This summer I had the opportunity to attend a German language course at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, thanks to receiving a scholarship by DAAD in Singapore. The course was entitled Deutsch Erleben and it consisted of 4 weeks of intensive language classes and excursions to different sites all around Berlin. For me it was the perfect opportunity, given that I had just finished the highest level of German language classes at NUS and I felt ready and more confident to face some first-hand experiences studying and living in Germany.
I must admit initially it felt like I was thrown into the deep-end. I had signed up for a course that was taught completely in German and at a level much higher than I had anticipated. I felt my fellow participants were much more fluent and advanced than I was. Nonetheless that gave me added motivation to brush up on my communication skills. Unlike my previous experiences in Germany, I decided to make it a point to always begin conversations immediately auf deutsch. I find that (and this is a common belief among non-native German speakers) that Germans are always more than eager to speak to foreigners in English! In any case, I was there for a purpose and I tried my best to not be intimidated by native-German speakers.
The course itself consisted of 3 hours of language classes everyday and an excursion somewhere around Berlin. I feel extremely fortunate that DAAD gave me one of my desired courses that I applied for in Berlin. One never tires of that amazing city! Everyday was an adventure and the excursions chosen by the university made me fall in love with the city even more! The first week’s trips were aimed at exposing us to German culture and history. We visited some of the most famous museums in Berlin, such as the Deutsches Historisches Museum and Topography of Terror. The following week was focused on politics. We visited the Reichstag (where an extremely friendly Member of Parliament stopped to speak with us!), the Political Archives and had the chance to speak with a spokesperson from one of the political parties in the Bundestag. As a Political Science major at university, I couldn’t have been more thrilled!! Of course being in Germany during the Euro2016, we made sure to catch all the important matches either at the Brandenburg Gate itself or at one of Berlin’s many amazing beer gardens.
The four-week course proved so beneficial to me in deepening my passion and interest for the German language. We were fortunate to have Dr Susann Neuenfeldt, as our instructor and she exposed us to different forms of German literature, theatre and film every class. I actually find reading Goethe less intimidating after the course! Having students from all around the world in one class learning a foreign language allowed many interesting cultural exchanges and insights. As one can imagine (and as Mark Twain eloquently described), learning German can be extremely frustrating sometimes given the never-ending list of grammar rules, verb forms and sentence constructions. However although we found it challenging, it as also immensely enjoyable and rewarding especially with the dedication and encouragement we had from our teacher Susann.
Overall the improvement that I feel in my language ability has given me the motivation to want to pursue my further studies in Germany after my Bachelors. Learning a new language is never easy but the rewards that it brings make the endeavour worthwhile and certainly memorable. My journey learning German for the past 4 years has brought me to places I never imagined I could visit and experience and exposed me to a whole new culture and society that I find so warm, friendly and inspiring. I would say picking up German as a foreign language has been the most rewarding experience in my university life thus far and I am extremely grateful to DAAD for this experience.