OVERNIGHT custody at a German border post over visa problems has boosted the resolve of a student to learn that country's language. 'I wished I spoke better German so I could have told them the situation and things might not have turned out to be so bad,' said home-stay programme student Julianna Li Chun-wai, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She was one of seven students on a trip organised by the Press and Public Relations Department of the northwest German city of Marl and the German Society of the university. The students spent a fortnight with local families in tranquil Marl to learn the language and experience the lifestyle. Julianna, after travelling in Czechoslovakia, was challenged by border police on the night train to Germany when she realised that her visa had expired by two hours. 'I didn't notice until they ordered me off the train. I was kept in the police office for the night and was told to leave the country the next day. 'They only spoke a bit of English, and I've only learnt German for a few months. I couldn't understand what they said at the police office and I could only sit there doing nothing. 'Otherwise, I could have told them I was heading to Marl for a home-stay programme recognised by the city council and we might have been able to work out a solution,' she said. However, Julianna eventually got her visa extended with the help of her German lecturer in Hong Kong and joined her course mates for the fruitful stay in Marl. She decided to take a long-term German course at her university when she returned to Hong Kong. Unlike conventional study tours, the students embarked on their home-stay programme to pick up authentic use of the language without attending a single lesson. 'We didn't go to classes to learn German, but we managed to improve our standard of the language as well as learning about their ways of life through staying with the local families,' said Aero Wong Ho-fai, a fourth-year psychology student. They participated in the their host families' daily activities, visiting places, getting a glimpse of their everyday life and learning not only the language but the culture. Music student Ip Kim-ho, enthralled by the lifestyle in Germany, is planning to go to Marl again when he completes his degree in Hong Kong next year. 'Their lifestyle is really enticing. I followed them, for instance, in the habit of cycling to have a pint after dinner. 'It is such a relaxing and carefree experience. For me, this kind of lifestyle only happens in movies. The ambience is just mesmerising,' said Kim-ho.