Diverbo – Laubach, Germany

Diverbo – Laubach, Germany

Diverbo is an English Language Immersion Program that operates in Spain and Germany that offers volunteer experiences for native English speakers.

We came across Diverbo when searching for volunteering projects for Spain and when we saw that they offered the program in Germany thought it would make for a great expansion of our European adventure. They offer the courses out of Munich and Frankfurt. We applied for the April course and were accepted.

The first evening of the program we met our MC and Coordinator and the other volunteers and began to get to know each other over a meal and on the Sunday morning we boarded the bus to Laubach, and were joined by two students (the rest were making their own way to the hotel) thus beginning the week of immersion English.

The hotel is located around an hour and a half from Frankfurt, nestled in some beautiful countryside. The first afternoon was to get settled in and familiarise ourselves with the hotel before the program officially started. The day was sunny and pleasant so many of us spent time sitting in the courtyard and getting to know each other. The initial conversations were the standard who we are, where are you from, but also provided a little reassurance to the more nervous of the students. Our group consisted of 16 Anglos & 16 students. The Anglos came from Canada, USA, UK, and Australia, and were from a variety of ages, backgrounds, and accents. The students also presented a variety of accents from across Germany (reinforcing that there is no homogenous accent for any language) ages and backgrounds.

Diverbo – Laubach, GermanyDiverbo – Laubach, Germany

The thing with programs like this is that few actually understand the intensity of learning that is coming, or how much they will improve their English and confidence in speaking. It is a perfectly natural fear of the unknown that must be embraced and exploited to gain the best of the experience.

The program consists of a series of 1-to-1 conversations including a telephone call, a conference call, group activities, theatre performances, 2-to-2 conversations, as well as shared meals. Each 50 minute session is also provided a phrasal verb and an idiom for discussion, some of which prove to be very humorous. It also included a short tour of Laubach in English, providing some local sights and history.

The 1-to-1 conversations provide an excellent opportunity for the students to engage an individual in dialogue where they have a good amount of control, being able to influence the conversation to keep it in boundaries they are comfortable with as well as allowing for the gradual expansion of those boundaries.

The telephone call is another technique that expands the boundaries further by removing the visual language of conversation, increasing the difficulty (especially with some of the harder accents). We were provided booklets that contained a variety of discussion topics and suggested discussion points, or we could come up with our own.

The 2-to-2 conversations were an interesting aside and presented a different challenge to the 1-to-1’s. We were divided into groups and given a list of topics we could discuss. Initially we spoke of the topics trying to find a mutually desirable one before diving into the conversation itself. In my group, we ended up choosing a topic regarding the colonisation of Mars and I ended up playing ‘Devil’s Advocate’ by taking the alternate view from the group and it became a 2.5-to-1.5. This conversation became very heated quickly as it tapped into the each individuals passion for social justice (our mutual belief) and involved questions of economy, technology, and appropriate investment of resources to solve the issues of the human race.

The conference call were from booklets provided to us that contained a variety of discussion topics and suggested discussion points. I chose a topic regarding providing a grant of 1 million Euros to a town council for the purposes of promoting tourism, allowing the students to use their knowledge of their home towns to engage them in a game of one-upmanship which made for a great conference call. Throughout the call, I made notes regarding the information provided to give feedback at the end. Another Anglo was also in the room with the students doing the same to allow for two sets of constructive criticism and opinion.

The group activities, meals and theatre performances were a fun way of allowing us to mix and frequently change social dynamics, ensuring we kept to the edges of our comfort zones (which were always shifting) as well as keeping us from forming cliques. One of my favourite of these was when we were divided into groups and asked to prepare a song about the program and learning English. Our group came up with a variation of ‘Singing in the Rain’ called ‘English on the Brain’. It was fun to prepare and perform to the group, our lyrics went like this:

No English in my brain
I’m going insane
Surrounded by Anglos
Who don’t sound the same.
They’re speaking to fast
I don’t think I’ll last.
I’m thinking of throwing in the towel.
Some English in my brain
A 1-to-1 again
Learning phrasal verbs and idioms
It makes my head pain.
Kill two birds with one stone
Conference call on the phone
And this theatre thing, is not my cup of tea.
Only English in my brain
This language is my main
But I have a small problem
I’m leaving today
So many new friends
Don’t want this to end
We’ll keep in touch with English in our brains.

Over the course of the week I made some very good friends, a couple of whom I have seen since, and had a rich and rewarding experience. I would highly recommend this to anyone wanting to experience language learning, challenge themselves, or make friends in a new country.


