Definitely Not A Weird Forest Cult (Englischhausen Part 2)

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

32 strangers meet on the fringe of a secluded forest in Germany. At first, there are only furtive glances, each person trying to get a feel for the others in the group. As the week goes on, strange words and phrases are taught, learned, and recited from memory. A fire is lit, spirits are consumed, and something between chanting and singing is heard. On the last night, there is wild dancing.

No, this isn’t a weird forest cult. This is Englischhausen. And it’s AWESOME.

Englischhausen is a week-long intensive English immersion program, with non-stop English conversation, skits, and presentations for 12+ hours every day. Half of the participants are native English speakers (“Anglos”) and the other half are Germans of all ages and backgrounds (“students”) who are learning English.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

The group books an entire old-school-cool hotel in the remote town of Laubach, literally on the edge of a forest and as far away from other people (and the German language) as possible. The idea is to form an English language bubble. Students have to listen, speak, think (and hopefully even dream) in English.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

(Would a weird forest cult have an adorable bicycle with flowers?? I don’t think so.)

The Anglos are volunteers, who are given free accommodations and meals for the week in exchange for their English knowledge and conversation. Our group had Anglos from the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, and Australia. The students are from all over Germany. This is an awesome opportunity for them to get feedback from native English speakers and to improve their English skills.

That’s the nuts and bolts of the program.

You can technically stop reading right here. But if you’re thinking WAIT WHAT? Is this a real thing?? (because that was my exact thought when I first heard about Englischhausen), you can keep reading.

Here’s a typical day at Englischhausen:

Breakfast starts at 8:00am, so hustle over to the dining area to grab a seat. Then choose all the most delicious things from a buffet of fruit, yogurt, granola, eggs, meat, cheese, and various bread products. Juice and/or coffee to drink.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

At meals, seats aren’t assigned. BUT, everyone is highly encouraged to mix up their company throughout the day. Also, there should always be two Anglos and two students at every table, sitting catty-corner (like the diagram below).

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Breakfast is not only an opportunity to eat, but also to talk! So get chatting.

(Apologies to anyone I ever shared a breakfast table with. I’m not, and never will be, a morning person. My version of chit chat in the morning is cursing under my breath and staring angrily at people over my cup of coffee.)

Okay, breakfast is over. Go to the big schedule board to see what’s in store for the morning.

Find your name (Anglos on the left, students on the right) to see who you are paired with for each time slot. You have 3 sessions in a row. Each one is with a different person. They are 50 minutes long (with 10 minute breaks between). These sessions can be one-to-ones, telephone sessions, conference calls, theatre rehearsal, or a mini presentation (the students present, and the Anglos listen).

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

That probably looks more confusing than it is. Look again. Pretend your name is Bri. (Ooh, what a lovely name!) You’re at the top of the Anglos list. Slide your finger to the right to see what activity you’re doing (“OO” is a one-to-one). Keep sliding to the right to see which German student you’re paired with for the 9:00-9:50 session (name removed for privacy).

Okay, now go find that redacted-name gray box person and hang out with them for roughly an hour. Be sure to tell them what “settle down” and “open up a can of worms” mean (since those are the phrasal verbs and idioms written above the 9:00 time slot on the schedule).

Feel free to go wherever you want and talk about whatever you want.

You can take a walk through the forest.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Or sit at a table next to the bar.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Or even grab a table outside.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Do this for each of your three morning sessions. At first, you might need some conversation starters. Talk about family, hobbies, traveling, or favorite books/movies.

Wait, what? Where did the time go?!

All 3 morning sessions are already over. Now meet back up in the conference room with the whole group. Allow yourself to have WAY too much fun with whatever activity is planned for that day. Like playing “Never Have I Ever” (lots of giggling involved) or competing to see which group can build the tallest spaghetti tower (cries of anguish as most of them topple over).

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

1:00 is time for lunch! (OMG THE FOOD. You guys. It’s all wayyyy too good.)

Lunch is not only an opportunity to eat, but also to talk! So get chatting. There are pitchers of water on the table (And you’ll need plenty of water. You’ve been talking for 5 hours straight!) You can also choose between wine, beer, or soda.

Then the appetizer will come. This will be a delicious soup or salad.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

And as you’re talking, (hopefully eating), and talking some more… the main course comes. It might look like one of these.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

And THEN, if you want it, there’s also dessert. (Um, of course you want dessert – is that even a question?) You can also have a cup of coffee, a cappuccino, an espresso, or a cup of tea.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

(Do you see those chocolate sprinkles? They’re NOT SPRINKLES. They’re chocolate pop rocks!! 😍)

After lunch, you have approximately an hour and a half to yourself. If you are an Anglo, this probably means quietly slipping into a food coma and napping through the entire free time slot. If you are a student, this probably means writing/practicing your presentation.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Then at 16:00 (4pm), everyone meets up for another group activity!

This might be discussing questions from Table Topics cards or somehow trying to get 32 people in birthday order without talking. (That second activity is much harder when you think about the fact that Americans will typically do the month first and the date second… and Europeans will do the exact opposite).

After that, check the schedule again. Who are you paired with for your next two sessions?

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Find your student and start talking! You might discuss self-driving cars, or the Galapagos Islands, or why on earth Donald Trump is a real candidate that is actually in the running for president of the United States (a fact that 99% of Europeans find completely baffling).

Do this for two sessions. You might choose a seat in the café this time, just to mix things up.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Afterward, meet up as a group again. There will be a mix of Anglos and students that briefly become actors and actresses to put on a bit of theatre for the group. (I was honestly expecting this part to be super cheesy. False. This was always amazing and hilarious. I wish I had photos, but I was too busy laughing.)

