So, I find myself settled in half way through my second semester in Germany, and I realize my post is long overdue. Much has happened in the six months since my arrival last August, and I still have six more months to go, but already I feel I have grown exponentially and learned quite a bit. I have had some wonderful experiences thus far, the highlights of my first semester being as follows:
- Arriving in Germany homeless, and showing up in Oestrich-Winkel with only a backpack and without a clue.
- Finding one of the only apartments left in my tiny village on my first day here; where I found myself in the company of a Korean boy, and two German master’s students.
- Purchasing a bicycle and riding it every day along the Rhein River on my way to and from classes.
- Experiencing the joy of wine season in Germany. Everyone must do it once in life. There are wine festivals in almost every village in the region, and along the Rhein River you can also find quaint little wine stands. I spent several enjoyable evenings sipping nice Rieslings by the river in the company of great new friends.
- That brings me to my next point, of meeting around 200 exchange students from all over the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to surround myself with people from many different cultures, and we would often take turns hosting dinners of traditional foods from our countries.
- Sharing the tradition of Thanksgiving with over 35 exchange students at my apartment. Despite being a lot of work, many students were able to experience their first Thanksgiving, complete with bird, sweet potatoes, green been casserole, mashed potatoes, and apple crisp – a very memorable night.
- Landing myself in the hospital for a week – in the most German way possible. While attending a soccer game, I ate an undercooked bratwurst, which in turn gave me salmonella, which in turn gave me a reactive arthritis infection in my knee. Silver lining of the whole event was the quality of the German healthcare system. For eight days in the hospital, I only paid €90.
- Of course, being my first fall in Germany, I had to go to “the Oktoberfest” in Munich. To sum up the trip, I spent 24 hours in Munich, bought a dirndl (traditional Bayerisch women’s clothing or what the girls wear when men wear lederhosen), drank beer in the rain because it was too full inside, and then spent the night in a train station trying to get home. I don’t know if I will ever feel the need to go back again.
- Last but not least, one of my favorite parts from last semester – Christmas Markets. If you don’t know what a Christmas Market is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A market full of Christmas things. You can buy wonderful handmade pieces of art, ornaments/Christmasy thigns, or traditional German nick nacks, but the best part is without a doubt, the food and drink. So many warm, delicious meals, and candies and snacks, it’s difficult to decide what to eat. And then there’s the Glühwein, which is a hot, spiced wine everyone drinks. Simply to die for.
So far this current semester has been pretty laid back. I have moved apartments and am living with one of my former roommates from last semester. Readjusting was difficult in the beginning. I went home to the States for Christmas, and when I returned, the majority of my friends from the previous semester had return to their home countries. So I had to start all over meeting new people again. I have been fortunate enough to find a new group of people whom I really connect with. Some of the happenings so far are:
- I went to Berlin last weekend, and was able to soak up all of the sights and sounds of Germany’s capital.
- I’ve been improving my German and trying to speak it often. I’ve found the little joys of just being able to schedule my own hair cutting appointment in German are very rewarding.
- Recently, I have begun tutoring a local woman in English to fill up some of my free time.
For the most part, I am going to class and taking it easy, trying to enjoy the time I have left. The weather here is starting to get warm, and I can feel spring coming. I can’t wait until it is pleasant to be outside again. Life here is really wonderful, and I looking forward to all that the rest of the semester has in store for me!
That’s all for now,