Frying the Berg

Taking on Germany's Green City

Week 3: OIL Wrap-up and a new Tandem partner!

Hallo, zusammen (Hello, everyone)!

This week has been very busy in terms of German. I have officially completed the intensive language part of the program (OIL), which included a test at the end, which was on Friday. I’ve really been enjoying my German class because everyone is enthusiastic about using the language as much as possible. We talked a lot about the refugee crisis, which is a major topic in Germany and several other impacted countries.

This week, we all signed to an “Ehrenwort”, or a pledge. This pledge basically says that we agree to only speak in German while here in Freiburg. I personally think that this is a great idea because all of us have intermediate to advanced levels of competence and the only way to improve is by practicing as much as possible. Those of us who plan to take this really seriously (AKA, me) even got a green bracelet on which the following words are imprinted: “In Freiburg spreche ich Deutsch”.  Translation: “I speak in German in Freiburg”. Being a program filled with native English speakers, this is something that LAS has been working on for a while. It sometimes feels a bit strange to speak in German with other Americans, but the feeling of discomfort only lasts for a moment. The only exceptions I’ve chosen to make are in the following instances: 1) if I’m on the phone with my mother or someone else who doesn’t speak German, 2) if someone who doesn’t speak German needs help (for example, a man asked me for directions as I got off the tram earlier today), 3) if there is a crisis and I need to use my native language, and finally, 4) with a Tandem partner, which leads to the second part of this week’s blog!

I recently had my first meeting with my new Tandem partner! She’s from Berlin and studies Law (“Jura” in German). We met at a restaurant called “Feierling”, in the city center. It’s famous for “bio-beerWe spoke in German for the first hour, and in English for the second. It was really nice being able to talk to someone so casually, but I also liked being able to address some of my weaker points regarding the German language as well as help her with her English skills. She was a bit embarrassed about speaking English with me, but I told her that over time she’ll become more confident. I look forward to our future meetings!

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading out to Berlin and staying there for a week. I’ve lived in Berlin before, so it’ll be interesting seeing people I met when I was there as well as revisiting places. I’ll be sure to share lots of pictures with you all!

Bis zum nächsten Mal (Until next time!)

Derrick 🙂

Week 2: Switzerland, Parades and the Black Forest

Hi, everyone! Week 2 has come to an end — time to unpack everything that’s happened!

Sunday’s trip to Switzerland was a great way to kick off the week. We went by bus to Engelberg, where we did a bit of hiking. This was very strenuous, and particularly difficult for me because 1) I was WAY out of shape, and 2) my hiking boots were brand new and thus not broken in. Both of these combined with a snowy terrain made the experience all the more gratifying by the time it was over. Despite the journey being difficult, the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful! After the hike, we visited Lucerne, a larger city not too far away from Engelberg. I’d recommend going there; the urban bustle of the city combined with the surrounding mountains make it a perfect tourist destination!

Monday was Rosenmontag, and there was a huge parade on Kaiser-Joseph-Straße, the city’s busiest street. It was really lively and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to witness it in person. Coincidentally, Monday also marked the beginning of the intensive language period. I was fortunate enough to have been placed in the highest level course, which will definitely put my language skills to the test. My professor is great! The fact that the entire program is in German makes such a big difference;  when I studied at IES Paris BIA (Fall 2017), most of my classes were in English.

Today, we went to the Black Forest (in German: der Schwarzwald), known for its interesting culture and cuckoo clocks. The weather was very windy and rainy, but I had a lot of fun learning about such a key aspect of German culture. The German stereotypes that we normally read about are that Germans are punctual, wear lederhosen and drive BMWs. Every German I have encountered thus far has made it abundantly clear that these are all typical of the south, specifically Bavaria and/or Baden-Württemburg (regions in southern Germany). Who knew!

Next week is when I’ll dive even deeper into my German studies as I prepare to take proper classes. Until next time! 🙂





The beauty of the Alps


Just a few of the costumes that people wear for Karneval…


‘Freut mich, Freiburg! (Week 1)

Hey, everyone!

