Gummersbach is a heaven on Earth, and those going there for the first time, are in for a lot of intellectual excitement. By the way, today is 8th May and my Gummersbach anniversary- I entered that metallic rectangular building for the first time in my life.
Now here are some tips for those going there for the first time.
1. Make sure you carry your Invitation letter, ID card and supporting documents in your hand carry. It would be very good if you have an English ID card ( contact NADRA). The dorks at Abu Dhabi, Switzerland and Dubai Airport can stop you. Don't be nervous or rude.
2. Carry a minimum $50 to pay at the airport for food. FNST doesn't give you cash for airport expenditure. IAF staff will pick you from the airport in Germany so wait for them, patiently. Your invite has the academy's number if you need help.
3. Do not go without winter clothing! German summer is our winter. German "pleasant" weather is FREEZING! One jacket, a pair of warm socks, muffler and under-shirt can be a life-saver. But also take some lighter clothes, one formal wear, one pair of slippers, formal shoes and sneakers. Please don't carry too much weight, especially, if you are a shopping addict because the airport fines are quite lavish.
4. There is always a farewell party. Refrain from looking like the salesgirl at the local thrift store on that party. Wear a nice cultural dress or suit- try to look cute to be remembered as cute.
5. No need to take expensive presents, but a few post-cards from your native city ( that you can autograph) or any cheap and small keep-sake will be lovely.
6. FNST and IAF keeps you on your toes. Kick those lazy bones. There will be lectures, meetings, discussions and simulations during day-time. And more of that in the evening. The time left is spent partying in the bar downstairs. Everyone sleeps when they are back to their country.
7. Learn what will be discussed the next day and read on the topic beforehand ( don't end up sounding like an idiot - which I did ....*sigh* ).
8. IAF has a very public computer lab, so no Skyping your lover or emailing love letters. Bring your own laptop and stick it in the bedroom. It is not allowed in the seminar room.
9. Europe is very expensive. Take your daily use products along. The academy doesn't have toiletries so the shampoo/toothpaste won't be there.
10. All the family and friends asking you for presents- tell them beforehand that you are poor, the inflation rates are high and European economy is bad...and that you can't bring any present this time. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any divorces that result from such discourse...)
11. Those trying to get a German nationality by running away with a German will have tough luck this time because Europeans, especially Germans, have figured us out and don't marry us overnight. Though flirting is still tax-free there....
12. Control your liquid intake when outside- European toilets are not free! They charge you a minor fee (50 cents) for the relief they offer. Now, don't be judgmental. They are being paid for their services.
13. IAF has an awesome buffet. Start hiking if you don't want to return home twice your previous size. I miss the desserts and the salad. Plus the serene and luscious, green hills with German cars, deer and foxes trailing along make the hike - once-in-a-lifetime.
14. You don't drink? No need to take the drink coupons to the grave. Gift your coupons to a friend who does drink. And don't miss the gatherings at the bars- most people talk intelligent only when they are drunk.
15. Try to stick with the Latin Americans. They KNOW how to party. Master the art of dancing all night and talking intelligent during the seminar at day-time- and thou shall rise among the ranks.