Taking on Germany's Green City

Month: May 2019

Seepark + Europawahl

Hey, everyone!

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!

~Derrick 🙂


Privilege :)

Hello, everyone!

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!

~Derrick 🙂

First week of work at Rotteck


Hi, everyone!

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,

Derrick 🙂

We got snow this week…

Hey, everyone!

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…

The Vogelnest!

Our Flur (Hallway)

Origami everywhere!

Yesterday’s tragedy…

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