Germany Thus Far: Nine Months

June has been quite strange here in southern Germany. Summer was supposed to come, but all we got was rain. Some places got flooding, but there was nothing serious in Konstanz at least. However, the level of the Bodensee (Lake of Constance) raised quite a bit, which made for some interesting walks by the lake.

Flooding at Bodensee
If you look at the water, you can see the banks of where this canal in Konstanz usually runs.

Studies

The semester is winding down, and I have exams next month. I was asked recently if I am worried. I replied, “It’s Germany. Of course I’m worried.” Exams here are not at all what I’m used to in the States. There’s plenty of work to do for sure…

Alongside studies, I took a campus job and left my off-campus job. I’m excited to start this new one, as I’ll be serving as Managing Editor for European Union Politics, which, if you don’t know, is a major academic journal. Since the hours are not quite enough, I applied for a few other jobs at the uni. Hopefully I get a positive response soon!

German

German is still as frustrating as ever. On the other hand, I’m apparently becoming a little more German in a cultural sense. Recently, I found myself surrounded by German engineers. As I ate some pretzels, I noticed that almost everyone was drinking beer. Of course, to top it off, we were all watching the Germany vs. Poland game in the Euro 2016 football championships (soccer, not the American football). It was an incredibly “German” situation.

The past several weeks I have found myself watching some of the Euro 2016 matches (congratulations to Iceland on their Earth-shattering victory tonight!), which is quite odd. I have never watched football, not even during the World Cup. Am I turning European? Maybe. The symptoms continue, as one of my German friends remarked that my complaining is somewhat German in nature. Another friend told me that my irritation at people not following the proper protocol in the grocery store is also more of a German trait. Add in the fact that I was once told I can sometimes be more harsh and serious than a German… Maybe I am turning a little bit German! (Still don’t like beer, though…)

Travel

This month I didn’t need to go anywhere, as I’ve been working on some essays and a seminar project for which I give a presentation at the end of this week. Luckily for me, there was a huge event in Konstanz to attend this month.

The Flohmarkt (flea market) that only happens once a year here in the city center started up for about 24 hours. I went on a Saturday evening and started in the city center, moving south, across the border into Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. On Sunday, I continued exploring the market on both sides of the Rhine.

There was so much to see and good deals to be had. I managed to get a few tops, all for less than €3 each. On Sunday, I had the luck to spot a bike and bought it for about €25. So, now I have my very own bike. It needs a bit of work, including new tires, but I’m quite happy with the price. To get a nice bike in Konstanz that doesn’t need any work, one will pay in excess of €100, though I’ve seen nice mountain bikes and what not go for quite a bit more.

That’s June then. Nothing over the top, but enough to blog about. I guess it’s a good thing because I have a busy month of exam-prep and exams coming up, followed by a visit from an American friend and a wedding soon after at the beginning of August (in which an American is the groom)! All the Americans coming!

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: Eight Months

May marks my eighth month here in Germany. In Virginia, I would be enjoying lovely weather and good times in downtown Staunton. Back in Missouri, I would be enjoying the relaxing roll of thunder every few days. Alas, Germany doesn’t seem to have many thunderstorms, or maybe they just come later. Aside from wishing for storms, it turned out to be a pretty good month.

Studies

Lectures in May were interrupted by a plethora of public holidays. In fact, there have been four holidays this past month! Since I know little about Catholicism, I cannot tell you the meanings of all these days. Still, I was happy to enjoy some longer weekends.

Bodensee May Sailboats
The lake, as enjoyed on one of several May holidays.

This month I also only had one presentation for my block seminar. I’ve decided that block seminars are not so useful. I don’t feel like I learn very much compared to a good lecture. On the other hand, a block seminar is still better than a lecture with a professor who doesn’t really teach you anything. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

To top the month at the uni off, I had an Econometrics midterm. In the interest of not jinxing the results, I have decided to refrain from speculating on how it went. I will have to wait for the results to really know I guess. I just don’t understand how these professors make decisions about how to grade your answers…

German

I feel like my German class this semester is not moving at the same pace as last semester. I think I’m getting better, but speaking fluidly is still really difficult. Vocabulary is my biggest challenge right now. If I hear a word I’ve learned, I am much more likely to know it than if I have to think of it myself to use in a sentence.

Travel

It was a YUUUGE month in travel for me. Sorry, I couldn’t resist using a Bernie “YUUUGE.” Anyway, it was huge because I finally got to go to Prague, Czech Republic. This city was actually the first city in Europe that I ever developed an interest in. When I was younger, I shared an opinion common with some of the locals in Missouri. I thought travel was just something you did for vacation, international travel was only for the rich people, and these faraway places were too different for me to be able to get along.

To make it even worse, I just did not want to go abroad, especially after hearing about how Europe is full of snooty French people, Nazis, and Brits that sit around drinking tea all day and plotting colonialism. That being said, Europe was the place I had the best perception of… You don’t want to know what ideas I was taught in school about Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Sorry Australia, but everyone seems to forget you. Thankfully, the European stereotypes have been (mostly) false.

Anyway, I became interested in Prague when I was 16. Now, at the age of 23, I finally made it there. Before you say, “That’s not such a long time to wait,” consider that 7 years is 30% of my life. Posts (because a single post is not enough space to talk about this amazing city) to follow.

