Germany Thus Far: 15 Months

Another month in Germany has gone by…

While I can obviously complain about the horrible weather and lack of snow in southern Germany in December, there’s also plenty to be happy about (like the fact that I have tons of snow now!).

Around Baden-Württemberg

I celebrated my birthday this month with some friends from the Uni. We made up five nationalities: Bosnia, China, Germany, Georgia (the country, not the US state), and of course the US. Thanks you guys for an entertaining night and the epic multi-lingual toasts / speeches that you gave me!

Christmas markets were also in full swing, and I got my fill of Glühwein. I certainly made sure to visit the Konstanz market as much as possible since I will be living elsewhere next year. I also made it back to the Ravensburg market and the very last day of the Ulm market.

Christmas Cookies

My Christmas was celebrated with my adopted German family. No snow, but lots of food and singing carols (which I will forever hate). All in all, it was a relaxing holiday weekend.

In the Books

December was a busy study month. From midterms, to take-home exams, to a few papers, I didn’t have much downtime. I would have liked to have gone out more, but that’s life as a Master’s student.

New on the horizon: a Master’s thesis. Right before the break, my study program (all five of us) had a meeting with our advisor to discuss the upcoming thesis registration. I need a topic, and a thesis advisor, plus a second grader. There are a lot of topics that I find interesting. Too many in fact. Now the game is to narrow it down from my list of twenty to just one and make a proposal.

Speaking Denglish

Over Christmas, German had my head spinning. I spoke so much German that I had difficulty forming proper sentences in English by the end of the night.

I also noticed several times over the last month that I’ve been forgetting English words that I should know. For instance, I was at lunch a few weeks ago being quizzed on German words, and discussing trickier words which sound alike. We landed on the topic of the wood chip stuff that you put around trees and flowers. I used to work in a garden center, so I should know this word. Only a few days ago did I finally remember that it is “mulch” that I was searching for.

So that was my month. In other news, my mother sent me my little sister’s senior photos. I can’t help but show off how cute she is. She graduates from high school in May!

C's Senior Photo

Cheers!

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year! It’s a cold one here in southern Germany.

Still, I got out at midnight to bring in the new year and enjoy the once-a-year explosives (because Germans don’t really use them in the villages any other time).

New Year 2017

It’s also been quite frosty every morning for the past week. New Year’s Day was no exception.

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All of the trees looked a bit ghostly from the frost, but they were a wonderful sight when the sun hit them!

The weather started to change a bit yesterday, so… The Schnee is finally here! I’m so happy that Old Man Winter finally decided to properly do his job. I went out to play in it a bit last night, but it was too dark for pictures. Instead, I went out this morning to take photos with the sun.

Hope everyone is having a good first few days of the new year. Fingers crossed that 2017 is better than 2016 (although, the political indicators point towards another rough year).

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: 10 Months

It has officially happened: I have entered into double-digits. Ten months have gone by with me living in Europe. A German recently asked me if I had gone back to the States at all. I told her no. Then, she asked if I missed the States. Not particularly. Finally, she said I must like it in Germany then. Of course!

Studies

I guess you could say that I am now technically half-way to my Master’s degree. I still have a few term papers to finish, but lectures for the summer semester have ended.

This semester has gone better than the first, but still not as well compared to what I used to be able to crank out with a lot less effort at my American undergraduate university.

Although it is now the semester holiday, I have some work to do. I have two jobs at the university. One of the jobs is working for one of my professors as I have previously mentioned. The other is a translation job (to English!) for one of the departments on campus. I hope it goes well, although I’m sure it will be slow at first.

German

With the end of my second semester and ten months in Germany comes the achievement of completing the A2/2 level course! To recap, I had tried to self-study a bit before my arrival and managed to get into an A1/2 course in the first semester. I kept up with the class in addition to my studies and was able to jump up to the A2/2 course for the second semester. Now I can enroll in a B1 level course!

For the people who don’t understand these letters and numbers, I’m referring to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. A is the novice level, B is the intermediate level, and C is the advanced level. The ratings are divided with 1 being the lower rank of a level and 2 being higher. The university I attend further divides the A range so that A1/1 is the most basic course and A2/2 is the last A course.

Travel

I didn’t really get out much since the semester was winding down. However, I had an American friend in Konstanz who I showed around. We did a bit of exploring in the forest nearby and walked along the lake, but nothing over the top.

Konstanz from the Forest

Then, just this past weekend, I left town to head north. I spent the weekend enjoying an (Old Town Festival) and miniature Seenachtsfest (loosely translates to Night on the Lake Festival).

The Altstadtfest had some lovely food. There was all of the typical German foods, many of which I cannot eat. However, I was able to find some pork-free Dinnete. There was also something strange and not typical German that I can only describe as turkey pieces on a stick with Laugen (bread) wrapped along the length, then with either sweet and sour sauce or Sriracha sauce. I totally went with Sriracha. I also indulged in some Indian food, always a favorite of mine. Finally, I ate the best falafel I’ve ever had, made by some Syrian refugees serving up their favorite foods.

To finish the weekend off, we had Seenachtsfest at the small lake in this town. Everyone lined up on the shores to watch the fireworks. The music was … interesting. It began with Frozen‘s Let It Go (a German version might I add), moving on to a song from Tarzan, and finishing with the theme music from Pirates of the Caribbean. Quite a mashup, but I guess it was a family event after all.

