Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Germany 2015 comes to an end

We're back from the trip.  This has nothing to do with running, but as I'm immensely proud of the work I put into this trip, I wanted to document some of it here.

A refresher course for those who are new around here:

I teach high school German, currently in my fourth year.  Every other year I offer a trip to Germany with students in my upper level classes.  Two years ago I took seven students by myself.  This year I took 10 students and one chaperone.

I organize the entire thing myself because I don't like packaged tours of Europe where we sit in a bus all day long going from one tourist spot to the next.  It's a lot more work to organize the trip myself, but it's incredibly cheaper and a lot more flexible.

A few of this year's details:

  • Direct flight from Newark to Berlin leaving on April 2nd, arriving the morning of the 3rd.
  • 4 nights in a hostel in Berlin.  The hostel lobby also served as a bar.  The students were all of age in Germany, but I limited them to 2 drinks per day.
  • In Berlin, we visited countless museums, listened to a lecture at the Reichstag (Germany's parliament building), toured the 1936 Olympic Stadium, went to a Hertha BSC soccer game there, and toured IES (my old exchange institute).
  • We took an overnight train from Berlin to Munich and slept in cabins with six bunk beds apiece.
  • We spent another four nights in Munich at a youth hostel, this one catering more towards families and student groups, so no bar in the lobby.
  • In Munich, we went to many more museums, toured the 1972 Olympic Stadium, went to a German movie at a movie theater, swam in the Englisch Garten, went to two beer gardens and one beer hall, and toured Dachau, one of the first concentration camps to be established after the Nazis took power in 1933, and one of the first to be established as a memorial/museum in the 1960's.
  • Direct flight home from Munich back to Newark on the 12th.

Planning for the trip was exhausting.  Train, museum and soccer tickets had to be researched, prices negotiated, and purchased.  Hostel and restaurant reservations had to be made.  A comprehensive itinerary for 12 people had to be built.  Forms had to be filled out and signed, and mailed/e-mailed to random people in Germany, and endless e-mails between parents and me were sent.  My students will never truly know the amount of time that went into planning this trip.  But that's ok.  I did it for them because I truly believe in the transformative power of travel, and I wanted to share this passion of mine with them.

The trip itself was no less exhausting.  I had to constantly be on, conducting headcounts, talking with hostel managers and restaurateurs, keeping us on time when we had a reservation somewhere, navigating the train system with 11 other people in tow...

But as I said, it was worth it.  It was worth it to see their genuine enthusiasm over things big and small.  To see the satisfaction when they used the language we've worked so hard to learn in class.  To come at all aspects of the trip with an open mind and blind trust in me, their leader.  And on our last night, when they presented me with a note saying how much they appreciated me, it was more than enough.  Only two of the ten came into school yesterday, the bums, but they are all rockstars in my book nonetheless.

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