Mainz will be here, I just won’t – On the road back home!

Well, my days in Mainz are really winding down – just a week left before I return home, and I have to say, it is certainly unbelievable how quickly a year has flown by! Well, not a year, two weeks shy to be exact, but that’s not the point! Either way, my semester ended about 2 or 3 weeks ago and i am still in the process of collecting all of my grades and taking care of some university affairs. After a heartfelt going away party for a bunch of my friends, as I am the 2nd to last of all my international friends to leave the city (my friends who live here are obviously excluded ), only being outlasted my my friend Megan from Memphis, my friend Lukas and I flew to Ireland for 9 days.

Now, Lukas and I both had a particularly stressful exam period, so we did virtually no planning for our trip – we just bumped into each other at work, as we work in the same office on campus, and decided to go after everything was finished! As we are on a budget, particularly limited, might I add, we had some interesting sleeping arrangements during our stay: a van for 3 days, a farmhouse for a night, and a barn loft for a night – we were woken up by rats in the morning after that night… just so you know what kind of a barn this was. One of the greatest things that you will find studying abroad is that you will make great friends all over the world, and this was the case in Ireland! My friend Julie is Irish, and when I told her that we would be there, she and her friend, Emma, drove down to where we were – Galway – where there was an arts and music festival taking place for the weekend. We traveled around with them for 3 days, and all slept in her conversion van! Now, this van was absolutely perfect for the four of us – except that we had to ‘put’ one person on the front bench seat each night. Now, I am by no means a tall guy, but the front bench seat was just about 5 inches too short for me, and about the same for Lukas when it was his turn – leaving us very grumpy in the morning, respectively. Either way, we had a great time visiting with them!

Then we were off for more adventures, stopping off for two days with Lukas’s brother – who is doing volunteer work this year with adults with mental disabilities on a farm out in the beautiful countryside. Now, the first night we could stay in the extra room in the farmhouse, but the second night a new volunteer arrived, and we were moved to the barn – let me clarify, barn loft used for storage, right about above the pigs… Anyway, mattresses were being stored there, so we pulled a few down and crashed for the night, but hey, it was way better than paying for a hostel!! And I was really great to spend a little time in the countryside! Nonetheless, Ireland was absolutely beautiful – we were hiking copious amount everywhere we could – just on our last day we hiked somewhere around 25 or 30 k. which is no small feat! It was absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the joy to see!

We returned to Mainz and prepared to drive to the Saarland, a very small German state on the French border, where Lukas’s parents were having a Sommerfest (summer festival). The Saarland is known for having a very difficult dialect – a dialect most Germans have a difficult time understanding – I was absolutely lost, to say the least! I was able to recognize some of the traits typical of German dialects from that general part of Germany (i.e. d->t, ch->sch, pf->pp, s->t etc etc etc) which was incredibly helpful, I even picked up a few words and phrases so Lukas could laugh at an American exchange student trying to speak Saarländlisch. I absolutely love hearing different German dialects, and this really made my day! I do have to say, though, that this was one definitely the most difficult dialect I have ever heard and attempted to understand!

After getting back to Mainz I immediately began working as an assistant for the 62nd international German Summer Course here at the university. It is a month long program designed to help people from all over the world learn German! And we have learners of all levels, from not-a-word to German teachers. Every day is something new for me and all of the people with whom I work. On Monday my friend Laura and I are scheduled to hold a Stammtisch (a usually regular meeting for people to get out and discuss the matters of the world over a drink at their regular table) for all of the participants who are interested, getting them out to explore the city of Mainz at a few local places. Last week we worked to move all of the students into their dorms, brought them to their first day of classes, gave them a city tour and tried to help them with all of the other odds and ends that they needed to make this as productive as it could be! I am working for this program, by the way, because one of my bosses from the last two semesters, Frau Küper, is the director of the program, and asked me to be an assistant. Oh yeah, a friend of mine who is doing an internship with an online editorial even wrote an article about us and interviewed a few students, Frau Küper, and myself!

