It has been exactly a year since receiving Sibylle’s (head of Freundeskreis Munich) email about this amazing family weekend stay program, but it seems like yesterday. I immediately filled out the application form to participate in the program and was secretly hoping to be selected for it (with crossed fingers). I beamed with surprise and happiness when just after a week, I received an email from Frau Claudia Witte, coordinator of families for Freundeskreis Munich, to inform me that an amazing and kind German lady, Annette Becker, had shown interest to host me during February 2020. However, due to a very tight study schedule at university, we postponed this trip to March.

When I mentioned about my visit to Thi Mai Le, my friend, class fellow, and a DAAD student from Vietnam, she showed great interest to join me. So, we wrote to Annette to ask if Thi Mai Le can also join for the weekend stay which she generously agreed to. Annette planned a wonderful weekend for us. Mai Le and me booked bus tickets and were all set to commence our journey to Friedrichshafen. But alas! The pandemic situation started getting worse and therefore we once again postponed our trip. At that time, we were unsure if we would ever be able meet Annette in person.

Thankfully, the pandemic situation started getting better in the summer. So, our kind host rescheduled our visit in July. It was a sunny day in mid-July 2020 when we finally departed for Friedrichshafen. Annette personally came to pick us up at the bus station after finishing her school job on Friday. Before moving on to her home, she gave us a very informative tour of Lake Constance. We beamed with excitement at seeing a Zeppelin (airship) for the first time in our lives. Our host kindly explained the history of Zeppelin, geography of Lake Constance, and the day-to-day life of the surrounding area. This was the first time we saw such a large and beautiful lake. We felt like we are at an ocean surrounded with mountains. I never imagined that from a lake one could see mountains of three countries, and nature like this. Thereafter, our host took us to visit the small municipality Langenargen, located by the lake, where we met a friend of our host’s, another wonderful woman, and had a Swabian meal at a nice restaurant.

On our way to Meckenbeuren, our host’s hometown, whenever we raised any questions about anything, she was happy to explain. We learned about the history of the German automobile and other industries and also visited hop fields on our way to her home.

The next day, our host and her friend took us for a tour to Lindau, a small and very peaceful and nice city on an island in the lake. We walked around the island, saw the life of local people, and visited a traditional market and shops nearby. We had the chance to experience an aspect of German life that is different from the life in big cities like Munich where we are living.

The most memorable experience of our trip is the kindness of our host. She made us feel at home in her house, cooked Swabian and French dishes for us, and also took us to meet her father, a 89-year-old retired teacher, who is living in Tettnang. Our host also became our “interpreter” during our conversation with her father.  She shared with us insights about life in a German household during our talks after dinners. Through her stories I understood more about German people and everyday life here. She made us feel very close and cared for us like a mother or a sister, not as someone with whom we were meeting for the first time. It felt like we had known each other for a long time.

On the day of our departure, Annette took us to the bus station and stayed with us until our bus took off. Our bus did not appear on time due to huge traffic that day. Although our host had an appointment with her friend, she patiently waited with us at the bus station and offered to pay for train tickets, just in case. Thankfully, the bus finally appeared and we made it back to Munich.

Marvi Qazi, Pakistan