Archive for May, 2012

My First Two Months in Deutschland…

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Let’s start at the very beginning (from the lyrics of the Sound of Music). The first time I have overslept on my European adventure was when I was suppose to be at the airport for a 6:30am flight. I got to the airport at 6 when boarding normally starts. The employee gave me a lecture on how I was suppose to already be at the gate. The plus side of arriving late was that I got to have an extra carry-on bag. The down side was that I had to run through Heathrow since things would have been too easy if I could have flown from gate one. I had an overpacked duffel bag that and my regular carry-on bag. I was sweating once I got to the gate and realized the plane was not boarding yet so I causally took a seat. I waited another ten minutes to board. I could have leisurely walked to my gate. Oh, well.

view of Erfurt

Once I got into Frankfurt, I had to figure out how to find the train station, which was not bad since someone uploaded a youtube video of the walk, and buy my ticket. During my two hour and half train ride, the culture shock hit in. I have not really felt culture shock before since I normally just go to countries whose first language is not English for a couple of days and as a tourist. I realized I do not really understand what anyone around me is saying or even the announcements that they make. I do have a normally pretty positive attitude and I am pretty active person so this feeling of culture shock made me a bit more depressed. I guess the culture shock lasted for about a week. I could not eat much (not even chips/french fries) the first couple of days because I was very stressed about everything and relied heavily on my tutor. The Universität Erfurt pairs you up with German student or two that shows you around Erfurt. They normally help you with paperwork and all the bureaucratic things which always confuses me in English. Mine was extremely helpful, especially when I was not so internally freaking out about everything. My American roommate who was a study aboard student here last year is now interning here and has helped me immensely. I have also come to the realization that I just do not have a knack for picking up languages, since it mostly involves remembering words, which as always been one of my shortcomings. I have that problem in English as well as mispronouncing words constantly. These are not useful talents to have when living in a country that speaks a language you have been learning for a year or so. I have ran into a couple of problems whether it has been my accent or I am butchering their language very well but there have been quite a few times when the people in Erfurt could not understand what I am saying.

The cathedral in Erfurt. I went to Easter mass there!

I knew the first couple of weeks were rough with my German skills but after the preparatory course and being here for a month, I thought I was getting the hang of things. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I had a problem ordering chips/french fries auf Deutsch: Ich möchte pommes frites. I had to repeat pommes frites several times before the waiter understood. I had problems letting the bank employees know that I want to open a bank account. Many people do speak English, and the international students will use English as their primary language or the language to clarify any confusion. I have always known Europeans (not really including the British on this one) have been excellent with languages, and it is very intimidating meeting people who can speak five languages when I struggle with the English language at times. I also think English speakers can feel (and I will admit at times I do agree this sentiment at times) we do not need to learn other languages since many people are willing and do learn English. This is a depressing thought but it does have an element of truth since many people that I have met will learn their native language and then English. Who knows how long English will last as a connecting language but I do have a feeling that our media and Hollywood definitely have an influence. Everyone knows so much about our celebrities, movies, and  music whereas I sometimes cannot even think of one famous celebrity from some of the international students’ countries. This makes me feel guilty that I do not know much about their culture as well as not speaking German well enough. I did no want to be a typical American study aboard student but I feel at times I am exactly that, and I guess that was why I did not enjoy the beginning of my study aboard experience because I felt guilty about my limited German and a bit sad about how much I am missing back in American: my siblings’ prom, their graduation, my friends, Chipotle, and an actual summer. At the same time, I am loving Europe. Sometimes, I feel that I do not really connect with Germany but I am enjoying the country more than I did the first two months. I surprisingly missed German and Erfurt when I took a weekend trip to Milan so I hope Germany and I are on better terms now!

Lessons from my Internship (Two Months later)

Friday, May 18th, 2012

My internship was an awesome experience that kept me busy and put me into contact with   some people. Through my internship, I met one of the organizers of Balkans Peace Park Project (http://www.balkanspeacepark.org/) and will be volunteering with them in August which means I will be going to Albania! I am a bit terrified since everyone keeps joking about “don’t get taken” so hopefully that will not happen. This program has been operating for a couple of years so I have no doubt that everything will run smoothly. While making contacts, I also learned much about myself through my internship. One of my tasks was to transcribe the interviews for one the research projects that my employers were organizing.  I realized I was not as great of a listener as I should be. I would always get the gist of what the people were saying but not their exact wording so I would always have to go back and listen a couple of times to make sure I got everything correct. In addition to transcribing, I sat in on lectures about Responsible Tourism, and I understand most of the varying perspectives on tourism and its effects (negative and positive) on the local community. I was surprised that I actually enjoyed learning about this area since I have been mostly focusing on politics and international relations so this subject material was a nice change. I am not quite sure if I will have a future in the tourism sector but I think this is one of the upcoming fields to study. I also helped research for a chapter in a book that will be published, and I might get recognized! If that happens, this will be the second time I have been published! Lastly, I helped organized a day seminar, which was very successful! I would like to thank my employers and coworkers for their support, patience, and knowledge. I had a fabulous time working with you guys!

My desk