The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure and excitement, which hopefully explains why my blog posts have been few and far between. Monday marked the first day of school here at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, which is a bit strange because friends back home at IU are beginning finals for the end of their semester.
On Sunday, I could barely sleep because I was incredibly nervous about my upcoming classes. I’m taking five courses here in Freiburg—two through the Language Institute, one through my IES course, and two through the actual university here in Freiburg. On Monday, I had both of my university courses and it was just about the most intimidating experience of my life, but in such a fulfilling and rewarding way.
Both university courses are German literature discussions. The first course is about German themes in American literature and American themes in German literature. I think I am most excited about this course because I can offer strong insights into the American perspective on German literature. The intimidating part about this class is that I have to participate in university level discussions with German students about German literature. If I am ever to be caught paddling up the creek without a paddle, this might be my crowning glory.
For the past two months, I have had a lot of time with German students outside of the classroom setting. I have started to learn German slang and I can keep pace with my roommates who speak German at a rapid clip. But when classes began on Monday, I couldn’t compete at their level. German students here speak so eloquently in class and their diction completely transforms when speaking to professors. It’s incredibly humbling.
German courses at universities work slightly different then classes at IU. In German classes there aren’t as many opportunities for points as in the US. In the US you basically get participation points for showing up to class and breathing; these points usually prevent grades from slipping from an A to an A-. In Germany, there are only three possibilities to get points.
The first portion of my grade consists of ‘das referat’. It is a presentation I have to give in front of the class. A referat usually is about 15 minutes long and you present a certain topic or reading that the professor assigns. This semester I will present a book on a German perspective of 9/11 in one class and the works of Martin Luther in another class. I am not particularly worried about the referat because I feel fairly comfortable talking in public situations.
The second part to my grade is ‘die Hausarbeit’. The literal translation is ‘house work’ but essentially it is a 10-15 page research/term paper that is due at the end of the semester. The other American students and I are at a slight disadvantage because we have to turn in our Hausarbeit in July before we head back to the US while the German students have until October to finish writing their papers. A part of me is a little bitter that I don’t have the same amount of time to finish my work, but I couldn’t imagine trying to finish my thesis paper while beginning a whole set of new classes back at home.
The last portion of my grade is ‘die protocol’ which is basically the summary of another classmate’s referat. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I am going to enjoy an entirely student led course, but it will definitely be a different kind of learning experience.
With all of the excitement and nervousness regarding my courses this week, my German friends thought I warranted a night of soccer watching. Yesterday marked Bayern München’s entry into the Champions League Final as they defeated Real Madrid. The game was intense and decided in a penalty shootout. In high school I swam and played softball but I don’t pretend to have any understanding of the game, the rules, or for whom I should cheer. I spent the night asking a million questions. I’m fairly certain I will never understand it. My German friends said that I need to figure out the rules fast if I want to have any idea what is going on during the European Meisterschaft. Better start studying!