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The Oldest City in Germany

a travel blog by lost_red_balloon

Studying a semester at the University of Trier

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Arrival and orientation

Trier, Germany

Well, nothing terribly exciting yet. I got into Trier yesterday and took a taxi to my dorms, and finally have my own room again. It's a really exciting thing. Tommy's getting here was hectic - he was supposed to arrive at about 3, which was too late to check in with the Hausmeister so I'd gotten his keys for him. But he wasn't on the train. I waited for hours at the train station convincing myself he was just coming on the next one each time. He called me from skype at one point, but I didn't get to answer, saying he couldn't make the train he wanted and was doing his best to get to Trier. He'd call me with more information when he had it.

So I bought some food really quickly (honey and bread) and went home. At 10 he called from some old lady's cell phone who'd been nice enough to lend it to him, saying he would be getting into Trier somehow and asking directions to get to the dorms.

He somehow got let into the dorms and went up to my floor where he ran into one of my roommates who took him to my room right as the American next door came out of his, so everyone met everyone else right at once. It was crazy.

It turns out Tommy had missed his plane out of Chicago because the one to Chicago was delayed, and the next one wouldn't get to Germany soon enough, so he just went to Lufthansa for help. Switched airlines and had to fly to Munich instead of Frankfurt, and then had to take trains all the way across the country. Hence the delay. And of course in switching airlines his luggage didn't make it.

Today we had our first day of orientation-y things, which was basically an introduction. The three biggest groups here are actually the Japanese, the Americans, and the Danes. But there are so many people here from all over, I'm really excited!

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on March 26, 2009 from Trier, Germany
from the travel blog: The Oldest City in Germany
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Orientation is done!

Trier, Germany

Today was our last day of the Einführungsseminar (orientation seminar). Or, rather, yesterday was - today we had our official Deutsch als Fremdsprache placement test to determine which level of German as a foreign language courses we could take. It was fairly easy, I think, but we'll see on Wednesday when the results get posted.

So classes start on Monday - EECK!!! I'm signed up for way too many right now, which is good in the end. As things get started I will get to pick and choose and drop as I will. I've already received a few emails from one professor who is doing a Seminar course I signed up for. The class sounds really intense anyway, and he wants us to show up to the Übung section on Monday, even if you're just in the Seminar, to get an introduction. I'm also supposed to watch a movie and read stuff for the first day of class...?

I guess I should vaguely explain the system here. Not vaguely because I don't want to go into a detailed rant, but vaguely because that is the best that I know anything.

Classes are split into three main groups: Vorlesung, Seminar, and Übung.

A Vorlesung is basically a strict lecture. The professor talks, the students listen, and everyone leaves. You can, however, sign up for classes that are a Vorlesung with a discussion section, or an übung section, etc. but strict Vorlesungen are also offered. It's one of the easier levels, because the studying and preparing is done independently and people can go at their own pace.

A Seminar is more of what a normal class is for me, I think. It is run by a professor, but people are given long term presentation assignments and expected to participate regularly. Proseminars are like Seminars, but easier.

I think an Übung is one in which you don't even really need a professor because everything is group work. Or something. I never really got a straight answer on that.

So this class I"m getting emails about is a regular Poli Sci class (meaning not designed for non-native speakers), a Seminar (which is one of the harder levels) and the guy is already expecting me to work before things really have gotten started. Eeck!

Right now I'm signed up for this seminar, China and its Neighbors, a Poli Sci Vorlesung entitled Intro to Political Economics (I know nothing about economics and thought it was something I should do... when it doesn't factor into my GPA), hopefully two DaF classes on intercultural communication and academic writing, two normal Germanistik courses on literature (one is about bohemians, artists, and people on the edges of society in 1900 ish lit and the other is called Oral Violence), a French lit course (my French is SO rusty, this could turn out poorly) and an art history course on gender throughout art. Something(s) will have to be dropped. I'm thinking the China course at least is out, but we'll have to see about the rest and how interesting they sound after the first week.