Otherwise I have been maintaining a relatively high level of stress/business preparing to go back home, i.e. doing all of the thing you have to do before you move out of a country: canceling my health insurance and bank account, moving all of my stuff out, registering with the city, returning all of the (many many many) things I have borrowed over the year, and of course, loads of goodbyes! I will be flying back to the States on the 14th and trying to take care of everything before classes start again – but I have to say, after how stressful this semester has been – like, Russian exams written in German stressful – I am looking forward to being home for a few days of relaxation, though honestly I don’t know if I will have any!! After all, I have to move back to Louisville (a BIG thanks to my wonderful sister Corinne for finding me an apartment!), get a cell phone, insurance, and a slew of other banal minutiae that will consume my life for a few weeks haha.

I am, however, very excited that my friend Thorsten will be studying in Louisville next year! And I really hope that he will have as good and rewarding a time as I did!! I can’t say how thankful I am for having been given this opportunity to study and live here! Betty and David Jones, Herr and Frau Boel, the Sister Cities Organization, Allie Goatley, Dr. Joy Carew, Virginia Honoso, Dr. Hutcheson, Dr. Pat Condon, my family and EVeRYONE else in Louisville who have helped make this possible, without whom we never could have revived this wonderful exchange program (I am the first UofL student to do it in 5 years)!!! I owe you all my deepest, most heartfelt gratitude! Not to mention all of those in Mainz who have helped make this the most successful year possible: Herr Henkel-von Klass, Frau Küper, Dr. Britta Feyerabend, Frau Ursula Bell-Köhler and her husband, Herr Bell, Frau Karst with the whole Freundschaftskreis Mainz-Louisville, all of my ‘path-finders’ and everyone else!

I owe you all so much, THANK YOU! And I look forward to seeing you again!


Klausurzeit! (that’s right, exam time once again)

I have been preparing for the end of the Summer Semester here in Mainz and I have to say, time is absolutely flying by! I have been here almost a 10 months now and my final days here are just disappearing. I don’t leave until the middle of August (giving me just about 10 days to organize everything for the beginning of of new UofL semester), as I will be working for my boss as a Tutor/Assistant for the International Summer German Course at my university. Not to mention that exams at most (including my) university don’t end until the middle of July.

Well, I have already managed to face two of my final exams: Wissenschaftssprache yesterday, and Christa Wolf’s “Kein Ort. Nirgends” this morning. The first was a course dealing with the construction and use of scientific and generally higher level German (everything from the dangers of over-fertilization to world population growth…). I had actually planned to take a additional German course this semester dealing with Business German, but unfortunately that course was canceled two or three weeks into the semester, but hey, that’s just life! Regardless, I am happy the exam is over, but it is just a step in the right direction for the rest of the semester!

This morning I took my oral exam over the novel “Kein Ort. Nirgends” by Christa Wolf (I believe that the title was translated at some point as “No Place On Earth,” in the off chance that you have read it). The course consisted of reading and analyzing the book while learning the historical figures and appropriate contexts (in this case, Heinrich von Kleist, Karoline von Günderrode, Goethe, and of course, the situations surrounding the Author in former East Berlin etc. etc. etc.). Every week we would prepare about 8 pages of the text and work through the book line by line, every student analyzing and paraphrasing 10 or so lines in his or her turn, working our way around the classroom. The book was particularly interesting, as it takes place across the river from Mainz in the company of some very famous local early 19th century personalities. Though I knew what to expect from the final oral exam, as I had the professor last semester for a play by the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, I was still put on my toes for some of the questions: (keep in mind that this was, of course, in German) What similarities, if any, could be drawn between the opinions of Christa Wolf and Kleist in regards to their societies, respectively? This lasted about 15-20 minutes with a series of varying question and themes. WELL, maybe it wasn’t too bad… but you get the point, and to be fair, the professor is a genuinely great professor. And hey, I have nothing to complain about, I received a grade of 1.5, a pretty unusual grade… but that’s another story. Either way, a 1.5 is considered to be substantially above average (it is incredibly difficult to get anything ‘above’ a 2.0, as the German system is a reverse scale from 1-5, one being the highest), and I am especially happy with it!! It could end up a 1.7, depending on what happens next week, either way, I couldn’t be more pleased.

Otherwise things have been ‘normal’ here. I have just been busy with the usual day to day affairs, that we tend to take for granted (I will definitely think that next year when I am back in Louisville!). I went to Cologne a few weeks ago to meet up with a few teachers of mine from High School, who were on a trip through Europe with a group of students. I was actually on the last trip that my school went on 5 years ago! Talk about a flash from the past. It was great to see them again – one of whom, appropriately enough, is the German teacher. Nonetheless, it was great to see them!

