The weather here in Freiburg was absolutely beautiful, so today my tandem partner and I decided to meet at the Seepark, which is basically the area surrounding Flückigersee, a small lake in the neighborhood of Betzenhausen. Lots of people were there, and we saw lots of turtles, fish, and ducks. This is probably the nicest weather I’ve experienced in Freiburg thus far; I hope it never goes away!
Today is also Europawahl, which means that Germans have the chance to vote for the European Parliament. Citizens of Freiburg also have their local elections today! Politically, Freiburg is a very liberal city; this has a lot to do with its green surroundings (more liberal parties are likely to protect the natural environment), as well as the fact that this is a city full of university students. The Green Party and the CDU are very popular at the local level. I expect high voter turnout because Freiburg is a very politically conscious place. It’s interesting observing elections here because there are so many different parties to choose from. They practice proportional representation as opposed to First Past the Post, which means that smaller parties have a chance to get some power in the larger political system. I won’t inject my personal beliefs into this post, but I do think that Germans appreciate being able to vote for so many different parties. Polarization still occurs in German politics, but it takes the form of coalitions rather than a bipolar bloc system. I appreciate the fact that I am here for the parliamentary elections; I support democracy and enjoy seeing people who take their right to vote seriously.
I’ll also be going to Padua and Venice starting on Wednesday, so that’s something to look forward to!
Until next time!
Firstly, I would like to congratulate all members of this year’s graduating class at Skidmore. You all are incredible, and I wish you the best of luck for the future! 🙂
Things are starting to wind down in my IES courses, but my university classes are really picking up the pace. As I said in an earlier blog post, all classes are in German. However, all of the readings for my EU class are in English. This is somehow more challenging for me because it forces me to translate my thoughts from English into German, rather than staying in one language. It makes the readings a lot easier, but the amount of thought is practically doubled. Studying in German has made me a lot more conscious of what English learners in the U.S. are going through. My German is advanced, but I still have trouble understanding things and articulating myself in certain situations. On top of that, I chose to come here. People who go abroad to live and study full time deserve so much respect! Another thing that this experience is making me aware of is my status as a native English speaker. The readings for this class are in English, and that’s obviously great news for me. However, not everyone gets that privilege and here in Germany, I am constantly aware of it. English has made a big impact on modern German, so I hear English everywhere. It must be very confusing for someone who can’t speak the language. Also, I can exist in an international environment and not have to worry about getting my point across. I am very glad that I can speak German, but this is the first time that I have truly been confronted with my privilege in this way.
At my internship this week, I gave a presentation to one of the classes about Chicago, my hometown. After I was done speaking, the students were allowed to ask me questions. As was expected, a lot of the questions were political in nature. This was such an interesting discussion because I got to understand things from the German perspective, as well. They even let me answer a couple of questions in German so that I could practice my skills! I also helped the younger students with the Simple Past tense, something that native English speakers don’t ever have to worry about doing. The kids are really enthusiastic about learning English! When it comes to my German, I’m still working on improving my spontaneity while speaking… I have a tendency to think about the grammar when I have to speak with someone, which kind of slows down the conversation. Speaking of German, I should probably get back to working on my final project for my language course… Haha.
Thanks for reading!
My first week at the Rotteck-Gymnasium was wonderful. I’m there four days a week and visit English classes as well as courses in other subjects which are taught in English. It felt a bit strange speaking in English with Germans (I generally avoid doing so unless it’s a Tandem exchange), but after a few hours, I got used to it. I’m honestly impressed by 1) how well the students can speak English, and 2) the fact that these kids are studying whole subjects in English at such a young age. If I had started learning German when I was ten, my skills would be impeccable by now! I speak in German in one-on-one conversations with the teachers unless we’re in the classroom. One thing that I’m always aware of while working is the fact that they learn British English in Germany. There are a number of differences in spelling and pronunciation which can sometimes confuse English learners, so I always have to be careful when correcting their mistakes.
Aside from helping the students with English, I want to use this as an opportunity for cultural exchange. I want to share aspects of life in the United States as well as learn a bit more about academic life here in Germany. A lot of them have probably seen stories on the news concerning American politics or issues, but have no idea what any of it is actually like. It’ll be interesting explaining things like the U.S. electoral system and why gun culture is seemingly embedded into the fabric of American society. I’m very fortunate to have received this internship position, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!
Until next time,
This Monday, I did two important things. I started my second seminar at the university, which is titled “The EU Before Global Challenges”. It’s going to be particularly interesting learning about such challenges as they are currently being dealt with by the European Union. I also had an interview at the Rotteck Gymnasium for my internship… and I got the job! My first day of work is on Monday the 6th. I’ll be working as an English language assistant during their English classes. The word “Gymnasium” doesn’t mean “gym”, of course. It’s essentially an elementary and a high school in the same building, which means that the students range from around ten to eighteen years of age. I’m really looking forward to starting my job! The interview was very relaxed, and the school is in a convenient location.
