So, I started writing this post more than a month ago, at which point I had intended it to be my “one month in” update for my Year Abroad, but sadly, I wrote a few sheets on a train in Austria and since then, they’ve been gathering dust on my desk. Funny, how life runs away with you.
It’s more than two months since I arrived in Tübingen. At risk of sounding like a cliché, it feels both as though I arrived just a few days ago, and like I’ve lived here for years. Maybe I was always supposed to be here, then. Perhaps it’s that I’ve had so long to get used to the idea. Continue reading “Year Abroad Update: Two Months In”
I’m writing this because… Well, to be honest, it’s because I keep seeing people writing soppy Facebook statuses about the New Year and I wanted to do one, but I also didn’t want to embarrass myself. So why not do a longer post here, a forum completely dedicated to embarrassing myself? Ha ha. Anyway, it’s probably going to wind up being a lengthy one, so buckle up.
I should be revising. How strange, and yet how completely predictable that I’m back in the position I was in at this time last year, with a few marked differences. I’m panicking about first-year exams I haven’t revised enough for, preparing to go back to Exeter to start another term. But I’m studying something I enjoy. Even though I have to make myself work sometimes, and I still get distracted by stupid things, and a lot of the time I just want to stay in bed, I don’t feel helpless. I’m not held back by a cloud over my head which makes me doubt whether I’ll make it into the next week, let alone the next year. Continue reading “2015 Roundup”
Being a broke kind-of-student leaving midway through the year, I don’t exactly have a ton of money to spend nearly half a year travelling the world however I like. This is why I’m a huge fan of websites like Couchsurfing (see my beginner’s guide HERE!) and Workaway.
But Bea, what is Workaway?
So many volunteering projects charge participants extortionate amounts, knowing that naïve gap-year students will willingly pay a lot of money to go to a developing country and make some kind of contribution. But a lot of this money is never seen by the people it’s supposedly helping, so it’s my opinion that you’re much better off skipping the middle man and contacting NGOs and projects directly.
This is where Workaway comes in. It’s a work-exchange website where NGOs and individuals can post requests for volunteers to come and help them at short notice, throughout the year. The sheer range of placements is amazing, and with hosts in pretty much every country in the world, wanting help with all kinds of projects and jobs, there’s something for everyone.
You set up a profile with a picture, a few paragraphs about yourself, and an idea of how long you’re travelling for, where you’re wanting to go, and what you’re willing to help with when staying with a host, and hey presto, you’re ready to find a host!
I’m not claiming to be an expert on Couchsurfing. It would be enormously presumptuous of me to think that I can speak with authority on something I’ve done only a couple of times. But although my first couple of Couchsurfing experiences were very positive ones (as I hope all my further ones will be), I know that not everyone is so lucky, and so based on my stories and those of others, I’ve compiled this little list to make your first Couchsurfing experience as great as mine was!
I first used the Couchsurfing website when I was in Germany, and stayed in Munich for a couple of nights before flying home after my first Workaway placement (post on this to come later). I found my host about a week before I was due to arrive in Munich at the end of March, and everything went very smoothly! I then used the site again to find a host in New Delhi towards the end of my travels in India.
In Munich, I stayed with a young couple, and my host was lovely and very accommodating; she came and met me at the bus stop after my late-night train to Munich, which saved me a lot of faffing around and probably getting lost! Not only was she a great host, but she also came with me on my trip to Neuschwanstein Castle with some other international friends living in Munich!
Without further ado, here are some tips to make sure your first Couchsurfing stay is the best it can be!
What a ride it’s been! I’m writing this on the plane from Munich back to Heathrow, with less than an hour until landing! Feels strange to be coming back home as it’s only really been a fleeting visit to Germany, and the last time I was abroad, it was for a far longer time; my 3 month stay in America last summer!
Wednesday was a fairly low-key day; other than some general housework, I took the youngest child in the family to the park for a while whilst my hosthad a bit of a rest, and then went to Erlangen quickly to do a little bit of work formatting the blog and catching up with friends, as well as checking my travel arrangements for this weekend. Only just made it back in the nick of time for my host to head out for the evening whilst I babysat again.
The kids are remarkably easy to look after; they really are so well behaved! Their boundless energy, whilst a little tiring to keep up with, is no problem compared to some kids I’ve come across in my life! Whilst I can’t say that I’ve been here long enough to really get that attached, it will be weird to be back in my quiet house with only my parents (and the dogs) and relatively calm surroundings. I’ve got used to having the kids underfoot, and really, they’re great kids! It’s also been nice to speak Czech, though a little difficult at times! I must make an effort to speak Czech more at home with my mum! Continue reading “29.3.15; MUNICH, Germany”
Well, I was nearly falling asleep writing that last entry so I thought I’d split it into two. Where was I? Ah yes, the weekend. Restful weekends are no more; when three kids are home, it’s anything but calm! I had to go back to sleep almost as soon as I’d had breakfast because I felt so terrible, but I felt better after that. During the day I hung a few bits of washing and did the normal tidying routines. Then I helped with some of the renovation work whilst my host was taking a nap. Said work mainly involved scraping paint off doors. It’s more fun than it sounds.
I find it interesting how nearly every house in the local area is unique; the culture of building your own house is bigger here, much better than the copy and paste neighbourhoods we have in the UK. The house is quite big, with three floors and an attic; but the bottom floor is used as storage and the top floor is the one being renovated; it will mainly be bedrooms; eventually all the kids will have their own, but that will probably take a while yet! I suppose there is something satisfying about building or renovating your own house, but it does seem a lot of effort.
Tired is not even the word. A mixture of being very busy, being ill (very grim cold and tonsil stones), having to think and speak in languages I rarely use at home, and the fact that really, I am only just more evolved than a sloth, has meant that the most diverting thing I can think to do in my free time is sleep, and thus I’ve been procrastinating writing another entry for several days. As a result, this is going to be dreadfully long. Sorry, not sorry.
Monday ended fairly uneventfully. I’m sure I did the washing up and vacuuming in the evening, as usual, but nothing too strenuous at all. We watched some of The English Patient, my all-time favourite film, which I find exceedingly difficult to sell to any of my friends as the brilliant see it really is, but finally, I have found someone who appreciates brooding Ralph Fiennes in the desert as much as I do! Although my host’s preference is for Colin Firth… (unbelievable, there is not even a comparison… Colin Firth is firmly in the “teddy bear” category.)
I really don’t think I’m cut out to be a mother. Or a housewife. At all. Even slightly. Having arrived at my host family’s house at around 2.30am, it’s safe to say I was lightly disorientated and absolutely exhausted after having travelled since 6am with a coach, the tube, a plane, three trains and a local bus to reach Erlangen, Bavaria. And that’s not even counting the extra hour.
I came into the house with the whole family asleep as we’d agreed, and pretty much went straight to bed. I was knackered, but it didn’t change my slight concern in that I had absolutely no idea to expect.I had only corresponded with the family via email until I arrived. This is my first Workaway experience, so my worries weren’t unusual, I suppose. Continue reading “16.3.15; ERLANGEN, Germany”