Then, a couple of Anglos will give presentations on a topic of their choosing. (If you’re really lucky, a Speech-Language Pathologist from Austin, Texas will tell you all about swallowing disorders! So interesting! Hint: That was me. I did that.)

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

At 20:00 (8pm) it’s time for dinner. And remember… dinner is not only an opportunity to eat, but also to talk! So keep chatting.

While you’re discussing how dialysis machines work or your favorite comic book heroes or a really terrible first date, your beverage, appetizer, and main course will come. (And get excited, because dinner is just as delicious as lunch!)

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

After dinner, around 21:30 (9:30pm), your duties as an Anglo or as a student are “officially” over. But you are encouraged to stick around for more fun activities and a slightly less formal atmosphere. Frequent trips to the bar and games like Taboo or Heads Up ensure that the conversation keeps flowing.

Head to bed somewhere between midnight and 2:00am. Smiling so hard your cheeks hurt, mildly exhausted, and really looking forward to another day at Englischhausen.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Let’s take a moment to review:

32 strangers meet on the fringe of a secluded forest in Germany. At first, there are only furtive glances, each person trying to get a feel for the others in the group. As the week goes on, strange words and phrases are taught, learned, and recited from memory. A fire is lit, spirits are consumed, and something between chanting and singing is heard. On the last night, there is wild dancing.

✅ Yes, you really do meet up on the edge of the forest in the-middle-of-nowhere Germany. (But there’s a cute historic hotel there. And it’s totally legit.)
✅ Yeah, at the beginning it’s a little awkward. But not for long! People warm up very quickly. You come as strangers and leave as friends. (#CheesyButTrue)
✅ The words and phrases taught/learned/recited from memory are just English, which is a totally bizarre language by the way.
✅ We did light a campfire one night. All of the people from a certain place had to form a chorus and sing a song that represented their country. Ireland’s White Rover totally won, but England’s Spice Girls rendition was a close second. (Not sure if the schnapps helped or hurt this endeavor.)
✅ And yes. On the last night… all inhibitions are officially gone. There is definitely wild dancing.

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

A few other points:

We ended up here on kind of a whim, but this has absolutely been a highlight of our trip so far. The free accommodations and food were nice, but truly, the coolest part of the week was meeting people from all over Germany (and the world!) and getting closer to total strangers in 1 week than I could ever imagine.

In conclusion, Englischhausen is SUCH A COOL THING. (And definitely not a weird forest cult.)

Englischhausen English Camp | Laubach Germany | The Travel Medley

Did this sound totally awesome?!? (It was.) Volunteer to be an Anglo! It’s an easy way to add a week onto your travels and it’s such a fun and unique way to meet people from all over the world. There are programs in both Germany and Spain, and they take place year round. Check it out!

[Thanks to Rachael, Clare, Roxanne, and Renate for sending me some of your pictures from the week!]

And since we loved Englischhausen SO MUCH, we decided to extend it a little bit by going home with one of the students! Click here to read about our spontaneous weekend in Schwabach >>

 

Comments

  1. Reply

    […] Want more details about the program? Keep reading! >> […]

  2. Reply

    […] LOVED Englischhausen. (Could you tell from this post??) It’s seriously such a cool concept, and we got to know so many amazing people during our […]

  3. Reply

    […] we were staying with Renate, a conversation came to mind that I had with some students at Englischhausen earlier that week. It went like […]

  4. Reply

    Hello Bri & Michael!

    The memories came flooding back as I read through this! How I enjoyed that week – all those plates of amazing food, the activities, the walks through the surrounding woods, even that coloured schedule! I smile as I type – I’m thinking about how our group came together in such a short space of time, it was something special!

    Every article you write on this blog is fantastic, keep up the good work. Also, spend as long as you can doing this – travelling – I think it is one of the best ways to live so enjoy & savour every possible second!

    I’m checking in every so often to see where you are & to read your uplifting stories! Keep up the good work!

    Eugene from Ireland

    p.s. Bri you deserve an award as the greatest Taboo player in history! You were incredible that night!

    1. Reply

      Hi Eugene!!!

      Thank you for the kind words! We are so glad that we did Englischhausen – it was such a fun week! And you’re right… very special how the group got so close in such a short amount of time.

      It was really fun to swap travel stories with you. Glad you’re enjoying the blog updates too. We will be sure to let you know if/when we make it to Ireland one day! You do the same for us if you’re ever nearby.

      Maybe there can even be a Taboo re-match 🙂

      -Bri & Michael

  5. Reply

    Thank you so much for this splendid description of your experience. My husband and I are going to volunteer at Laubach in mid-October 2016. I have been searching and searching for just this kind of trip log. As I’m sure you know, I am counting the minutes (really!) and trying to think of as many things as possible to talk about. Did you do any kind of preparing? Do recall if they served food at the welcome reception in Frankfurt? We’re not sure if we should plan to go somewhere for dinner beforehand or if there will be enough food at the reception.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your trip logs.
    Kind regards,
    Alice

    1. Reply

      No problem! If you enjoyed this post, you will DEFINITELY enjoy Englischhausen!! It’s such a fun and unique experience. As soon as the week was over, I was already checking the schedule to see if we could volunteer again this year :). I did not do anything to prepare, and found that the conversation really flowed quite easily! Everyone is a little nervous at first, but the Diverbo folks do a great job of providing conversation topics and making everyone feel comfortable. Also yes, they serve a wonderful dinner at the welcome reception in Frankfurt, so show up hungry! I hope you and your husband have a wonderful time in October!! Enjoy 🙂

  6. Reply

    Just the debriefing to clarify many unanswered questions. Thank you. Jim Wootton

    1. Reply

      Absolutely! Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m happy to help!

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