In mid June we received a letter from the school in Berlin, saying that our son would begin school on August 22nd with Frau K. in the T. study group (in Germany 1st and 2nd grade children are in one class, therefore classes have names rather than numbers). Attached there was a list of books (which we had not to buy, because of the short period of time Nicholas would be staying) and a list of materials (exercise books, pencils, etc.). All this 2 months before the beginning of the school year, whereas in Padua we receive this information 3 days before school begins (!).
The next steps were booking our flights, confirming the apartment, and underwrite an insurance policy for Nicholas, covering health care and liability. We decided to use the insurance offered by the air carrier, but there are others, even yearly insurances, which are very good and don’t cost too much.
At the end of June I began to explain to Nicholas that we would all go to Berlin – a city he adores – and that he would take a look at the school there to see how German schools work. I realised that for him it was difficult to imagine what a school was, let alone understanding what it meant to go to school ‘there’ and then ‘here’. Thanks to various tricks I tried to make our project look more appealing. I explained to him that in Berlin he would go to school for a few hours, make friends with German children, learn things and then we would be together again from lunch time till evening. In the afternoon we would do a lot of interesting things, such as going to the zoo, playing in beautiful parks, visiting museums for children, and going for a boat trip on a lake. Furthermore, we would have big fun on Saturdays and Sundays, as nobody goes to school on Saturday in Berlin! Another big and very useful attraction was the ‘Schultüte’ or ‘Zuckertüte’ (a huge cone full of sweets and gifts) – which does not exist in Italy or in South Tyrol – and all the wonderful things Nicholas pictured it would contain.
When, one day, talking to a friend of mine, I heard him say ‘I am six years old and I will go to school, but first in Berlin and then in Padua’, I knew he was ready!
It was the end of July and we were still in the mountains in South Tyrol, where Nicholas was attending a local summer camp – a good language training for our Berlin experiment. But as the German variety spoken in South Tyrol differs very much from standard German (‘Hochdeutsch’), I had him watch Kika (German channel showing high-quality programs for children) a great deal to improve his understanding of standard German. Towards the end of our stay, we listened several times to the audio book ’Bella, Boss und Bulli’, which he loves, because it talks about school children and a girl who has just moved and is new in school. Such a perfect topic!
Summer camp ended in mid August, just in time to go back home to Padua, pack our things and take our flight on August 20th. Once arrived at the airport in Berlin, we bought two monthly tickets for city transportation for us two adults, so during the weekend Nicholas could travel for free. After having changed two underground lines, because of works, and one-and-a-half hours later we reached our apartment, where a fantastic Schultüte was awaiting: a gigantic paper cone with the writing ‘Polizei’ (Police), and full of sweets and little presents! We put down our luggage and left again to buy the last things for school: German and maths exercise books, drawing block, modelling paste, note blocks, and coloured paper. This was really everything! Well, not exactly, Nicholas’ monthly transportation ticket was still missing, but we had to wait for his ‘Schülerausweis’ (student card).