What I’ve Learned: WiSe 2010/11

02/13/2011

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.

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One Response to “What I’ve Learned: WiSe 2010/11”


  1. […] This list is also built off of one I posted over three years ago after my first semester in Freiburg. A lot of the points I wrote there are equally as applicable in Bonn as they were in Freiburg. If you want to read that first, please click here. […]


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