Derek Price
Derek Price
Germany 2012-2013
Welcome to my Lumos Student Travel Blog! I will be spending 9 months in Enkenbach-Alsenborn, Germany to help teach English at a local high school and to improve my German. Check here for regular updates about my project. Read More About Derek →

Means and Ends

When I created this project, I told myself, my friends, and many other people that one of my main goals was to “improve my German.” I believe this is a good justification for traveling because it suggests a charitable attitude towards the country you are visiting, and that you are willing to humble yourself to the role of a novice in a place where practically everyone you meet will be an expert. But the problem with justifying travel with a desire to learn a language is that you are inevitably faced with another question: why do you want to learn another language?

Before I left for Germany, I reasoned that learning German had many benefits: it would be good for grad school in philosophy, for my resume, and for reading a few favorite writers in their original language. But after a few weeks here in Germany, I faced that question in a new, more urgent way. Learning German was no longer a distant or intangible goal – it became an absolute necessity for daily living. During my first week I was practically incapable of doing almost anything alone. Heck, even ordering coffee made me nervous. One time I stood in line at a busy café for so long that I lost my nerve and left without ordering. Only later did I realize that the adrenaline rush of being nervous had woken me up as much as a cup of coffee (try new 5-hour Nervousness – with as much excitement as a cup of coffee, and definitely a crash later).

Fear not, readers. I now only have brief panic attacks while ordering coffee. To be serious, I really have become more comfortable with speaking German on a daily basis, and that’s because over the last few weeks I’ve had to use German every day in a variety of situations. My learning has been spurred on by the need to communicate. So now I have an immediate, real answer to the previously posed question: I need to learn German in order to function in everyday life.

But that got me thinking. If I justified traveling with learning German, and then I justify learning German with having traveled somewhere (namely, Germany), then haven’t I just reasoned myself into a circle? Have I actually no real reason for learning German?

No. But I was confused about one very important truth: one always learns a language in order to do something else. Language itself is a means, or a tool, good for accomplishing other things. But to suggest that learning a language is an end in itself is to misunderstand the essence of language. Not only is this detrimental to an individual, such as me, when considering why one should travel or study a language, but also to others by promoting that misunderstanding. So when someone is considering whether or not they should major in Spanish, or if they should spend a year in France to improve their French, we should always press these people further – why do you want to learn another language? If one has answers ready for that question, then one understands the purpose of using and learning languages, and is ready to study them.

And really, the stakes are higher than just misunderstanding what language is. When you’re trying to choose what to do with your life, it’s important to understand the choices you are making. And choosing to learn a language without considering the “what-for” can lead to crushed dreams and feelings of time well-wasted. But if you’re willing to admit to yourself that you’ve been thinking about your language studies all wrong, you can adjust your thinking. All that is necessary is to consider what you want to do with German, or Spanish, or any language, pat your naïve past-self on the head, and move towards a real goal.

Two Weeks

Today marks my second week in Germany. Too many things have happened to give in-depth accounts, but I’ll give you a basic, day-by-day breakdown:

Oct. 5th: Arrived in Frankfurt Airport. Took “Alex’s Taxi” to Enkenbach-Alsenborn. Left almost immediately for Europa Park. Arrived in Rust (town near Europa Park) late at night.


6th – 7th: Fun times in Europa Park. If you’ve ever been to Disney World’s Epcot, it’s basically that, except with only European countries, and more rollercoasters. And beer.

Sadly, you aren't allowed to ride the crane.


8th: Back in Enkenbach-Alsenborn. Technically, I’m in Alsenborn. I understand it makes a big difference to the locals here. Did some legal stuff.


9th: Trip to Karlsruhe, the University where I’ll have class once or twice a week. On the way there, stopped to visit the Neustadt Wine Fest. Drank some Neuer Wine. I felt so relaxed while we were in Karlsruhe, for some reason. Everything went smoothly.


10th: Leave for Paris in the late afternoon. Going to visit my ELI program coordinator and her husband.


11th – 13th: 3 days in Paris. The host family came too, but didn’t want to walk around much. Saw a lot of sights on my own, which was surprisingly enjoyable.

Lots of walking and public-transport riding during the day, then French food and wine at night.


14th: Back in E-A. Feeling a bit sick.


15th-16th: Definitely sick. A small parting gift from Paris, I suppose.


