Yes, I know this blog is a day early, but tomorrow at this time I’ll be in Berlin so it’s now or never. I’m afraid I dont have much to go on about this week, I really didnt do all that much except for working on term papers and such.

My roommate Sarah left for England on Tuesday, so I had the flat to myself for the majority of the week. Not like this is anything new though, because she pretty much lives with her boyfriend, but still.

Tuesday morning we were supposed to go snowboarding, but she had to be back in Freiburg by 3pm and it was just too expensive for such a short time. Instead, we played with edible playdough. Apparently her sister gave it to her for her birthday a week or so ago and though it definitely wasnt as exciting as snowboarding was, with edible playdough at least there was no danger either one of us would break a bone.

They turned into cookies when we baked them.

On Wednesday a couple of us went to see the new James Franco movie 127 Hours. Its about that one climber who got stuck between a rock and had to cut his own arm off to survive. Yea, they didnt really need to show every single gory detail. I wouldnt necessarily recommend it.

Thursday was Marc and Lucia’s goodbye party. Marc went back to Barcelona earlier today and Lucia goes back to Italy on Monday. Its rather sad to think that unless they come back to visit this summer, I’m probably never going to see either of them again.

Speaking of leaving, this weekend marks the halfway point of my 11 months in Germany. That’s right folks, after five and a half months in Freiburg, it’s halfway over. I dont want to go home.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for as long as I have, I mean 5 1/2 months is almost half a year. Where did time go? I honestly cant believe its been that long. I feel like I got here two weeks ago, and yet in some ways I feel like I’ve already been here a year. Weird.

I finished the first draft of my German term paper on Thursday. It’s 18 pages, including the cover page and index. I sent it off yesterday to get corrected, it costs €1.20 per page to get it corrected which I’m more than happy to pay. I’ll probably have them correct it at least once more, its a small price to pay for passing the worst class I’ll probably ever take.

There are a couple different people/organizations that do this correcting, and not all of them are so reasonably priced. My friend gave me a couple links to people that correct international student’s papers, and one of them asked €70 to correct the same thing that I’m paying the other guy €22 to do. Needless to say, I made the right decision.

Alright, well that’s pretty much it for this week. I’m meeting Gramma, Grampa and Amy in Berlin tomorrow and fly back to Freiburg on the 9th of March. There won’t be a blog next Sunday, but I’ll write an extra long one with tons of pictures when I get back to make up for it.

The only bummer about the whole thing is that I only have 8 pages of my other 15 page term paper written so I’ll have to work on it while I’m with them. Ah well, I wont be bored on any trains, I guess.

I’m really excited though, plus this is the first family I’ll have seen in person since September.

Do you know how much history I’m going to see over the next 10 days?!

I cant wait.

 

Welcome to the first week of Semester break! It really hasnt felt like a break from anything though seeing as I’ve spent practically all my free time either studying or writing term papers.

I retook that awful history final on Wednesday, which meant that I spent pretty much all of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday studying for the damn thing. I have never felt worse about a test than I did after finishing it Wednesday morning. The test that I took this week was exactly the same, question for question, as the one I had taken a week before. That did not exactly fill me with confidence. Somehow I managed to scrape by and pass, but it was definitely the hardest test I’ve ever taken.

Wednesday afternoon I shifted my attention away from finals and on to term papers. I have two term papers, both of them must be a minimum of 15 pages 1.5 spaced, but only one of them is in German. My borders professor gave me the option of writing in English, and based on the fact that my other paper should be closer to 20 pages, I chose to accept his offer and write in English. I just simply don’t have the time to do both.

I’m making really good progress on my German term paper, but I honestly do not know when I’m going to find time for the other one. I’m meeting family in Berlin on Sunday and dont get back to Freiburg until the 9th, a week before both papers are due. Time is not exactly something I have a lot of these days.

Alright, enough of the boring stuff, you should know that I had a pretty good week when not stressing about tests or papers.

