Frying the Berg

Taking on Germany's Green City

Month: March 2019

First week of IES classes: Los geht’s!

Hallo, zusammen!

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!

Derrick 🙂

A Week in Berlin! (Wow, a month has gone by!)

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!


Derrick 🙂

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!

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

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