My high school yearbook profile set out the career I thought I’d do: ‘Interpreter /translator.’ The same profile also asked what my peers thought I’d most likely end up doing: ‘barmaid at Oktoberfest’. While neither prediction about my future career was entirely right, there is no doubt that my experiences living in Germany and learning the German language have played a central role in my personal and professional life. To give you a rough idea, I have a PhD in German and I still have a close relationship with the members of my German host family who I first met in 1999.
Twenty years since my 2-month high school exchange to Bavaria, I was lucky enough to return there in September of this year for a 4-week intensive language course at the Goethe-Institut in Munich. Earlier sojourns to Germany included a year studying at Heidelberg University, a year as an English language assistant at a high school in Weimar, and a 2-week academic course for PhD students in Berlin. However, I hadn’t been back for a while and I was worried that my German might be getting a bit rusty. Luckily, Judith Geare, Head of the Wellington Goethe-Institut language department suggested I apply for Goethe-Institut scholarship. I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that I’d been successful and would be heading to Munich with all the main costs covered.
Students of the Munich school are accommodated in a very comfortable student residence in the suburbs of Munich in the very green area of the city near Nymphenburg Palace. Very close to the residence was a dance and yoga studio where I tried out some interesting classes! (FYI Ballet barre is quite difficult!) Each person in the residence gets their own spacious room with bathroom and study desk, and a shared kitchen to cook and socialise with other students. From there, it’s about a 20-minute train ride on the very frequent and reliable S-Bahn to Rosenheimer Platz, very near to the school.
I had classes every afternoon with a great teacher called Heike Anna Koch. The class was combined for students at C1/2 level and we were a very international bunch from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Spain, India, Romania, Japan, Poland, the UK, the US and New Zealand. Heike delivered great classes on a range of topics and really encouraged us to develop our capabilities in attaining a high level of written and spoken German.
Outside of class there was a lot of fun to be had with a mixture of activities organised by the Goethe-Institut in and around Munich, as well as social outings with my new international friends, and catch ups with my high school host family. I also had a few business meetings in Berlin and Munich as I’m interested in building German-New Zealand relations into the freelance consulting work that I do.
My main aim in returning to Germany this year was to have a feeling of confidence in my language abilities again, which I felt I achieved. Thank you so much to Judith Geare and the Goethe-Institut for this amazing opportunity!
Oh, and in case you are wondering, I did attend the 2019 Oktoberfest, my third visit there. But, contrary to the predictions of my high school friends, I was there as a patron rather than one of the wonderful, litres-of-beer-carrying wait staff!