences.
Germany’s favorite drink. During Oktoberfest alone, Germans down more than 7.1 million liters of beer – and it’s cheaper than bottled water.
It’s legal, too, for teens. At 14, kids can drink beer at home. At 16, anywhere.
Many German parents believe it is their parental obligation to teach children to drink responsibly and they start that education at home.
And at all school events that parents attend, beer is served.
Fun Fact: The German word for people who pass out from drinking is “Bierleichen,” which translates to “beer corpses.”
First off, my school is a castle. Actually, it’s a Schloss, which is German for palace or estate manor. We are surrounded by a beautiful green forest, the ceilings are ornately decorated and we even have a fountain out front.
Beaumont Middle School is many things, but castle is not one of them.
In the baroque chapel, music performances are beautiful but it also made the sex ed. class different.
(The subject is awkward enough without the statues of Jesus looking down on you.)
Fun Fact: The most famous Schloss in Germany is Neuschwanstein, and Walt Disney based the Disney Castle on it.
School Life Part 2
I attend Bavarian International School, a private pre-K through 12th grade school of 1,000 students from six continents.
Our school has a strong sense of community, more than at U.S. public schools. My classes have no more than 18 students. The teachers are laid back and that makes learning more fun.
Our school is very proud of its art program, which is beyond liberal.
Sketches of naked men and women are commonly displayed throughout the school in areas where kids as young as 5 walk by.
And during the school’s annual fashion show (more like hooker show) students strut their stuff (and sometimes dance) in clothing that barely covers them up.
Fun Fact: School lets out early on Fridays – at 2:20 – and starting next year I’m eligible for an exit pass that allows me to leave school during free periods and lunch.
I have traveled to the Netherlands for a music workshop, took a bike trip from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria (191 miles in all) and explored the Alps over a three-day trip.
Fun Fact: On an eighth-grade trip, I shared a room for three days with girls and boys! And we were unchaperoned.
In our three years in Germany, we have traveled to 19 different countries.
I have frolicked in the fields where “The Sound of Music” was shot (Salzburg, Austria) and have cage dived with Great Whites in South Africa.
Before Germany, I had visited Canada and Mexico. Now my list includes Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Belgium (They really do have the best waffles.)
Fun Fact: During my travels this summer, I will fly 21,819 miles.
History COMES Alive
Because of all of this travel, I have seen where history was made.
I visited concentration camps (Dachau is right outside of Munich) where Jews were taken to their deaths.
I have seen what remains of the Berlin Wall. And I recently travelled to the Normandy beaches (Omaha, Juno, and others) and felt the enormous importance of what those D-Day soldiers endured and accomplished.
Fun Fact: On the painted ceiling of the Hofbrauhaus (where Hitler launched his career), you can still see the outlines of swastikas.
Because my classmates come from all over the world, I hear German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese and other languages all day long.
I am one of the eight students in my grade of 75 who can speak only one language. Most kids speak at least two, and I know of at least three students who can speak three-plus languages. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Fun Fact: My school represents more than 45 nationalities.
The German Language
German is notorious for having incredibly long words.
Thankfully, we don’t have German spelling tests or we’d have to learn words such as:
Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung: Speed Limit
Einverständniserklärung: Permission slip
In the morning the train is always packed, and different seasons bring different difficulties.
In winter, delays are common, meaning you can wait 20-40 minutes in the cold.
Riding in the summer offers no relief from the heat and means the train stinks from hot, sweaty people who don’t know how to use deodorant.
During Oktoberfest, the trains smell like beer (or vomit) and are messy. The added number of tourists makes traveling a nightmare, and drunk people always want to talk to you. Who doesn’t love that?
Fun Fact: The s-bahn (above ground) and u-bahn (underground) trains include 17 lines and 248 stops within greater Munich.
I’m loving my visit to America. Seeing old friends, eating Cheetos and other pleasure food (which I can’t get in Germany), and hearing and speaking English has made this summer a great one.
I’ll be heading back to Munich at the end of July.
Our family is planning more travel, and Egypt and Thailand have been on our radar.
On Aug. 20, I begin 11th grade. It will be another crazy year full of art au naturel, running to catch the train, going on some cool field trips and doing some travel.
Even though living abroad is a challenge, from language to culture to handling drunks on the train, I have sure grown to love the crazy country I now call home.
Eliza Neal is the 15-year-old cousin of Lexington Family Magazine’s Laurie Evans. Eliza worked for two weeks at the magazine this summer as an intern.
For more of Eliza’s observations of life abroad, including politics and the European mindset, visit www.Lexingtonfamily.com.