It’s been a while since you’ve last heard from me, but I’m happy to report that I’ve officially arrived in Freiburg as of Wednesday morning!

It was an eight-hour flight from Chicago O’Hare. After arriving in Frankfurt, it took around two hours by train to get to Freiburg im Breisgau. I’m staying in a neighborhood called “Vauban”, which is known for its greener parts and “hippie” vibes. I have a couple of housemates, all of which are German.

In terms of what I’ve been up to so far: after arriving at the IES Abroad Center on Wednesday, I went to my housing and met my “Housing Tutor” (it’s like an RA). After unpacking, resting and getting to know the other students, we had a traditional German dinner (I’ll add a photo of what I had). I live in what is known as a WG, or a “Wohngemeinschaft” (literally a “living community”).

Thursday was the first day of orientation, which will continue until the 14th of March. The day was full of presentations and introductions by IES faculty and staff. After those were over, few of us went to the town hall square (Rathausplatz) for a small parade. Germany, like several countries around the world around this time, is celebrating Karneval! People run through the streets dressed as witches and other bizarre creatures. It was interesting getting to see how a small city like Freiburg observes Carnival – there’s an even bigger parade on Rosenmontag, this upcoming Monday.

Today (Friday) was centered around placement tests (written and oral) which will determine the German course we’re in for two weeks of intensive language preparation. Now I’m at home writing this blog post, incredibly excited about the days to come. On Sunday, I’ll be traveling to the SWISS ALPS!

I intend to post weekly, so keep an eye out! This is going to be a great semester!

Vielen Dank fürs Lesen! (Thanks so much for reading!) 🙂


On the way to Freiburg…


Vauban’s architecture!


Parades mean conga lines!

Das Freiburger Münster

First Post!

Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my blog. I figured I would use this first post as an opportunity to introduce myself/explain what this blog will be about. My name is Derrick McAllister and I am a junior at Skidmore. I’m an International Affairs and German double major with a minor in French. I have studied abroad twice with Skidmore: I was a London FYE student, and I also took part in the Skidmore in Paris program in the fall semester of 2017.

However, this spring semester, I will be taking on Freiburg! There’s still a lot of preparation to be done, but I’m loving every second of it. The name of this blog, (“Frying the Berg”) was chosen because it has two meanings. Firstly, it is a (wonderful) pun on the city’s name (thanks, Nicol). The second reason is a bit deeper — it has to do with the German language itself! Freiburg is a city known for being surrounded by mountains. Here’s a quick German lesson: “der Berg” means “the mountain”. So, in a way, the title of this blog could be interpreted as “Frying the Mountain”! Clever, huh?

A bit about what I’ll be doing this spring: I have chosen IES Abroad’s Freiburg Language and Area Studies program. I chose this program because it’s the perfect way to immerse myself. All of my classes will be in German and I will be living with German housemates. The courses that are available to me are also perfect because they align perfectly with my future goals. There’s also an optional internship portion that I’m very interested in! I decided to do this program around the same time that I declared my German major — in the spring of my sophomore year. IES programs are wonderful because they’re so well-organized and provide an excellent learning environment. By the end of my semester, I hope to achieve three things. Firstly, an indisputably high level of fluency in German. Secondly, I would like to use this as an opportunity to make connections, both professional and personal. Finally,  I want to grow as a person: this study abroad experience will provide a brand new challenge, as the program is entirely in German/in a city I haven’t heard of outside of the context of studying abroad.

I don’t have any pictures of Freiburg to share with you yet (I leave on February 26), but I just got back from a mini tour of Europe! I went back to London and Paris and even got the chance to visit Amsterdam. I’ll add a few photos of my travels.

Thanks so much again for reading, and I look forward to sharing my journey with you!

Photos from my recent travels:

St. Paul’s, London

One of Amsterdam’s many canals

La Seine (with Notre Dame in the background), Paris


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