Well, we’ve made it. I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon. I can’t believe I’ve been in Germany for five whole months. This is the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent away from home. I’m ready to leave! Not because I hated Germany (in fact, quite the opposite), but rather because I feel like I’ve spent enough time here. I’ve also done everything I set out to do at the beginning of the semester. I’m definitely better when it comes to German, and I’ve established a few contacts here in Europe. This is my third semester abroad, and I must say that this semester has been the best overall. I came to Germany confident in my German skills with a set of expectations, which is something that I cannot necessarily say for the other two semesters in Paris. While this has been a very new experience, I feel like being a two-time study abroad veteran has prepared me for a number of things. I have not suffered from homesickness, though I do miss many things from back home. I never once longed to go back to Chicago; I was always happy being here. Having studied abroad twice before has also helped me in terms of adapting to foreign teaching styles. While IES is technically an American program, the teaching styles of professors are very authentic. Taking two classes at the University of Freiburg with Germans is also something that I’m proud of myself for. This has definitely been the most challenging semester so far in terms of new things, but I managed to do it! And I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study here in Freiburg. I’m looking forward to my classes back on campus. I’ll be a senior next year, which is something I’m still coming to terms with. This past semester has been a great way of preparing myself for the academic challenges ahead. I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my blog posts! This has been a wonderful way of sharing my study abroad experience with the world. I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity.
I’ll attach a few photos from the past couple of weeks here in Freiburg.
Vielen Lieben Dank!
Schulfest: a party thrown by Rotteck to earn money for individual classes
Fireworks show at Seepark
From the Lehrerparty at Rotteck
Over the past couple of months, I have had the honor of working as an English teaching assistant at the Rotteck-Gymnasium here in Freiburg. Today was my last day working with the youngest group (10 year-olds). I work with them in the morning from 7:50 to 9:30. Today’s class was very relaxed; I sat in a chair at the front of the classroom and fielded all of their questions about the United States and Chicago. It was a great exercise because I got to practice my German and they got to practice their English. This is their first ever English class, so I made a conscious effort to speak slowly and use simplified language. When they couldn’t express themselves in English or had trouble understanding my answers in English, I switched to German. Some of the questions were very common: What’s an elementary school like in the US? What are your favorite sports? Others were more politically charged: Do you feel safe in the US knowing people have easy access to guns? Do many people own them? I was happy to answer all of their questions and made a point of doing so honestly. It was interesting to witness their reactions to hearing things like metal detectors in high schools and school buses (which they don’t have in Freiburg); the former made me a bit ashamed at the current state of affairs. All in all, it was a very productive discussion. It was also good because it gave me a chance to inform them about my country as someone who actually lives there; many people in the world have an image of the US that is a result of the influx of US media and American soft power in the world. At the end of the class, they gave me a little “thank you” gift (I’ll attach a picture). I’m really lucky to have had the opportunity to work at the Rotteck-Gymnasium this summer!
Thanks for reading!
I’ll miss them!
Yesterday was Vauban’s Sommerfest, which is one of the most anticipated events of the summer. Each student housing community has its own “Sommerfest” (“Summer festival”), but it has been argued that Vauban’s is the best one. It was happening literally right outside my building! The theme for the festival was Alice in Wonderland. There was a lot of food, drinks, and, of course, music (seriously, they had a lawn dedicated to techno music…). It was a lot of fun! Lots of people showed up to the event; it went from 11 am to 11 pm. It was a bit like Fun Day at Skidmore, actually! Made me miss campus a little bit. Vauban is the sustainable community in Freiburg, and it really embraces the “hippie/alternative” from the 60s and 70s. I mean, people walk around barefoot, play guitar on the lawn and go to demonstrations demanding a fossil fuel phase-out.
There was one thing that kind of made me uncomfortable, though. I’ve probably said this in a previous post, but there are a lot of non-black people here to wear “locs”. Most of them are the “alternative” types who think it’s really cool. However, I would argue that it’s a form of cultural appropriation. White people don’t have to live with the stigma that comes with them, so in my opinion, they shouldn’t wear them. I was literally surrounded by such people at the festival, and then even had a station called “Wonder-Locks” where people were getting it done for free. I have no personal beef with people who do it, but I do think that ignorance plays a major role. This is something I have had to explain to my fellow Americans as well as Germans, so I’m not really surprised.
I’m starting to miss the U.S. a bit more, now, but I’m still not ready to go back. My classes next semester have got me really excited, and I’m starting on post-grad applications. I definitely want to come back to Germany in the future.