Snow soccer and Vegemite at Christmas: BASF's 2019 SAGSE student shares stories from his adventure
Each year BASF ANZ sponsors a student to live in Germany for 10 weeks as part of the Scholarship for Australian- German Student Exchange (SAGSE) program. Here BASF's 2019 student Tinashe Madhuvu shares stories from his adventure abroad.
While the weather in Tinashe Madhuvu’s hometown of Melbourne was warming up in November last year, Tinashe was digging out his thickest winter jacket and preparing to travel to the other side of the world. “I remember being greeted with an icy gust of wind and four-degree weather when I arrived at Frankfurt Airport in Germany,” he reflects. Although the weather upon his arrival was chilly, lucky the reception that greeted him from his host family was anything but.
Tinashe quickly settled in to life in Ingolstadt, a quaint city near Munich with around 136,000 citizens, and soon discovered his Melbourne and Ingolstadt families had many things in common. While the local dialect took some getting used to, it didn’t take long for Tinashe to feel like he was part of the family. “My host family were very patient with me and continuously helped me to improve my German skills until the language barrier was no longer a problem and we were able to converse about a broad range of topics over the dinner table easily.”
Although Tinashe had already graduated high school in Australia, in Germany he went back to school where he enjoyed answering questions from his new friends about his home country. “At school, everybody asked me lots of questions about what it is like to live in Australia such as if there were huge spiders and snakes everywhere or if kangaroos roamed around the streets freely,” he said. “I enjoyed explaining to them what AFL is and teaching them some Aussie slang.”
Tinashe’s recalls his most memorable day at school was the day when the playground was unexpectedly dusted with snow for the first time that winter. “I remember the exact day when it began snowing down for the first time," he recalls. "Myself and another Australian Stipi (scholarship recipient) began to throw snowballs at each other before the teachers got involved and asked us why we were behaving as if it was our first-time seeing snow - we replied in unison, “IT IS!”
At Christmas time Tinashe enjoyed experiencing the local Christmas markets, decorating his family house and baking gingerbread. He even managed to add a touch of Australia to the very traditional German celebrations. “The lamingtons and pavlova were a big hit! However, I told my host brother he should have a whole teaspoon of straight Vegemite; his reaction was priceless! We all died of laughter and I think it is safe to assume he won’t be eating it again!”
Over the winter holidays Tinashe and some of his new friends travelled around Germany and visited Cologne, Heidelberg, Berlin, Munich and as well as Salzburg in Austria. “In Salzburg we visited the Neuschwanstein Castle, famous for being the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s logo. We felt a bit adventurous, so we rode in a horse and carriage up the mountain and then enjoyed the stunning views from the top of the castle.”
Tinashe also experienced different sports and activities with his host partner Joel. In addition to joining the local soccer team (and training in minus 6 degrees weather), he also got to experience some impressive live games. “I had the chance to travel to Allianz Arena to see my favourite German team, Bayern Munich, play Werder Bremen in a Bundesliga match. To travel from Ingolstadt to Munich in the fan bus was amazing,” he said.
Ten weeks of living the German life, exploring new places and meeting new people went by extremely fast and in February 2020 it was time to return home. Reflecting on the trip, Tinashe said he has learnt a lot about himself, increased his self-confidence and noticed a huge improvement in his German skills.
"I have gained a whole new perspective on how I view the world after spending three months in such a beautiful country, made many life-long friends and created so many memories which I will cherish forever. The opportunity to go on exchange to Germany was a once in a lifetime experience and I would like to express how grateful I am to BASF for sponsoring me on this lifechanging journey.”