Also, we got snow on Saturday. I’m not sure how or why, but yesterday morning I woke up to see huge snowflakes outside my window! Spring has been here for over a month now, yet the temperature here in southern Germany managed to fall enough for snow to fall. I spent the day studying and reading since the weather was dreadful. Since I haven’t posted a picture of my apartment yet, I’ll attach one to this post. My WG (“Wohngemeinschaft”) has a name: das Vogelnest (“The bird’s nest”). It’s hard to believe that two months have already gone by…
Our Flur (Hallway)
I had my first seminar at the Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg on Thursday. It was very interesting. In case I didn’t mention it in a previous blog post, the name of the course (translated into English) is Sociological Explanations of Xenophobia and Racism. Pretty deep, right? I decided to take this course because both racism and xenophobia have taken the world by the throat. As a person of color currently living in a foreign country, both of these are especially important. It will also be interesting learning the German terms for things involving race, as this is something that I have struggled with as a German learner. It’s a bit intimidating, though… courses at the university are with native speakers, not other American students. This affects a few things. For example, the professors speak more quickly in comparison with the professors at IES. The reading material is also for native speakers, so the level is considerably higher. Despite these differences, I am looking forward to taking this class. I actually met another international student who’s taking the course; she’s from Finland and is part of the EU’s Erasmus program. There are two people of color in the class (including myself), so I am interested in seeing how classroom discussions play out.
Aside from the course, I finally have tandem partners for all of the languages I can speak: German, Italian, and French. This is excellent news because I’ll have people to practice with on a regular basis! There are lots of French people and Italians in Freiburg because of the city’s close proximity to the French border as well as the fact that Italians come to Germany looking for work. I also have an interview for my internship at the Rotteck Gymnasium (that’s like a high school) on Monday. Wish me luck!
Until next week!
Hi, everyone! 🙂
I’m in Zurich! While it isn’t the capital of Switzerland, this is its largest city. Being here has been interesting for me linguistically, since I can speak three of the languages that are spoken here: German, French and Italian. Zurich is a part of the country that speaks Swiss German, but most business is conducted in High German (the kind I speak). All signs and announcements are provided in all of these languages – along with English, of course.
Zurich is a very beautiful city that’s also quite clean. However, like everywhere else in Switzerland, things here are incredibly expensive. This is by no means an exaggeration. It’s due to the higher cost of living which is meant to maintain the country’s high quality of life – Switzerland has one of the highest living standards in the world. While Switzerland’s currency is officially the Swiss Franc, most (if not all) places accept the Euro. This is due to the fact that the country benefits greatly from the economic aspects of the European Union (without becoming a member, of course).
I got to visit the Landesmuseum, and there was a really cool exhibition called Sündenbock (“Scapegoat”). Essentially, the exhibitionist wanted to show us that scapegoats have been used throughout human history – from ritual sacrifices to blaming foreigners for domestic political issues. I found this very interesting because in today’s political climate scapegoats are becoming more and more of a trend.
I leave tomorrow morning for Freiburg. Monday also starts my Instagram Takeover, so be sure to check that out!
Until next week!
Hi, everyone! 🙂
Apologies for late post. I am currently in London because of our Easter break. I left Freiburg bright and early Friday morning. Getting here was surprisingly smooth, but there were multiple legs involved in getting here. I had to book a taxi to take me to Freiburg’s main train station, which serves as the port of departure for the FlixBus to Basel-Mulhouse Airport. The flight was very quick (under two hours), but then I had to take the train from London Gatwick Airport as well as the Underground in order to reach my friend’s apartment in Shoreditch.
London has been really nice so far, even though it does feel a bit weird having to speak English all the time. I’ve been forcing myself to read things in German and text my German friends sometimes so that my brain stays locked into “German mode”. Zurich will be better since everyone there can speak German, though it is an entirely different dialect. We went to Westminster yesterday, and today we visited Brick Lane, a very busy market that’s only open on Sundays. It’s interesting that things here in London are open on Sunday; in Germany, people tend to do all of their shopping on Saturday because every business is closed (or has restricted hours) on Sundays.
I landed an interview for an internship position I applied for at a school in Freiburg. That’ll take place on Monday the 29th, so I’m really looking forward to it. Wish me luck!
I’ll be back next week with another post. Thanks for reading!
Hallo, lovely readers!
On Monday of this week, my tandem partner and I went for a walk along the Dreisam, a 29 km long river which flows through the city. It was a beautiful and sunny day; it felt like spring was finally here (even though it technically has been here for a bit, the weather has been questionable). We happened to come across a spot in the Wiehre district where a lot of graffiti was on display. Another thing that I noticed was that homeless people tend to sleep near the river; homelessness is something that I normally wouldn’t associate with Germany considering how big the country’s social safety net is. Over the past week, I have learned quite a bit from Germans about the country’s social issues.
We got snow on Thursday… and no, it wasn’t a light snow shower! Some of the snowflakes were oppressively large. It was very difficult getting up that morning for my 9 am German class, but I forced myself to deal with it. It’s amazing how much the weather can fluctuate here; it reminds me a lot of Chicago (my hometown). On Friday, I met up with another tandem partner — but for Italian! Italian is actually my second language, but I never get the opportunity to practice with a native speaker back in the States. It was a lot of fun!