I recently spoke with Michael and Heidi Boel, from the Sister Cities Louisville organization, and they were kind enough to invite me to come and visit with them as they are spending the summer in Germany! I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to visit with all of my exams, but I will certainly try to work something out.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Last week was Johannisfest here in Mainz – a huge 3 or 4 day festival celebrating the most famous Mainzer of all time (and the namesake of my university), Johannes Gutenberg. The entire old town was covered with stands, rides, book sales, stages and all sorts of other things. From Schillerplatz to the Rhine River (a very very large distance), the town was converted. One of the traditional activities for this festival is the ‘gautschen’ – the dunking of students who have finished studying book making. The students are lifted up and thrown into a giant cask of water on a stage in the shadow of the 1000 year old Cathedral while their names are announced. I found a video of this year’s ceremony: (notice that they took a beer break half way through… dunking students is hard work). Either way, this is really important step in the students lives, and it was a very culturally significant thing to see!


Mainz in Spring

Tomorrow is Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi), and as such, we poor stressed out students are given the day off from Uni! Giving us a nice little break during the middle of the week, and a well earned day off – or at least an opportunity to catch up on a little overdue homework or reading. Or maybe just the chance to go down to the Rhine and relax with friends, either way… the Summer Semester is full of one day holidays and random protests (preventing us from going to uni – as an example, when the public transportation strikes… very difficult to get around then). Just this weekend there was a great protest/party in the city – Night-Dance-Demo, in english – this was 500-600 people literally dancing their way through the old part of town with three large trucks carrying suspended mixing tables and a slew of dj’s to entertain the crowds. Definitely one of the most interesting ways of taking an issue (literally) to the streets. It was so bizarre watching hundreds of people with live music dancing through the city – past buildings that are hundreds of years old, past statues of Johannes Gutenberg and Friedrich Schiller – juxtaposition if I have ever seen it!

In addition to my regular university courses I have been auditing a few courses this semester (I can’t enroll in them for credit as I lack some serious prereqs, BUT I am here to learn, so that is what I am going to do!). One of the absolutely most interesting of them is Exchange Rates and International Capital Markets, the professor works in Swiss Finance and is just a wealth of information, especially considering Germany’s role in the current Euro Zone economic troubles. The professor knows his material, and tries to represent as balanced a view of world Capital Markets as possible. Even though I am not taking the ‘Klausur’ (the exam), but I have definitely been trying to learn as much from this course as possible. Like last semester I have been really focusing on my German and taking a lot of courses about the language and the german literature – I have been trying to take advantage of every possible opportunity to learn the language while i am here. I do an English-German Tandem with a friend of mine, I live in a German-speaking WG (Wohngemeinschaft – apartment), and I am taking a courses about the language, that I simply can’t take back in Louisville. I had signed up to take ‘Business German’ (Wirtsschaftswissenschaftsdeutsch), but the course was unfortunately canceled after 3 sessions due to lack of interest. I did manage to get into ‘Scientific German,’ which has been unbelievably helpful.

I have been learning a great deal from my job in the International Office – just like last semester – but this semester I feel that my German has really gotten to the level that I can talk to the people I work with at a mature and appropriate level. Just yesterday my boss and I spoke about the events unfolding with Israel and the humanitarian aid ships, which has certainly taken a lot of people’s minds and discussions off of the European financial crisis, at least for a little while. I am still translating documents and preparing an online portal for all the new exchange students, like last semester, but I would gladly do it for free just for the experience! I can not describe how great of an experience it has been working in a German office, even if it is only one or two times a week. You can read all about how an office should work, and how you are supposed to act in intercultural situations, but to actually work in one… that is something totally different, something totally unique. Definitely making my experience here worth it in my mind, without a doubt!

Liebe Grüße,

A little about my travels

As I am starting to settle back into the school mode, I have been preparing myself for the coming semester. I have been traveling on and off through Europe for the past two or so months, and am just now returning to some form of normalcy (though some friends and I are off to Barcelona for a friend’s birthday at the end of the month – some birthday party!). The way that most German universities break up their year is as follows: the summer semester, from about the middle of October through the middle of February; and the winter semester, from about the middle of April through the middle of July – with short breaks and vacations within the semesters, of course! But, this system leaves the students with a substantial block of time (mid Feb. through mid April) to travel, prepare for the upcoming semester, take exams from the previous semester, work or a whole slew of imaginable other time-occupying activities! Aside from my job duties at the university, I was very happy to be left with a great deal of time to travel and enjoy the convenience of living in Germany (within 5 hours of pretty much everything!).

