||For first-time visitors, Germany is certainly a pleasant surprise, and for those who have already been to the country before, there is always plenty more to discover. Florian Meierhofer from BWS Germanlingua, which has schools in Munich and Berlin, sums up some of Germany’s broad attractions. “Students are fascinated by the beautiful landscape here, by the rich culture, the historic city centres and the important museums.”
Germany is a country of natural beauty, old towns and cities, and fairytale castles and palaces and this year Germany had an added draw, as Eva Goebl at International House (IH) Freiburg points out: the World Cup football tournament. As the country played host to the event in June and July, major cities put up big outdoor screens for those unable to obtain tickets to the matches, and with beer flowing and the sun shining, there was an inescapable party atmosphere throughout the country. Many language schools joined in with the festivities, and some such as Sprachinstitut Treffpunkt in Bamberg even taught their students specialist football vocabulary in a lesson, that students put to good use playing table football at the school, relates Alexandra von Rohr.
Football aside, Bamberg has many attractive qualities, says von Rohr. Located in northern Bavaria, about equidistant from both Munich and Frankfurt, it is a well-preserved historic city. “The entire old part of town the largest one in Germany that was not destroyed in World War II was admitted into the World Heritage List in 1993,” states von Rohr. The city is made up of a mix of architectural styles that stretch from the 11th to 18th centuries. Bamberg is also an ideal spot for “culture vultures”, with 13 museums, 10 art galleries and eight theatres as well as being home to the famous Bamberger Symphoniker classical orchestra. Another of Bamberg’s many attractions is that it boasts the highest density of breweries in the world. “Formerly 60 breweries, [there are now] 10 family-run breweries left in Bamberg [but that is not including] the 300 which still exist around the city,” says von Rohr.
Another city famous for its beer is Munich. It is also a place that knows how to enjoy itself, hosting many festivals throughout the year, including the Oktoberfest and Tollwood. But it also boasts world-class museums and art galleries while its location close to the Alps makes it an ideal base for hiking in the summer and snow sports in the winter. According to Meierhofer at BWS, it is easy to feel at home in Munich. “Despite being in a big city, you feel like you are in a village,” he asserts.
BWS’s other school is located in Germany’s capital, Berlin, which Meierhofer says, is “a city with a great nightlife and art scene, important museums, a rich history and has political importance”. He adds, “The people who live there are so open-minded and don’t have problems with accepting people who look different, who are dressed in a specific fashion or who have crazy hobbies!”
Dorothee Robrecht, Marketing Director for GLS Sprachenzentrum in Berlin, continues the list of attributes: “the open and truly multicultural atmosphere; the unpretentious and very accessible art scene; and the diversity of its districts each with its very own style, from funky Kreuzberg or trendy Prenzlauerberg to upper-class Zehlendorf”. In addition, she notes that Berlin is a green city with lots of lakes, rivers, canals and parks in the city centre. And despite being Germany’s capital city, the cost of living is relatively cheap. “Prices for food and accommodation [are low in Berlin] compared with other German cities or European capitals,” asserts Robrecht. Another of Germany’s gems is Dresden. “Dresden is famous for its old baroque architecture and its cultural life,” ventures Bernd Bichtemann, Director of Inlingua in the city. Situated on the River Elbe, Dresden has wonderful old buildings, museums, theatres and over 700 restaurants serving up both German and international cuisine.
Bordering both Switzerland and France in the southwest of Germany, Freiburg offers students a taste of the Black Forest and more. “Freiburg is a beautiful university city with a history going back more than 900 years,” comments Goebl at IH Freiburg. “It is also a lively city with more than 30,000 students living here, and its location close to the Black Forest, Switzerland and France makes it ideal for hiking, mountain biking, visiting tourist attractions and festivals.”
For most language schools, it is important that students get to know not only the country but also its people. IH Freiburg achieves this through its links with the city’s university. “Our students can use the facilities such as the university library, the university restaurant, etc. They easily get involved in student life,” explains Goebl. “Moreover, they can stay in a student residence together with other German students.”
At other schools, host families play a key role in introducing students to Germany. Andrea Weik at Carl Duisberg Centrum in Berlin notes, “Most of our students stay with host families, they talk German with the family members and learn a lot about Berlin and [our] way of life.”
At GLS, not only is German taught to international students, but foreign languages are also taught to Germans, which as Robrecht points out, means that locals are constantly in the school. She adds, “The GLS campus, with restaurant, cafeteria and lounge, is a great meeting point for both students and locals.”
Most schools also organise extra-curricular activities that involve mixing with locals. At Sprachinstitut Treffpunkt, an example is a weekly meeting at a bar or beer garden. This, according to von Rohr, attracts many past and present students. “A lot of German friends and former students from the school join as well as teachers, hosts and people interested in a colourful mix of people from all over the world.”
Nearly all international students find Germans friendly and welcoming and only too willing to help. Bichtemann recounts a story of one of their Japanese students arriving at the wrong railway station for the school pick-up. When the student informed one of the officials at the station they personally drove her to the other station and helped her find her chauffeur!
“Most students are surprised by how attractive and scenic Germany is. They do not realise that it is stunningly beautiful and has a varied geography. It really has it all! And Germany hosts well recognised events such as the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Love Parade in Berlin and most recently, the World Cup. Students are intrigued by the unique blend of history and modernity.”
Lianne Hodgson, Languages Abroad, Canada
“During the last year, interest in knowing Germany and its culture has grown. Because of TV programmes, Mexican people have a wider vision of the country and its importance. Students over 18 years old prefer Berlin, others choose Stuttgart and Munich for long-term studies and the parents of younger children choose smaller towns for summer programmes. Students find German people very kind and friendly and they enjoy the museums. and social life.”
Nelly Machiavelo, Redca Cursos y Sistemas, Mexico
“Many Korean students who study classical music aim to go to Germany for further study, and to enter a university of music. Big cities such as Berlin, Munich and Cologne are popular. Students get used to living in a big city like Seoul. They have fun living in a big city overseas, too. Many of our students mention the kindness and sincerity of people at the language school and of their host family.”
Christina Kim, Euro Arts, Korea
“Most of the students who choose to learn German are not beginners. They might have studied German at university or are going to study at university in Germany in the near future. The most popular cities are Berlin and Munich.”Daisuke Yamamoto, Ryugaku Times, Japan