Prague Clocktower

Also while in Prague, I got to meet up with some MBC students who were there for May Term. Then, the following weekend I watched them graduate via live stream, as the final graduating class of Mary Baldwin College. Next year, it will be Mary Baldwin University. It’s weird to think about the name change, but I guess it will be quite a while before I make it back to Staunton and have to confront the new name firsthand.

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: Seven Months

It’s lucky number seven. Let me tell you, I did not feel so lucky with all the work I’ve done in this past month. At least the sun is shining, and summer is on its way! So, April…

Studies

Studies have been my seventh month basically. Classes started on April 11. Classes this semester include Econometrics (because my undergrad courses did not cover as much as what undergrad Germans learn), Political Economy (economics department), International Organizations and Political Economy (politics department), and a seminar on Behavioral Economics. On top of my classes for my degree, I’m also taking two language courses: German and Spanish.

I’m so happy to be in a Spanish class again. Spanish is, after all, what led me down the initial path of travel and study abroad. I do not need this class, which seems like overkill in an already busy semester. However, language classes are the part of my studies that keep me sane. I will  continue to stick with ’em.

What is the outlook this semester? Busy already. I already gave three presentations and have a midterm coming up at the end of May. I have four papers to write over the course of the semester and two remaining presentations to give in my block seminar. I just hope that this semester goes better than the last.

DSCN2310

German

My German is getting better. I find myself understanding more when I watch movies or TV shows in German. I might not get all the jokes, but at least I generally know what is going on. I’ve also had a few conversations in German (outside of my class) that went surprisingly well.

Travel

This is the thing I did very little of this month. I have not even taken the time to explore nearby. However, since one of my friends from Mary Baldwin College is in Prague doing a May Term abroad, I will go to visit her next weekend! Prague has been at the top of my list since I was 16 years old. I think it’s about time I visit.

So that’s been my month. Posts on Prague to come.

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: Five Months In

February has been both long and short at the same time. The days have felt long as I studied seemingly constantly. On the other hand, I’ve been so busy that the weeks have flown by. I’m surprised to find that the bulk of winter is now gone and spring will be here soon. My fifth month was packed, but quite boring to write about for the most part.

Studies

As said, this month was the end of my first semester. I had my last week of lectures, took exams, and wrote a little bit about my thoughts on the first semester. As most of my friends and family who keep up with my experiences here have probably already read about it, I won’t bore you by repeating myself.

German

My German doth improve. As does the number of explanations I give about the English language. Yes, I can complain that German is a strange language. I find myself stymied by all the rules, incessant commas, and confounding cases. Don’t even get me started on  gender.

At the same time, I must acknowledge that it is not so hard that I cannot manage small conversations with native speakers. According to some recent conversations, my German has improved “a lot.” I am skeptical of the “a lot” bit, but I will concede that it has improved.

The more I delve into the German language, I find that I compare it to others. I compare it to my scant knowledge of Spanish and abundant knowledge of English. What I notice is that Spanish seems to have relatively clean and simple rules.

English on the other hand makes no sense. For example, have you ever stopped to wonder why English sprinkles “do” throughout its sentences? I notice more and more irregularities that I cannot explain when I speak with non-native English speakers. I guess it is true that living abroad can teach you more about your home than you otherwise would learn.

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: Four Months In

In this past month, we’ve welcomed a new year, and with it, I’ve welcome the next stage of my studies. As some of you may know, Germany has a “year-round” school schedule. Currently, I’m approaching the end of my first semester. After this week, I only have two more weeks of lectures until the exam period starts. Forgive me for not writing more, but a student’s gotta study!

neues Jahr

Travel

Since I’ve mostly been working on school work, having melt-downs about extraneous life issues, and embarking on a new project I have not had the time to travel as I would like. My travel outside of Konstanz has basically been the return trip from Christmas and a quick weekend getaway to relax with friends before the exam pressure was really on.

This new project, I guess we can call it travel… Travel across town to my new job! Yes, I have managed to find a mini-job in Konstanz that fits nicely within my residence permit limitations. I’m working for a small HR company that lets me put my native-speaker English to good use. I’m enjoying it so far and find that it’s a lovely distraction for a few hours every week to focus on something that’s completely unrelated to my studies.

Studies

All of that is a great segue into what’s happening on the study front. As I stated, exams are coming up soon. Currently, I’m at the stage where I have a paper and / or presentation due in most classes. Stress levels are high, and I think I summed it all up in my last post, so I won’t go into detail here.

On the positive side, I’m starting to finally get the hang of reading over academic journals quickly and understanding what the authors are talking about. I’m also loving that we’ve finally arrived at the game theory section of my advanced microeconomics course. I based one of my undergraduate theses on a bargaining model, and I happen to find the topic fascinating.

German

Now is the time of my monthly update where I get to inform you that I still cannot understand German. Okay, I can’t understand all German, but I am making progress! For example, I’m learning which words not to say.

Last week I attended a software training at my job which included quite a lot of German. The man who was presenting the software training spoke with a very clear German accent (compared to most German-speakers in the South). I was surprised that while I didn’t understand whole sentences or always know exactly what he was talking about, I could understand quite a few words.

Speaking is another story. I still find it quite hard to have a conversation with Germans or the Swiss. I am okay at constructing sentences if I have the time to think about them, meaning when I’m writing them out. This week, I had to give an oral presentation in my German class. Thankfully, it went well. My Lehrerin (teacher) understood everything I said and also found it entertaining.

I’m still a long way from speaking German well and finishing my degree. At least I’m finding some little victories along the way.

Cheers!