Monday night we all went over to my friend’s flat for Valentines day dinner. We cooked sushi and carbonara and hung out. It was also a quasi going away party because Danija left for Latvia the next day. She’s coming back in April for next semester, but that’s still a ways away. A couple of my friends are only here for one semester though and leave around the end of this month. Its weird to think that after they leave, I’ll probably never see them again. Sad.

Wednesday night we saw the new Matt Damon movie Hereafter. It was okay, but it went on forever and was rather depressing and/or boring. I wouldn’t pay money to see it again, that’s for sure.

Thursday my friend came over to cook dinner and watch The King’s Speech. If you havent seen that movie yet, it’s new (it just opened in German theaters) and is absolutely amazing. Normally I’d say the fact that I’m so in love with this movie had a lot to do with me being a nerd about history, but its been nominated for 12 Oscars, so I guess its just an amazing movie. You need to see it. Seriously.

Friday night a couple of us watched a German movie called “Keinohrhasen” or ‘Rabbit without ears.’ It was pretty good, but you probably wont like it if you dont like chick flick movies.

Friday night my friend Halldis mentioned that there was a soccer game the next day (Saturday) and that we should see if we could get tickets. Turns out that even on game day, the ticket office at the stadium closes at 2 while the game didnt start until 3:30. Instead of getting there super early however, we managed to figure out that the company in charge of the tram system here sold tickets in their main office until 4pm. I was honestly rather surprised when we were able to buy our tickets.

The Freiburg soccer stadium is a square outdoor stadium with two sides of bleachers and two sides standing room only. We stood, it was significantly cheaper.

Something interesting for those of you who have never been to a soccer game abroad, team scarves are far more prevalent than jerseys or caps (though those are sold too). They’re embroidered with the team logo and colors and are waved around in the air whenever your team scores.

Freiburg’s team, SC Freiburg (Sport Club Freiburg) played Wolfsburg and won, 2:1. It was a fun game although I dont quite understand how soccer is almost more of a religion than a sport to a lot of these people.

Even though it was in the mid 40’s, after spending almost four hours outside I was freezing and tired and all I wanted to do was curl up at home and watch a movie, which is exactly what I did.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week! You can probably expect a blog a bit early this week as I leave for Berlin early Sunday morning, but we’ll see.

And as always, more photos are on Facebook!

Just a quick heads up before you start this blog, I posted a normal one about my week today as well, so there are two new ones for you guys. You can find it if you scroll down to the bottom of this blog.

Winter Semester 2010/11: Ten Eleven things I’ve learned from my first semester at Uni Freiburg.

1. Understanding every word is not necessarily the goal. The whole point of taking courses in a foreign language is to better your language skills, which for most people mean that theyre not as fluent as they’d like to be. Professors speak quickly, and without interruption in 90 minute intervals. Understanding every word that he says is probably not possible, but a general understanding definitely is. Focus on the main ideas and the main points of the lecture; though taking notes directly in a foreign language is best, dont let it hold you up. If the professor is going too quickly, finish your thought quickly in English and move on. The most important thing is to keep up.

2. Grammar and sentence structure is only really important in writing. When giving presentations or answering a question in class, put the effort into the content of whatever it is that you’re saying. As a foreign student, you’re bound to make grammatical mistakes anyways, which means that if your information and vocabulary is bad as well, you really have nothing.. If they know you’re an international student, your classmates and professor will cut you slack on your speaking; writing however should be as neat as you can possibly make it. We’re much more critical of typos we read than grammar mistakes we hear.

3. You will never know if you are being praised for genuinely doing a good job on an essay or presentation, or if your professor thought that you did well for an international student. You never quite know where and how you stand.

4. Ask for help from other students. Chances are there are going to be moments where you have absolutely no idea what the professor just said, and judging from the reactions of the students around you it was probably pretty important. Ask someone sitting next to you. Dont wait until after class, chances are you’ll forget by then anyways. Plus, its always nice to know that if more questions come up later in the lecture you have someone to talk to. Students (at least in Germany) are pretty friendly to each other.