17th: Finally, a chance to go to the school where I’ll be working. Meeting with the English teachers went very well. The teachers were so nice they were almost goofy. Not the rigid, straight-laced professionalism I’d been taught to expect from Germans. I think I’ll have a good time working with them.


There ya go. All caught up.

So what’s coming up, you ask? Well, I need to finish some things at the University next week, and I’m also waiting to meet with the head of the English department again to work out a more permanent schedule at the high school. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring E-A on foot. There are so many fantastic trails and walking paths, both in town and in the woods. I’ll have to remember to bring a picture-taker one of these days. The weather has been very pleasant the last few days, and I get the feeling this will be the last nice weekend before Winter. I’m bracing myself.

I’m also going to some sort of Alsenborn choir tonight at the behest of my sometimes feisty host-mother. Apparently they get together, sing a few songs, and then eat and drink for a few hours. I think I was told that the youngest member is 49, and that there are no men under 70. I expect the night to be full of carbs, pitchy-singing, and old men speaking a regional dialect of German that I can barely understand. Not a bad Friday night.

I have a bunch of ideas for more posts, but I think that’ll do for now. Expect to see a few topical posts in the near future.

Until then,



I wanted to get one post in before leaving for Germany… but I didn’t. Still, I think this is a good way to begin my blog – a few thoughts about expectations of two important but different types: what readers can expect from this blog, and what I expect from this project. Since the ol’ writing skills are a bit rusty, let’s deal with the easy one first, that is, the first one, since that’s easy.

The posts here will be concise. Posts will be 400-600 words in length, unless some exceptional circumstance demands shorter or lengthier description. I like this limit because it encourages me, as a writer, to make every word count, and it allows you, as a reader, to enjoy my posts in roughly 5-10 minutes. I become a better writer, you become not-bored – everyone wins.

Posts will also be thoughtful and insightful. I will not be vomiting stream-of-consciousness blank verse poetry on my audience. I’ve got a whole personal journal for that, and even its single audience member often walks away feeling a bit foolish and confused. My hope is to use this blog to highlight interesting events, ideas, and encounters that happen during my stay in Germany. Many of those things will be German. Others won’t be German at all. But either way, when you come to this blog, you can expect well-polished, clear, and maybe even challenging posts.

Though I haven’t decided how far I’m going to take it, at least a few posts will include other forms of media. Songs, pictures, videos, maybe even a shameful weblog or two will accompany a few of posts. Generally, I’ll let my mood and my subject determine what I choose to use, but I’ll always try to use other media as a supplement, not as filler.

That’s what you, as a reader, can expect. Though I’m sure I’ll depart from these rules a few times, I’m going to try to stick by them. Now, the more interesting part – my expectations for the project.

I designed this trip to be almost the opposite of my first trip to Germany. One could say that, during my trip to Berlin last summer, I went as a tourist only. Being a tourist is great because you don’t have any real responsibilities. You spend most of your time with English-speakers, and even the foreigners you meet in bars or restaurants will speak English, so you don’t have to learn the native language. And since you rarely have a rigid, regular schedule, you can stay out late, get drunk (of course, never on a Belmont trip), sleep in, eat expensive food, and buy stupid shirts and mementos. Now, make no mistake: I enjoyed my touristy time in Berlin. But I wanted this trip to be different.

When I reflected on my trip to Berlin, I realized that when you travel as a tourist, you remain somewhat aloof to the country you’re visiting. That’s why this time I wanted to live with a German family in a smaller town, and spend a much longer period of time in Germany. Under these conditions, I’ll actually be able to acclimate myself to my surroundings. It will give me a chance to make Germany a part of me, and by learning the language and living “with the natives,” I’ll finally have the chance to see what it’s like to be a German.

So that is my expectation: to live with Germans, explore their country, learn their language, and see what Germany has to offer. And while I expect to learn a few things about myself and the country I come from, I don’t expect any dramatic or radical changes in my personality. I think too many people go abroad, hoping for some mysterious answer to all of their problems, hoping that if they have some wild adventure they’ll turn into someone new. But those people are tourists. They don’t understand themselves, and they never give themselves a chance to understand the country they’re in. I know this because I tried it once, and found it unsatisfying. So I suppose my secondary expectation is to see how much I really change over the course of my project.

So there you have it. Both types of expectations explained. Feel free to ask relevant questions or make relevant comments. However, I will be moderating comments, so if you want to see your comment on the post, make it earnest, heartfelt, or hilarious.

Until next time,


P.S. – Meet Scumbag Derek