Elizabeth Lauredant from Haiti came to Germany with host organisation Ecoselva. Her assignment at Marburg’s Botanical Gardens allows her to work in her profession and gain new knowledge at the same time.
I came to Germany in September and knew from the very first day it would be an unforgettable adventure. Germany is a beautiful country and very different to where I was born – be it in terms of the climate, infrastructure, political system or the culture.
When I arrived, I wondered what living in an unfamiliar town and starting a new life in a host family would be like. But the introductory seminar was very helpful because it gave me an idea of how certain things work in this country.
I really respect the fact that everything is well organised here. Punctuality is very important and if you want to fit in you have to be on time at the bus stop, at work, for appointments or whenever. Being just one minute late can change how your day unfolds.
German is not the easiest language in the world. I took an intensive German course in October, which was very useful in helping me communicate on a basic level. But it wasn’t enough to be able to hold long, engaging conversations. I’m working independently on my language skills at the moment, which is the best thing I can do, but that’s not enough either. However, I speak English well enough to make myself understood almost everywhere.
I really want to mention the weather too because the contrast between a tropical country and one where the temperature drops to -10°C in February was quite extreme. It gets dark soon too and I feel like I spend ages at work and that I’m very tired. The only thing you can do is dress warmly and look forward to summer.
Food in Germany is healthier overall. There’s not much seasoning but at least there’s a wide variety of delicious breads and cheeses. They’ve helped me get by while my stomach has accustomed itself to German food. After a while, things sort themselves out and now I have a better idea of what I like and I cook more.
I work at Marburg University’s Botanical Gardens. They comprise approximately 20 hectares of varied landscape and a greenhouse complex with eight exhibition houses.
Instead of working in one specific place, every day I work with a different person in their area. Every morning, we have to sweep up the leaves, clear the pathways and water the palm house. Then we have breakfast and divide up the tasks for the day. That might be pruning orchids or trees, selecting seeds, preparing soil for planting or propagating plants. If there’s an event on, I help with the decorations or clearing up. The Botanical Gardens also give me the possibility to attend various seminars at the university and learn new things.
The staff are very friendly. When I arrived, I was very warmly welcomed. Everyone smiled and always wanted to chat with me. They gave me warm winter clothes and sweets. When it’s someone’s birthday, they bring cake or organise a breakfast for the staff. There’s a barbecue party each month, which is open to everyone who wants to spend some time with the other staff. Sometimes you don’t even need a reason for a chat!
Although there are difficulties sometimes, it’s a very interesting job and I really like it because it allows me to work in my profession and gain new knowledge at the same time.
My host family
My host parents are Elke and Berthold. They’re very nice and they made me feel at home from day one. We have a cup of coffee together every afternoon and tell each other what we’ve been doing. Sometimes we cook something German or I make a typical dish from my country. At the weekend we have breakfast together and if I sleep a little longer than usual Elke brings me a cappuccino to wish me a good morning.
They treat me like one of the family and I will never forget the moments we spend together.
We do other things together too. For example, we go swimming, go to the cinema and to salsa fitness classes. We had a wonderful Christmas with their children, going to church together, preparing Christmas dinner and giving each other presents. They’re always willing to listen to my problems and to help whenever they can. They treat me like one of the family and I will never forget the moments we spend together.
My leisure time
In my free time, I often visit local towns and cities and my friends who live elsewhere. I’m also planning to travel to other countries. During the week, I go to salsa fitness classes, dance salsa and go swimming. But I’m not always out and about. Sometimes I just stay at home and enjoy my host parents’ company, read a book or work on my German.
These first four months in Germany have helped me become a more independent and confident person. I see the world through different eyes, have moved out of my comfort zone and am gathering work experience and meeting wonderful people. Although I do miss my home and family some days, I tell myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m enjoying it TO THE FULL!