Other Articles from Germany




Three German Castles 

Beer in Aschaffenburg and where to drink it



Brussels, Belgium - Part 3

Laeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, Belgium

There was another special event while we were in Brussels which was the opening of the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken. The greenhouses were built between 1874 and 1905 by Alphonse Balat under the orders of King Leopold II and has been managed by the Royal Trust since the King’s death in 1909. The ten greenhouses are connected by a series of galleries and halls, surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns and well maintained 19th century buildings. The gardens are vast and architecturally wonderful, and open to the public for about six weeks in the spring each year. Each of the greenhouses are uniquely designed with specific environments and flora represented, along with statues and other objects d’art.

Laeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, BelgiumLaeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, BelgiumLaeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, Belgium

Laeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, BelgiumWe visited the gardens on their final day and it was very busy. First you walk a tree lined avenue down and around the exterior of the greenhouses with views of the lawns and glimpses of the interior before arriving at the Palm Greenhouse. It is here that the flow of people bottlenecks and the crowds trickle through. The crowd bustles for a quick look and hastily taken photos before moving on to the next greenhouse. Those first few rooms are so thick with people it is impossible to pause a while and appreciate the beauty and grandeur. It is around the Geranium Gallery that it begins to thin and you are able to slow the pace, but still there are no opportunities to sit and reflect upon what you are seeing. A quick scroll through the images below will hopefully provide you with an idea of the beauty and wonder of this place.


Laeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, BelgiumLaeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, BelgiumLaeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, Belgium

Laeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, BelgiumThe Royal Greenhouses are wonderful to visit and admire, and it is quite the shame that they are not open for more of the year to be enjoyed, and as such it is hard to appreciate the majesty of it as everyone is hurrying through in an effort to see everything which offers very little opportunity for admiration. I took a few minutes to sit at one point in the Winter Garden and was constantly interrupted by visitors wanting a quick photo before moving on.



Laeken, Greenhouses, Brussels, Belgium

Comic Book Walk, Brussels, BelgiumComic Book Walk, Brussels, BelgiumBrussels is also the European capital of Comic Books, being home to such creations as the Smurfs and Tintin.  Brussels has the highest density of comic book professionals in the world, which is celebrated at Belgian Comic Book Centre, a museum dedicated to the art form as presented in Europe. There is also a Comic Art Walk which takes you to view the excellent murals scattered throughout the city, celebrating the art forms history in Belgium.

The Comic Centre has a permanent display beginning immediately behind the entrance that starts with a brief overview of the use of pictoral narration from ancient humans through to the 20th century. This is followed by a detailed look at the creation of comics from inception through to publication. Writing, Pencilling, Inking and colouring, cover design, and final publication each have a display. The displays are made up of pages of roughs and thumbnails with author and artist annotations, pencilled and inked pages, displayed with the final published book allowing the visitor to get an idea of how much work goes in to the product they read. There are also several audio/visual displays with narration by the artist showing some of these processes. For people interested in comics but not widely versed in their creation this excellent display provides an easy introduction to the art. All of the art here is original and is displayed at the creators input. This introduction is followed up with a series of displays on genre, each with art appropriate from various European Artists and shows the great variety of styles produced. This area has displays in French, Flemish, and English.

 Belgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. BelgiumBelgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. Belgium

Belgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. Belgium

Belgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. BelgiumThere are also several other galleries to visit in the centre, one of which is truly excellent called “Canicule: Autopsy of a Graphic Novel by Vautrin Baru”. This special exhibit is made up of 2 metre tall open books featuring a reprint of a page from his graphic novel and a page detailing how it was produced by the creator in French, Flemish, and English. This is an excellent way to understand some of the thought processes that go into narrative and page design. There was a special gallery focused on Swiss creators, featuring a range of cover art and splash pages with a reading desk at the centre with graphic novels of the artists displayed for reading. Another gallery featured art produced specifically for the gallery as well as hundreds of historical comic pages and covers detailing the rich history of the comic book in Europe (unfortunately there was very little information here in English which diminished a little the joy of the display for me). In the historical display area there is a special section for Tintin and one of the best pieces on display was a character timeline showing the visual representation of each character as they appeared in each of the published books, highlighting the visual evolution of the characters ) I rather like the changes to General Alcazar who appeared in 4 books).

Belgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. Belgium

The Belgium Comic Strip Centre is an excellent museum and well worth a visit by anyone who has an interest in the field or wants to gain an appreciation for the art.

Belgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. BelgiumBelgian Comic Book Centre. Brussels. Belgium

I have heard from numerous sources a question being asked of the traveller to Brussels, “Why would you want to go there? It’s Boring!” After spending a week here I struggle to understand why they would say this. Brussels has a rich history, beautiful architecture, there is a gastronomic adventure available if you go looking, and for appreciators and aficionados of beer an incredible array of flavours to try. For anyone that says Brussels is boring, I say they have never been and given the city a chance.

