When first applying for the CBYX program I had a thousand questions. One of my concerns was language camp and what that entailed. So I searched throughout the internet to figure out what activities we would be doing there, where we would be staying - basically any question you could ask, I tried to find the answer to it. But I never really found anything that helped me see what language camp looked like, especially for the camp located in Hedersleben (the CIEE PI participants’ camp).
So, for the curious future participants that are looking at this blog right now, here are the answers to your questions. If you have any other questions please leave a comment or contact me, I’ll be happy to help! Any question about anything, I’m always available!
Our first week at language camp was all about integrating into Germany and the German lifestyle. We were given a lot of free time throughout our first week to explore the town, Hedersleben, and have interactions with the people. The main ways people interacted with Germans was buying food/snacks at the local NP, talking to teens at the soccer field after dinner or during trips (like to the lake or a different town). Language classes were also dulled down for the first week and increased in quantity the closer it got to leaving for our host families. The first week is all about adjusting.
Here at Hedersleben there are many different things to adjust to, like; having to hang dry your laundry within a packed schedule and tiny washer, dinner being a small and cold meal (like sandwiches), having a hard time getting used to the directness/bluntness of Germans, trying to figure out the right amount of times to call home so you don’t get homesick, etc.
To me, adjusting to Hedersleben was very easy and the only time I would miss home was when I called my grandma, grandpa or dad, so I decided to call them only once every two weeks. But other than that, I was fine, adjusting well to this new life and all the things surrounding me.
Others were having a hard time, already getting out of the honeymoon stages and missing home. However, some people made the mistake of not actively trying to adjust - you’ll have to try the food even if it doesn’t look good, learn German to communicate, etc. But, whenever we needed to talk or figure out a problem, the teamers at the camp are always there to listen and help you! Take advantage of that!
I was distracted a lot here, which helped with homesickness. The village is beautiful, especially at dawn and dusk. In the morning people went on walks, runs, picked berries, sat outside/by a window and journaled or read, took photos, meditated, etc. There was so much to do that was also self-care related, and there’s a schedule you make here, which helps your body relax into its new environment.
Around 8 we usually had breakfast, which was bread with jam, cheese, salami, cereal and veggies. There was tea and coffee for people to drink and somedays there was a fruit of two (usually oranges or grapefruit).
After breakfast, from 9-12 we had German classes, which were divided into five different classes. There were two beginner, one 1-2 years of experience, one 3-4 year experience and one advanced. I was placed in the 3-4 year experience class, just under advanced. We never really focused much on grammar or learning vocabulary, but instead learned them through exposure and sentences (as opposed to alone). Sometimes we were given ‘tests’ which were actually quizzes and you could translate them or ask for help during them. My class really liked listening to children’s songs so we always started the day with that and we also wrote paragraphs about certain subjects. Class was usually fun for me, especially since my class was both funny and inquisitive - so I was both entertained and educated. Around 10:30 we would have a 15 minute break and during the first week we were given no homework.
At noon we would head to lunch, which was usually a hot meal. A lot of times we would have meat (usually pork), rice, potatoes and boiled eggs. Word of advice, if it doesn’t taste good, put salt and pepper on it and it will taste better. German food just lacks spices.
Then we typically had free time from 13-18 which was sometimes filled with an activity. One activity was to go swimming at a lake in a nearby town, and many people made new German friends or talked to Germans. It was a fun day - we swam, got to know each other better, ordered softeis, played volleyball and just had an overall fun day! We also learned how to navigate the bus during this activity.
When we just had free time most people walked to the store or ate döner at the restaurant in the village. One day my friends and I bought a ton of German snacks, and even fruit, at the NP and brought it back to taste test, rating them for one of their YouTube channels. We had a great time and got to see what we liked and didn’t like, as well as compare German food to American food. Sometimes there will be meetings or presentations during this time. In the first week we had a presentation about PI rules, German schools, misunderstandings and homesickness.
At 18 we had dinner, which is usually a cold cut meal and smaller. My first real culture shock moment was dinner and I never really liked dinner in the first week due to the significant difference from home. We always had meat, cheese, bread and veggies. After dinner at 19 we would all gather in the auditorium to watch the ‘Heute Journal’ news, in German obviously, so we would be informed on current events in Germany. During this time we were also given announcements or scolded if we did something we weren’t supposed to (like putting the trash in the wrong bins).
Afterwards at 19:30 we are either set loose for free time or had the choice to do an optional activity like watching a movie or cartoon in German. Sometimes the activities are required, like when we had to find sticks and then roasted dough on them over the fire.
Curfew was always at 22 and the teamers would come around to check to make sure all the participants were in their rooms.
During my first week we had a trip to Leipzig on Saturday, where we went to a museum about Germany from WWII to reunification and were then set free to roam about. A lot of people got SIM cards for their phone, tried new German food or went shopping.
Sundays are always relaxed, since pretty much everything in the town is closed. You can take a bus or train to a neighbouring city to explore, visit the döner shop or have time to yourself. Many people slept in and enjoyed the coffee and cake (German tradition) that was always provided at 15. On Sundays I scrapbooked, journaled, wrote and used the wifi. Sunday is all about free time and relaxing after a hard week.
Week One Typical Schedule
9:00 - 12:00 German Class (15 minute break at 10:30)
13:00 Homework Time
14:00 - 18:00 Free Time, Activity or Presentations
19:30 Optional Activity or Free Time
Before you know it the first week of language camp will fly past you and you’ll already be 1/4 of the way through, with 21 days left until you meet your host family in-person! It goes by quick so enjoy all the new memories and friends you make. Most of my favorite memories from the first week of language camp were with my table group members, so just be yourself and find your crowd.
Also, a lot of people received their host families during the first week, so if you’re feeling worried or scared that you don’t have yours yet, hope is not lost. And a reminder, just contact me or comment if you have a question, I’ll be happy to answer them all!