Other than that I'm just getting used to life here in Trier. My bus stop is a 2000 year old Roman gateway, which is pretty sweet. I don't know any of my hallmates very well (save the other Americans)... I'm working on it but I don't get the impression anyone really knows anyone else well. I do talk to one guy a fair amount, but all of our conversations revolve around how the Americans should speak in German and not let people speak English to them. Because the whole point of coming to Germany is to learn German. I don't know why he thinks he has to tell me this all of the time, considering a) I've been in Germany since August, b) I've lived with Germans and 3) I obviously make an effort to speak German. We have this conversation in German. Everything.

I can't wait for classes to start. I'm somewhat terrified about it - everything is going to be in German, and I don't know the system or how classes work or anything. But I'm ready to really learn again (I haven't actually been in a class of any kind since mid-December) and to be in a academic environment. Also I'd like to meet some new people - but that's kind of hard here.

Hopefully pictures will come soon. My internet connection here is EXCRUCIATINGLY slow and uploading pictures is quite the hassle. Hence the reason nothing is posted in pictures since I left Freiburg. Whoops.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on April 17, 2009 from Trier, Germany
from the travel blog: The Oldest City in Germany
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First day of class

Trier, Germany

Today was the official first day of class! I don't actually have any classes scheduled for Mondays, but one of the classes I was in as a Seminar also has an Übung portion. The professor had written an email asking (I think) everyone to attend the Monday Übung session so that he only had to do an intro once, I guess. So I went, except that it was completely and utterly overwhelming.

I wasn't on the roster, which ended up being a good thing later anyway. And we had to enter our information (name, age, semester, address, etc.) on a sheet that was passed around the class, and I'm definitely the youngest in there by 3 or 4 years even though my semesters are the same as everybody elses, I think. And we had to pick days to present on certain things, except he didn't give any information on what was expected from the presentations. We have to write a really big 20-25 page paper due in August (after I'm gone) and also do what's called a Zwischenprüfung (which translates to "in-between test"). This Zwischenprüfung I thought was originally a mid-term, except that he described it in a way that makes me think it's really flexible. People actually turn in their essays in August and then realize they never did their Zwischenprüfung. So I have no idea what that is. I couldn't keep up with his lecture (the guy somehow described Chinese history in pretty good detail all the way from a couple thousand years B.C. to the Revolution and involvement in the 2nd World War in about an hour. Speedy talker, that one) nor the discussions in which the students all used these really abstract terms I'd never heard of before. I recognized them as somewhat abstract terms because they all ended in "mus" which is their equivalent to our "ism". Overall it sounds ridiculously and unnecessarily difficult for the workload I'm trying to balance already, so I just went ahead and dropped it.

And that was my first day of class.

I did walk back though with a roommate of mine from Syria, so we spent the whole time comparing winter in Texas to winter in Syria and how much we both want summer to come. It was fun!

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on April 20, 2009 from Trier, Germany
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Just checking in...

Trier, Germany

It's been a few weeks since I've written. This is mostly because NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. Overall, Trier isn't a terribly exciting place. Don't get me wrong, I love it here. It's really nice to just sit back and get things done without all sorts of other things going on. I'm starting to discover my favorite places to go for various things (I have an ice cream place, a pizzeria, an Italian restaurant, grocery stores, and my all-time favorite bakery with the sweetest women I've ever met).