Other articles in Belgium:

Brussels, Belgium Part 1

Brussels, Belgium Part 2

Brussels, International Jazz Day


Brussels, Belgium - Part 2

Markt Square. Brussels. Belgium

We took the Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tour and were treated to some excellent stories of the city. One of the stories we were told was of the Town Hall in the Grote Market. Town Hall, Brussels. BelgiumThe town hall has two wings built outward from the gate and one is shorter than the other. There is a myth that says that the architect upon seeing this error went to the top of the gate tower and hurled himself to his death. This is a myth, as the building was not a singular construction and the shorter wing is only that way because they ran out of space. The tour took us through many beautiful parts of the city, which like all of Europe has many stories. Our guide was from Scotland and his passion for Brussels was evident in every words he spoke. Every stop along the way he told his stories passionately, enthusing us with a desire to know more of the history of this country and city as well as a little of the Belgium Waffle - There is no such thing.

Brussels. BelgiumWhat is widely understood to be the Belgium Waffle is actually a Brussels Waffle, square with large pockets and dusted with Confectioner’s Sugar. What most people believe to be a Belgium Waffle is actually a variation of this and in Brussels they call it the Tourist Waffle – a Square Waffle covered in Cream, Sugar, Fruit, Nutella, any topping you can think up. There is also a third style available in Brussels, the Liège Waffle, in which there are chunks of sugar on the outside that are caramelised while cooking then served plain or with either cinnamon or vanilla dusting. Fries are a common snack in Brussels, and it is commonly thought that the name French Fries comes from American soldiers in World War 1 believing they were being served the dish in France. Fries are commonly served in cardboard cones and topped with a variety of toppings and served with sauce (of which there a dozens, many of which do not match the same such as the Samurai which has no Japanese flavours at all). There are many places in Belgium that say they have the best fries, but this is highly subjective, and you must make your own decision as to which you find the better.

Brussels. Belgium

Being that Belgium is a chocolate producer renowned the world over, we took a walking chocolate tour with Bravo Discovery to discover some of the boutique outlets and the reason for the notoriety. On the tour we were able to sample a few of these stores but not at all, which I found strange since this was a paid tour. At the start, the Grote Market, we were told the same story of the architect’s suicide before beginning our tasting of chocolate.

Chocolate, Brussels. BelgiumThe first store was Galler, which was the first chocolatier to offer the praline as a bar, revolutionising the industry. Next came Darcis, a young chocolate company that utilises a ganache with no sugar or added flavourings, and offers a range of origin chocolates. We tried a Madagascan chocolate which is a beautiful middle chocolate lightly bitter sweet that our guide described as being the Merlot of the chocolate world. Maisson Dandoy, a boutique cookie manufacturer, followed by a visit to Pierre Ledent next door. Pierre Ledent makes Chocolates and Macrons of seasonal fruit and other exotic flavours. What really sets them apart though is the presentation. Pierre Ledent supply their wares in ornate boxes reminiscent of fine jewellery. Then came Leonidas, the oldest industrial chocolate maker and probably the most widely recognised. Their chocolates are not the premium Belgium chocolate but are still very good and are widely distributed. In the Queen’s Arcade we visited Méert, and tried an old fashioned waffle with a vanilla butter filling made to an original 1851 recipe. Godiva (where we did not receive a sample), which modified their recipes for the US market increasing sugar and fat content. Marcolini (another place we didn’t receive a sample), producing pralines of higher quality but smaller size. Neuhaus (another place we didn’t receive a sample), the original large praline invented by a pharmacist. Mary, supplier to the royal family, and Elizabeth whose chocolates include a variety of herbs and spices that stood out amongst the rest for the ingenuity and variety of flavours.

Chocolate, Brussels. BelgiumChocolate, Brussels. BelgiumChocolate, Brussels. Belgium

The chocolate tour was fascinating and offered some wonderful insights into the history and culture of Belgium Chocolate, as well as the appreciation of chocolate as a whole. What we learned was that the great chocolatiers of Belgium pride themselves on utilising the highest quality chocolate, sourced from across the globe, with only the best ingredients to produce their signature flavours. Many companies state that this is what they do, but when you scale up any manufacture process there is a loss in quality. Many of these boutique chocolatiers have scaled up their operations but only to the point where the quality is still high and so is the price.

Other articles in Belgium:

Brussels, Belgium Part 1

Brussels, Belgium Part 3

Brussels, International Jazz Day


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