I also happened to get accepted into a course at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. It was kind of nerve-wracking because I had to send a very over-the-top formal email asking to join the course, but I got a very quick and pleasant response from the Dozent (instructor, not always a professor) The name of the course (translated from German) is “Sociological Explanations of Xenophobia and Racism”. Both of these topics are very much relevant in the United States as well as in Germany; I hope that this seminar will teach me some new things as well as give me the opportunity to share my own perspective as a person of color from the United States. Due to their country’s history, Germans tend not to discuss racism/related topics in everyday life. However, there are plenty of ethnic minorities who identify as Germans; such conversations simply need to be had. can have these sorts of discussions with my flatmates because all of them are very much into social justice, but it will be interesting to see what other Germans have to say about their country’s politics where race and ethnicity are concerned.
Other than that, I’m looking forward to the Osterpause (Easter break), because I’ll be visiting London and Zurich!
I’ll be back next week with another update. Tschüss and thanks for reading!
A snowy day at Münsterplatz
Graffiti in Wiehre
This past week was the first where it felt like an actual college semester… probably because this past Monday was my first day of IES courses for the spring term. I figured that this blog post should more or less be dedicated to telling you all about which courses I’m taking for the semester with IES.
First, we have my Political Science course, titled “Germany in the 21st Century: A Country Between Past, Present and Future”. This class is all about Germany and its modern political institutions. So far, we’ve talked mostly about the European Union and the role that Germany plays in keeping it afloat and on track. I chose this course because I wanted to learn more about Germany’s domestic politics.
My economics course is titled “Germany As a Location for Business and Industry in the 21st Century”. This course is essentially about why various entities have chosen to conduct their business with and within Germany, which is notably the strongest economic power in Europe. This course was interesting to me because I never really considered why Germany’s economy was so strong; I was simply aware that it wielded a lot of power in that department. I hope this class answers all of my questions!
“Past to Present: from the ‘Reichsgründung’ (1871) to the ‘Berliner Republik’ (21st Century)” is the name of my history class. As the name suggests, it follows Germany’s history from the last few decades of the 19th century up until the present day. I never really learned much about Germany’s history aside from the World Wars, so this will be a nice way of closing that gap!
My fourth and fifth classes are my internship seminar and my German language class. I’ve spent most of this weekend writing a Motivationsschreiben (cover letter) for an internship position. I’ll keep you all updated on the process! I also have to select my university courses, which start at the end of April.
Academics aside, I’ve really been enjoying myself here in Germany. I feel like my German has improved exponentially and have already met lots of wonderful people. It’s sometimes hard to believe that I’m actually in my current situation, and I could not be more grateful for all of the support I’ve received that has helped me reach this stage in my life.
Well, I should probably get back to reading. Ciao!
Hi, everyone! 🙂
I just got back from an awesome week in Berlin. This was one of the optional group excursions that we could take part in. We got up really early (at around 5 am or so) so that we could take the Intercity Express (ICE) to Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (central station). The journey was around seven hours without having to switch trains. IES organized lots of really cool things for us! The first thing we did was go on a tour of the neighborhood our hotel was located in, a place called Prenzlauer Berg. This is in what was formerly known as East Berlin. You know you’re in East Germany nowadays in one of two main ways. Firstly, there’s the famous “Ampelmännchen” on the pedestrian signals. The architecture is also a dead giveaway; a lot of the buildings in former East Berlin look similar and were built using the GDR’s limited financial means. We also visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Stasi Museum, the DDR Museum and eventually had the opportunity to go inside of two of Germany’s most important political institutions: the Bundestag and the Bundeskanzleramt. The Bundestag is Germany’s parliamentary body. The Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery) is where the personal offices of the Chancellor (currently Angela Merkel) and her staff are located. I would probably cry tears of joy if I ever got the chance to work anywhere near either of these two places.
In my free time, I got the chance to meet up with old friends, as well as three other Skidmore students in the German program: Ethan, Eddie and Renee. I also ended up staying a bit longer and going to a friend’s birthday party on Saturday evening, which was a lot of fun. While I do love Berlin, one thing has always frustrated me about this city: it’s a constant battle if you want to practice your German! Berlin is a cosmopolitan city whose history has led to it being a hub for international startups and tourism. In other words, English is everywhere. People will likely speak to you in English by default. As German learner, this forced me to be very assertive when it came to my interactions with others. One could argue that they know I’m a foreigner and are just trying to be kind by switching to English, but they also do it to other Germans! When I was in Paris, on the other hand, French was key — maybe it’s because the French have such large institutions which are designed to protect the French language. It’s incredibly interesting to see how these two capital cities have taken different linguistic paths. I’m personally glad that I chose Freiburg for the semester because everyone here speaks to me in German – it’s wonderful!
Tomorrow we officially start classes at the IES Freiburg Center. I’m really looking forward to making things official! One month has come and gone, and now all there’s left to do is look ahead and give it my all. As always, thank you very much for taking the time to read these blog posts!
From inside the Stasi Museum – the Stasi was an East German secret police force that combined police authority and intelligence operations.
A beautiful shot of the famous Fernsehturm at sunset.
The Berliner Dom.
Had to get a shot in front of the Brandenburg Gate!