German universities are still crazy. There is no getting around this. I'm still trying to figure out what I need to do in all of my classes because some students don't need to do research papers, and some do, and some need oral presentations, and some don't, and I have no idea where I fit into all of this. So I've been frantically emailing people at SU trying to make sure everything I'm doing will count for something because, really, if it doesn't, I can't graduate with an international studies degree because I was... ahem... studying. Internationally. Yup. My only other rant along these lines is how ridiculous I think it is that Southwestern wants me to pay $1350 to do my own research in Germany for my capstone. I want to do an Honors capstone, which is a two semester program, and figured that I would be researching in Germany for it anyway (German capstone, German country... it makes sense, right?) and thought it would be nice to get one of the semester's credit for that. Apparently, though, this is not how things work. UGH. I will refrain from the rant that builds up EVERY SINGLE TIME about how much I don't like the money-drive behind education that is building up. I'm watching this develop now in Germany, too, which is big on public education (which means ridiculously low tuitions). I understand that resources cost something for the school - that in general I get very small classes, one-on-one opportunities with professors, good access to other academic resources, etc. but that this all costs money to the school so I'm going to have to pay some. But still, independent research in another country is a completely different thing. I can't afford $1350 for two extra words on my diploma.

ANYWAY, I'm getting through things. My class list for this semester is:

Pictures of Germany in Literature and Film (German as a foreign language course)
French Postcolonial Literature (in French)
Oral Violence
Academic Writing (German as a foreign language course)
Introduction to Political Economics
Art and Archaeology of the Greek World
Intercultural Communication (German as a foreign language course)
Gypsies, Vagabonds, Artists and Bohemians: Border-existence in the literature of 1900

Woot! On top of that I'm researching for my capstone. The theme I'm going with (I have yet to develop a specific research question) is an examination of how the stresses of immigration/integration in Germany are expressed through German language immigrant-based literature. It sounds more eloquent in German.

Um... I went to Paris again last weekend. It was mostly really fun, but I was with a bunch of people who'd never been so a lot of it was stuff I've already kind of seen (e.g. Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, etc.) but the group was entertaining. A bit stressful towards the end, but... well... nothing you can do. I did get to go to this flea market I've been trying to go to for ages now (mostly I tried to go in 2006 with my mother but we got there and it was closed, and I tried last semester and just got lost in Parisien banlieues/ghettos) and I finally made it!! Parts of it are just booths selling knock-offs of brands or cheap-ish clothing, which Rob described as having "fallen off of trucks." The quotation marks were his as well. But you also get some pretty cool stuff. THe area is mainly an immigrant-populated area, so you can get a lot of stuff from Africa, the Middle East, India, etc. that is shipped in or, in the case of more arts-and-crafts-y things, made by the people now living in Paris. It was a lot of fun. I bought a bracelet made out of a fork (it looks better than it sounds, promise).

That's uh... pretty much it. I'll check in later!

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on May 12, 2009 from Trier, Germany
from the travel blog: The Oldest City in Germany
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3 weeks left

Trier, Germany

I have, up until now, never had a problem with the idea of going home. I do love living in Germany, even if there are things about German society and the university system which drive me a little bit crazy, but I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I would be going back home. A friend of mine studied here last year as well, and came back telling me how wonderful Germany would be for me and how she feels more at home there than back in Texas. She wants to live here. Which is fine – I understand the appeal. But that sense of falling in love with life in Germany never hit me. I feel equally comfortable in Germany and in Austin, but Austin is where my friends are and, frankly, a lot more interesting and eccentric than anywhere in Europe I’ve been.

But now that I only have 3 weeks left here, I’m realizing just how soon I’m going to be getting on that plane. And I’m not ready to go. Every weekend when I call home, my mother asks if I think I’ll be ready to go home at the end of July. Everytime I have answered with “yes,” and explained various things I miss about home, or something I’ve deemed ineffective or unnecessary here, or even just that it’s been a long time since I’ve been home. I’m surprised to feel that answer changing – I was so sure that, despite not being homesick, I would ready and happy to go back when I had to. Now I’m not so sure. I just can’t quite bring myself to start sorting through my clothing and books to see what I should leave, what I should send, and what I should pack. I’m still not done with all of my schoolwork and haven’t written in my journal in ages. All of the things I should be preparing to finish up just aren’t working.

Frankly, I’m nervous that home won’t be as good as the idealic image I’ve had in my head this entire time.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on July 4, 2009 from Trier, Germany
from the travel blog: The Oldest City in Germany
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