There we have it. Ten months of not dying while abroad, and even managing to have some fun while working towards another degree. I hope everyone who has already been on summer break for a few months is enjoying it as much as I finally am.

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!

Some Photos From “Fasching”

In the midst of finishing my lessons and preparing for exams, I celebrated Fasching (Carnival) in Konstanz. …And then I promptly forgot to ever write about it.

To make up for the egregious error, I decided to share some photos with you all. I attended a few parades, enjoyed the intense street parties that could be found all over Old Town, and seriously questioned the sanity of the German people. Everyone dressed up and partied day and night all weekend. Konstanz had its own traditions, and I’m not sure I’m the one to try and explain them, but you can enjoy the photos all the same.

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The head followed soon after.
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This was one of many floats. I don’t quite know how they managed to get it through the narrow streets of Old Town. I mean, a tractor was even pulling it!
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Just your average straw man on a couple leashes. I bet he was warm at least.
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A witch the roof of a float. They were apparently selling booze out of the back of it after the parade.
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Some hairy guys and their float…
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…And some walking waffles eating potato chips, because apparently you get hungry while pretending to be food in parades.

Hope you enjoyed those. It took forever to get them uploaded because my laptop is on the fritz. Once the laptop problem is solved I’ll be more motivated to post some (also overdue) sledding photos!

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!

Germany Thus Far: (Belated) Three Months In

So I’m almost half a month late, but I’d still like to highlight everything that happened during my third month in Germany. So December…

Travel

December is a special month in my life, because it is the month that I celebrate being born and not dying in the past year! Yay! I hit up some Christmas markets to celebrate this event. Here’s to hoping I survive another year…

RV Christmas Market
Ravensburg Christmas Market

Also of note in December is the Christmas holiday. This Christmas I stayed with a German family. Afterwards, I wrote a little comparison of my interpretation of “German Christmas” vs. “American Christmas.”

Studies

In December, I finished out my 2015 lectures. Then I started panicking about my upcoming final exams. The semester dates are quite different from what you’d experience at an American school. I’ll actually be taking my finals in February.

Konstanz Windows

Between my studies, I also wrote a short post to show everyone what the Konstanz Uni looks like.

German

In the third month of my language learning journey, I introduced Deutsch Donnerstag. This new series highlights some adventures in my language learning, as well as happy accidents. The first post is on a cool word: Schnee.

Well, there’s my month in review. My last of 2015, my third in Germany, and the coldest this winter so far (but where is the snow?).

Cheers!

Frohe Weihnachten vs. Merry Christmas

I’m a day late, but Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas)!

Merry Christmas!

 

This Christmas I joined a German family for their celebrations. In doing so, I experienced some differences between how Germans (in the south at least) celebrate Christmas and how Americans celebrate Christmas. Here are the top three differences I’ve found:

No. 1: The Family Dinner

In the States, in my family at least, we have a Christmas dinner on December 25 with the whole family. From what I’ve heard in my German class and experienced, Germans have their dinners on December 24, Christmas Eve.

That’s not to say that there is no meal on Christmas. My host family also had a lunch with the other side of the family on Christmas Day, followed by dessert at the grandparents’ house.

No. 2: Christmas Songs

This past month I’ve heard the most annoying American Christmas songs in the stores. Despite what the mall, grocery store, and other shops play during the holiday season, Germans have their own traditional Christmas Carols. Some of them are the same that Americans sing (Stille Nacht is Silent Night).

The major difference here? In the States, the only time we ever sang Christmas songs was when we were forced to dress up and do those silly recitals in elementary school. Here, they actually sing them with their families. Sure, the young ones roll their eyes, but they do it all the same.

No. 3: Presents

The major difference between how I’ve always done Christmas in the States and how Germans do it is the giving of gifts. In the States, everyone wakes up on Christmas day to presents under the tree and proceeds to rip them open.

Not in Germany. Here, we exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. It felt weird, because it was early to me. It almost seemed like we were mischievous kids opening our presents early.

That’s my take on Christmas here. My only complaint is that there still is no Schnee. At least the weather is fantastic to make up for it. I even went for a bike ride today.

Cheers!

Another Birthday Abroad

I celebrated my twenty-third birthday this month in true Lynnae fashion: with Mexican food and Christmas markets.

I went to the Christmas market in Ulm and enjoyed my first ever Feuerzangenbowle. It’s a type of Glühwein with a little cube of sugar on top covered in rum and lit on fire. Luckily, I didn’t light myself on fire. Though, I did see one guy light his shoe on fire, so it seems to be easily done.

Afterwards, I went to Enchilada, one of the few Mexican restaurants that I’ve seen. It was pretty good, but not as good as the American-Mexican and Southwestern food that I can get back in the states. It was also nowhere near as good as the Mexican food that I had in Oaxaca. I quickly cleared my plate all the same.

I also went to the Ravensburg Christmas market on my birthday weekend. I was surprised at how big it was for a small town. While I was there, I had some yummy spring rolls.

RV Christmas Market
Ravensburg Christmas Market

Overall, I’d say I had a good variety of some of my favorite cuisines, including cooking my favorite lemon chicken and pasta. I also got to see some really festive Christmas-time celebrations in Germany.

After this weekend I had one major conclusion. I have missed people drinking in public and during the day like in Northern Ireland. And the strange thing is that even with the public drinking, it still feels more like a family event than anything I’ve been to in the States.

What do I think about birthdays abroad? Not so bad. Sure, I’m not with family, but at least I have a good view, though no view can beat last year’s.

Cheers!