5. Smile. When German students walk into a classroom (provided the class is small, 25 or fewer), they generally say some version of hello to whoever is already in the room. Say hi back, smile. The students in Freiburg are really friendly, even if they’ve never seen you before. Also, dont be surprised if someone is sitting where you normally do, there isnt as much of the informal assigned seating as there is at the U.

6. Knock on the table whenever anyone finishes presenting anything, and at the end of every class or lecture. It’s just what they do. Knocking is a way of showing appreciation for the work that the person has just done, but in a more restrained and polite way than applauding. Clapping is only for the theater, or when something really impressed or moved the audience. It doesnt really belong in a lecture hall. Knocking can also be a way of telling the professor that their time is up and the students really just want to leave.

7. If you dont know a word in German, say it in English. Any student studying a social science at a University is going to know at least a passable amount of English. Just make sure you ask what the German word is, even if they understand the english. If you dont do that, your German isnt getting any better.

8. Pay attention to the fine print. Your schedule says your class starts at 12:00 c.t., but you show up just before noon and no one’s there. That c.t. is important, it means the class starts at a quarter after the hour, s.t. means it begins promptly on the hour. Also, in most cases, classes run for 90 minutes, so even if it says 12-2 c.t., it’ll go from 12:15 to roughly 1:45.

9. You’re not allowed bags of any kind in the library, so before you fill up your backpack with everything you’ll need for an entire afternoon, stop and think for a minute. Also, not all libraries have lockers, so think twice about what you leave behind or how nice your bag is.

10. Do not skip class. There are all sorts of reasons for this, but the main one is that the consequences are much worse than being unprepared for the final. If you miss more than 2 or 3 lectures you cannot even take the final, regardless of how prepared you are. They literally kick you out of class, so keep an eye on how many times you tell your professor you’re “sick.” This isnt just for the small classes either, both of my 150+ lectures have a policy of 2 unexcused absences and you’re out. This might however just be in the history department, I dont know.

11. You will put in time and effort into things that used to take a second or two at home, like writing professors emails or creating the outline for a presentation.

Ive got some good news and some bad news. Good news: I’m done with classes until May 2nd! Bad news: I have a test retake on Wednesday so I’m back in the stressing about finals mode.

Monday I got my test scores back for my borders class, I got a two! Instead of ABCD’s for grades, the Germans use a number system. For example, 1 is an A and 4 is the bare minimum to pass which means that a two is pretty much the equivalent of a B. I was shocked that I did that well honestly, but I’m not gonna complain!

Wednesday I had my Intro to History class final which was freaking impossible. It was multiple choice, but instead of there being one right answer per question, there was up to three and they didnt tell you how many there were at the start of the question. Basically, it was like an hour and a half of second guessing even the most simple things.

Our TA sent out an email with our results on Thursday saying that the professors made the test purposefully impossible to scare off freshman who werent completely dedicated. Without the curve, 90% of the 350 Germans would have failed. I didnt stand a chance against those odds. I get to retake it on Wednesday. Ugh.

Thursday was my very last day of class for the semester! I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that between now and May, the biggest things I have on my calendar are two term papers and travelling all over Europe. It’s a lovely time to start break though, its been hovering in the mid to upper 50’s for the last week and it’s basically a pleasure just to be outside.

Thursday evening we went to Handelbar, which was fun even though we did end up walking back to StuSie at like 3am. Always an adventure with us, you know.

I’m really sick of going out at night and coming back smelling like cigarette smoke. Unlike in the States, a lot of bars and clubs here let you smoke inside so by the time I get back home, all I can smell is smoke. I avoided wearing my peacoat for two days because it was so overpowering (not that I needed to wear it in the first place, a fleece has been more than enough during the day). It’s not the best smell in the world.

