Friday, October 30, 2009


[ Social Politics ]

Today was my first lecture that was completely in German – I have decided to take [through somewhat random selection and a bit of curiosity] a course called der Staat und die Socialpolitik. It is a course discussing the functions of a state [country/government] through sociology and political science. Sounds neat – but I got the wake-up call that whereas I may be able to have a nice, grammatically incorrect chat with friends over dinner in German, I can’t fluently follow a university level social science course.

I was able to get the gist of what was going on – imagine understanding 40% or so of the words… but then there is just the problem with what they all have to do with each other in the sentence to make sense…

The syllabus came around and there seems to be a lot of reading, but ironically some of the materials are in English since they are about Britain or the US, so maybe at least some of the lectures –even if they are still discussed in German – will make some sense to me.

[ A view in the streets of Göttingen ]

We will see how this goes. As of now I have 6 classes – 3 in English [about European or American culture/government] 2 in German [this social science course and my German as a foreign language course] and 1 in Deutschanese [My Japanese course taught with German explanations of Grammar].

I have set myself up for an interesting few months.

My first German class consisted of me tuning in for a few minutes trying to translate, then minutes later catching myself day dreaming, and then a few minutes later realizing on the syllabus that the lecture is 2.5 hours long… This will be something to look forward to everyweek…

The class finally ended with the students knocking their knuckles on the desks – I guess in place of clapping for the professor. I guess this is a German thing, because my Erasmus friends are just as confused – we just do as the Germans do and flow with it.

Versuch und Irrtum

[ Trial and Error ]

On Tuesday my classes were once again later in the day, but I was up early since I had to get to the Rathaus before noon [another place that closes before noon]. I had to and take a few more documents to solidify my registration in Göttingen with my visa [why is there SO much paperwork in this country?] It seems that I will be registering for something here in Germany all the way until my departure day back to America!

Fortunately everything went smoothly, just more waiting, since I do have to return to the south part of town sometime in November to pick up [what, I don’t really know] something for my visa/passport.

[ Some of the sister-cities to Göttingen including Torun in Poland! ]

That afternoon I stopped into the library a little after one o’clock to use the internet until my classes later in the day – which got me thinking about the entire business of transferring credits back to UofM and making the most out of my experience here at a German university for one semester. I scanned through the course listing again seeing tons of classes with long titles in German that I didn’t even think to search deeper into. Then I saw “Cultural Studies”. The title was in English… maybe the class is taught in English. No additional information… just a room number and a time – 2:15. That was only a few minutes away, so I added the course, packed my bag, and within minutes of selecting “Cultural Studies,” I was taking a seat in the classroom on the 4th floor of the VG building.

[ Georg-August Uni's answer to Wolverine Access at UofM. Registering and searching for classes is hard enough in English on the UofM system... now it is a different system, and in German!?]

The professor started speaking in English [sigh of relief], and then posed the broad question of “What are cultural studies?” to open discussion for the comparative literature class – everything was still going fine – until the syllabus came around.

Cultural Studies Group 1: Comparative British Literature

The reading list seemed immense.

I was in the wrong class.

I painfully sat through the rest of the hour and a half lecture [served me right for the hasty decision], did participate in the discussion however [ just for fun, as the token American's opinion on these cultural issues! ] and within minutes of finishing, was back online to un-register from the course. I am still going through the process of figuring out what classes to take, and this was just an example of the trial and error process that it entails – In the end, I should have a decent schedule to try and get some credits to take back to the states.


[ Classes ]

With Poland only a day behind me it already felt like a lot of time had passed since I was moving full speed ahead into the next phase of my year. Monday was my first day of lectures at Göttingen – and, while I should be giving a sample list of my courses now, I can’t… I really don’t know officially yet. Since registering from my Einführungswochenende, I had been adding, dropping, searching and pondering over which classes to take, and how difficult they would be to study for.

[ The grounds of Göttinger Platz Sieben - one of the main student zones of the city right in the middle of the campus, with many students enjoying the last days of moderate fall weather. ]

Many of the other CBYX students are in a different situation than me. Most of the participants are older and are either graduated and using this scholarship year as a bridge between work or higher studying, or they are just upperclassmen that already have a stable transcript at their university. I don’t even have a declared major yet – something I must do through some overseas communicating later this year – and ever decision I make here in Germany has me thinking how it could impact my curriculum and transfer for credits to the University of Michigan.

I have some classes I am looking into that are auf Deutsch, some in English that could be interesting [but the variety here greatly decreases]. I even found Japanese which I am going to definitely try and fit in!

Monday started early for me since I had to make it to the international office by noon. [ why are so many university and city offices closed by noon here in Göttingen?!] I had to register to take my German language exam to find a placement for my Deutsch als Fremdsprache [German as a foreign language] courses here at the Uni.

[ In front of Cafe Campus, one of the central meeting places at the Uni for students ]

For the gap in the day [ why are so many of my classes in the late afternoon?! ] I walked around and covered some lost time getting myself acquainted with the campus again. I enjoyed the library, and, whereas it isn’t as comfy as the cafés of Saareguemines, it was where I caught up on much of my blog writing.

Finally the late afternoon rolled around, and it was time for my first class. The building was right across from the library, so I had no searching to do. I got to the room and there were students waiting outside the classroom – so I also waited… when in Rome… I had no idea the protocol for the German Universities, and I was just going to do what everyone else did to prevent any embarrassing mishaps.

The class was United Nations, which I figured would be a great way for me to familiarize myself with international politics. It was going to be in German and English, since English is used for much of the vocabulary and one of the main languages of the United Nations council. Even with this advantage for understanding the course, taking my seat in back corner by the window was still a little nerve-wracking for me. Then the students began to flow in… and I realized… what if I made a mistake and this is the wrong classroom. This made me regret my seat wedged in the back, now blocked by many sitting students. If this was the wrong class… it will be so embarrassing to have to leave – why I felt this way, I don’t know… since I checked my schedule over 10 times to make sure I was in the right building and classroom. It is funny how nervous I make myself in these foreign environments.

Luckily it was the right room. The introduction to the class went well. The class will familiarize us with the processes of the United Nations councils and we will have an especially close overview of the delegations over Afghanistan. We will learn how to write proposals and research arguments to represent different nations points of view. Overall, I think that it is going to be very exciting, and with one class down, hopefully the rest of the week would go just as smooth.