I was lucky enough to have a few friends of mine come over and visit during this break. A great friend of mine from high school and fellow business student, Eric Chapman (University of South Carolina) came over and visited for about a week and we trained to Brussels and Bruges in Belgium, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, were we met up with a friend of mine from Texas, Katie. After this we went to Stuttgart (in southern Germany). It was definitely really wonderful seeing two of the three Benelux countries (the third is still to come)! It was a very enjoyable experience and wonderful to see my friend Eric again, but I would definitely like to return to Belgium!

Two days after Eric left two friends of mine from UofL flew in and visited for about a week – my friends and coworkers at the Office of the President Megan and Britney. I showed them around Mainz and then we were off to Paris, Strasbourg and Munich! We met up with our friend and other coworker, Patrick in Paris. Patrick is doing the year long exchange in Montpellier, so this is the first that the four of us have been together since sometime in August, so it was a very surreal experience. The four of us all reunited, and in Paris of all places! So that was quite an experience, no doubt about it – and it was great to see my friends again! It was really great to have a few weeks with my friends – the first time I have seen any one from home in a long time, and as I am not going back to visit, it is going to have to last me until August!

After we returned, two friends and I went on a road trip to Vienna and Bratislava – well, we started off for Croatia, but road trips are all about spontaneity and enjoying the ride! It was a very interesting trip – and we met a few very interesting people in Bratislava… but you will have to ask me about that in person when I return! Before my friends came and visited I did a little traveling – Berlin and Hamburg, to name a few. Before christmas I went to Morocco and New Year’s Eve I spent in Venice – that was a pretty amazing experience!

I have been working pretty diligently for the university – I am a Mitarbeiter at the university’s International Office (Abteilung Internationales) and I receive a scholarship to help cover my expenses, which is really helpful and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity. Most of my job entails translating or proofreading documents for the International Office or the President’s Office. The largest task I am responsible for is translating a website for international students to come out soon for the next year. I think that it is going to be a valuable resource for students who will be studying in Mainz in the future (I wish I had it!). Either way, I have been putting in some extensive time and effort translating all of the documents – it is a lot harder that you might imagine! Especially when the original documents have very Mainz-related terms (dialect, for instance!).

Ok, well I have written enough for now!

Liebe Grüße,


Well… My semester break is coming to a close – and quickly! I have had the last month and a half off from school, which is our big break between the winter and summer semesters. I will be the first to say that I have been trying to make the best of my time! Throughout the last 6 weeks I have been all over: Berlin, Hamburg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Stuttgart, Paris, Strasbourg, Munich… and that is not the end of it I will be off again tomorrow, hopefully – though I am not sure in which direction (I am thinking east…).

The plan, tentative as it may be, is to head off to Budapest this week, return on the 31st, and then head back out on the 2nd. I would like to head out to Croatia and Slovenia, but heaven only knows where I will really end up! For the rest of the month of April, as classes begin, I plan on being in Mainz – except for a brief trip to London with my friend Pat (who is studying through Sister Cities in Montpellier this year).

Except for all of the traveling things have been… well, still pretty exciting, now that I think about it! I have been working quite a bit lately at for the international office at my university – I have been translating a substantial number of documents for a new website that we are creating for international students, and I am pretty excited about the progress we have made! Not to mention the wonderful experience I have had getting accustomed to a German working environment – though, my office is probably more of an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself… Either way, I really find it rewarding and interesting.

On a personal note – I met Noam Chomsky yesterday! If you are not familiar with him; he is (arguably) the most famous living linguist (81 years old) and a very well respected political critic. He revolutionized the we understand languages… anyway, he came and gave a guest lecture at my university, of all places, and I was lucky enough to meet him afterwards (although, I was far to intimidated to say anything intelligent).

Nonetheless, I will get back after I am a little more settled in the new semester! After all, I have barely been home 5 days in the last month and a half!

Liebe Grüße

P.S. More to come! I have to run now, but I will write again!