Friday night was movie night again, this time we watched Mars Attacks which was so awfully cheesy that it was awfully good.

Yesterday was really nice. At about two in the afternoon I went into town to run a couple errands, and it was so nice that I was able to aimlessly wander through Freiburg for the first time since September. I’ll tell you one thing, Freiburg is a pretty city to take a walk in.

The state that Freiburg is in – Baden-Württemberg, is having state elections March 27th and yesterday was the first day they started campaigning. There were a couple stands up in the center of town from a couple different parties and people were handing out flyers and all that stuff.

There’s a party in Germany called the Piraten Partei which translates exactly as you would expect, the Pirate Party. The sign in the picture is one of theirs and it roughly translates to ‘Politics done differently’ or something of that sort.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Germans campaign. Too bad I dont have a TV, I’m rather curious as to how their campaigning is different to ours.

After I finished my errands, I went over to my friends’ flat and had a cappuccino and just hung out for a while and put together a playlist for last night’s party. Oh yes.

Today is my roommate Sarah’s 21st birthday, last night was her party. We started out at Danija and Lucia’s flat because they actually have a sitting room and had a couple drinks before catching the last tram into town at like 12:30.

From StuSie we went to this club which was in the basement of some coffee shop. There were so many people with dreads there, it was kind of ridiculous.

I was having a really fun night up until about 2:30 when we left and started trying to figure out where to go from there. I’ll just sum it up by saying that we ended up standing in the same place for almost an hour because one of my friends was being obnoxious.

As I said before, today is Sarah’s birthday so her family came over from England for the weekend to celebrate with her. They were all over here earlier this afternoon and brought mincemeat birthday cake along with. They seem really nice.

I feel like I hear hardly any American English over here.

So that about sums this last week up! I have two term papers and this retake on Wednesday, but otherwise I’m looking at 2.5 months of break and I cant wait. I’ve been here for 5 months now, and in two weeks will be half way through my trip. I’m so in love with Europe and I never want to leave.

 

The Last Lap

02/06/2011

What if I told you that I didnt take any pictures again this week? I meant to I swear, but just didnt manage it. Sorry. I promise I have a legit excuse though; its finals time.

Monday was my final for my Borders class. I dont really know if it qualifies as a final, because though it is the one big test at the end of the semester, the whole purpose is passing so that I’m able to write my term paper that’s due in March. The German Uni system is rather odd in that all the presentations and essays you do during the semester dont really count towards your final grade. Theyre more there to show participation and in case your term paper isnt that great it gives the professor more options for grades.

I dont know what grade I got on that borders test (I find out tomorrow), but I know I passed and that’s really all that matters.

Even though the grades I get here dont count towards my GPA at the UofM (theyre considered as transfer credits), its still really weird to approach a test thinking that all I need to do is pass. I just really need the credits, but I’d love to get good grades too if I can. We’ll see what happens.

On Tuesday we saw Black Swan (which was definitely not what I expected, but still good), Thursday we went Irish dancing again and Friday night some friends and I watched a movie at my other friend’s flat. Otherwise I didnt have that exciting of a week because we all have finals and stress and such.

On Wednesday I got a package from Jill with two big bags of cheetos and two big bags of ruffles sour cream and cheddar chips. Seriously made my day, I already ate one bag of ruffles, and now I got to ration the other three. Yummm.

Tomorrow is my last secularization class which, because I hate it, I am really excited to be done with. Wednesday I have a history final that I’m kind of freaking out about, but since it’s multiple choice I’m not too scared. History I can handle.

That’s about it really, I’m sorry this blog is so short but I really dont have much to say and have no photos to show you. It’s just the stress of finals, but with break starting Thursday afternoon, I’m sure I’ll have more to say next Sunday.

I’d tell you to enjoy the Super Bowl, but we all know that the best part of Super Bowl Sunday is the return of Glee!!