The Bromberg family has always embraced their German heritage, and new generations are no exception. Germany’s rotating school year gave three siblings from St. Jacobs an opportunity to revisit their roots in Northern Germany for 11 weeks this spring and summer. The two Bromberg sisters were no strangers to the country, having gone on a similar trip four years ago using scholarships from the Concordia German Language School in Kitchener they attend every week. This time their brother Breyer, 9, was old enough to get his own scholarship from the school, allowing him to experience an international education that left him wanting more.“My favorite was school. I met lots of friends. It was very different than school in Canada. It starts at 8 o’clock in the morning and goes until 1 in the afternoon. Then you get the whole afternoon to play with friends and do homework; you’re not just packing it in. They also had two horses at the school I went to and that was part of gym [class,]” he said in a group phone interview with his sisters and mother.
Germany splits its schools into sections across the country and schools in each section take two-month vacations one at a time as the nation cannot afford to let everyone take time off simultaneously due to its large population. Different start and end dates for summer vacations in each section ensure that German highways, airports and other services are not overwhelmed with vacationers. As a result of this rotating school system, the three siblings became guest students in German schools while classes were still in progress and had a chance to experience a different educational system, explained the children’s mother, Sandi Bromberg.
“They can’t send everybody on vacation all at once. If all of Europe went on summer holidays all at the same time it would be chaos,” she said, adding that her kids had to undertake some extra school work in Canada in order to hand in all of their marks before their departure date in May.
Though it was their second trip to Germany, the sisters found new perspectives on the country. Carola Bromberg, 11, had a chance to experience Germany’s geography and history through a five-day class trip to a medieval castle by the Baltic Sea, bordering Northern Germany and Poland. Her sister Annaliese, 12, enjoyed one of Hamburg’s attractions: a miniature replica of the world. The family also visited Bavaria where they spent some time “wandering” in the Alps, a combination of climbing and hiking in the mountains.
In addition to brushing up on their German the children got in touch with their roots while staying at their ancestral home in the northern village of Hesedorf in Lower Saxony, living next door to relatives. Bromberg explains that such close proximity to the family’s personal history generated a great deal of discussion among the kids, who had never met their great-grandparents, the original owners of the property. Staying so close to their roots, the children had a chance to learn their family’s history and see how the ancestors on their father’s side lived. Both of Hardy Bromberg’s parents are German, having immigrated to Canada while in their twenties as Second World War refugees.
For the two sisters the 11-week trip was their second in four years but all three were sad to leave new experiences behind when the family flew back to Canada on July 27.
“I think they would all love to combine the two countries and take the best of both worlds. There were lots of tears when we left last Friday, when we left to come home because there is lots we will miss,” she said explaining that the children are all, to varying degrees, fluent in the German language.