Studying abroad makes the difference between being familiar with a language and becoming truly bilingual.
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Blogs from Our Students Abroad
Sarah Hayes '15 has sent us quite a number of blog posts from Heidelberg in Spring 2013!
Here are Sarah's blog posts, entitled "Days Like These":
February 21, 2013
Hello! My name is Sarah Hayes and I am a History and German Studies double major at Gettysburg College. I’m a junior from Concord, New Hampshire and spent last semester abroad at the University of Lancaster in England. After lots of working, the holidays and some much needed rest at home, I am finally getting ready to leave for the second leg of my study abroad adventures.
In one week I will be flying out of Boston’s Logan Airport on my way to a semester at the Universität Heidelberg with the American Junior Year program. Although Gettysburg and many other study abroad programs began their Spring 2013 semester back at the end of January, the Germany university semester doesn’t begin until April. I’ll be spending my first three weeks in a preliminary language course, which will (hopefully) prepare me for German university life. Around Easter I will take both an oral and written exam and based on my results I will be placed in classes for beginning German speakers, classes with other international students who speak German as a second language, or normal university classes with other German students.
I would be lying if I said that the prospect of having to survive not only life, but also school, auf Deutsch terrifies me. Although I amazed myself with my own language skills back in high school when I went to Germany as part an exchange with the German American Partnership Program, I’m still very nervous. However, I am also unbelievably excited to go. I had such an amazing time in Germany while I was in high school and I can’t imagine this semester being any less amazing. I am ready to be back with people my own age, back to academics, and most of all have many, many adventures that will be every bit as wonderful as last semester in England.
I’ve decided that since the biggest difference between this semester and last semester will be the different language, I’m going to include a new or favorite German word or phrase that I’ve learned. The first one, “Tage wie dieser,” pertains to the title of this blog, Days Like These. During his own GAPP exchange last year my brother Kevin and his exchange partner Mark got really into a song called “Tage wie dieser” by the German band, Die Toten Hosen. Since he played it for me, it’s become one of my favorite German songs. It’s the type of song that you sing at the top of your lungs driving with your friends in the summer with all the windows open. When translated, the lyrics are: “On days like these, one wishes for eternity / On days like these, we still have eternal time / I wish for eternity.” I already know that these are going to be the most wonderful days of my life and I’m never going to want them to end.
March 3, 2013
After many trial, tribulations, and amazing experiences, I made it safely to Heidelberg! My Study Abroad Adventure Part 2 began rather rocky on Thursday when my flight was delayed three hours and I missed my connection from Dublin to Frankfurt. It was while I was waiting Dublin that it finally hit me that I was going to Germany. A man walked by us speaking on his cell phone auf Deutsch and I felt a stab of utter terror, when I realized that German is my reality for the next five months. I had to force myself to think of all the encouragement that I had gotten from my professors and teachers in order to calm down. I really shouldn't have worried though because when I met the driver who would take me to Heidelberg, I could understand him and he understood me!
After a night of sleep and some coffee, I was ready to meet the amazing group of students who will be with me at AJY for the semester. I don't think I've ever bonded with a group of people more quickly; everyone is super nice! We got to see a fair bit of Heidelberg yesterday and it’s really pretty. There are parts of the city that are totally modern looking, but the Altstadt, old town, looks like you've stepped back in time. Happily, that's where AJY is, which means I get to walk by a lot of pretty buildings.
German word for this post: dankbar, thankful. Ich bin dankbar für all of my new friends, for my room, for AJY, for the beautiful city of Heidelberg, and that I arrived here safely!!
March 9, 2013
At this point we've crawled all over the Altstadt and places such as the Hauptstrasse, Alte Brücke, and the Marktplatz have become very familiar (although no less cool). I've managed to shake my jet lag and still get a thrill when I understand Germans and they understand me! So much has happened since my last post, but I think the best way to describe my week to you will be to highlight a few of my favorite places that I've gotten accustomed to seeing so that you can learn about Heidelberg just as I have.
The Philosophenweg. This is a walking path that provides great views of the Altstadt. We've walked along it twice this week and it's gorgeous. About halfway up the mountain, it's quite the hike to get up to, but it's well worth the burning pain in your thighs. At one end is Neuenheim, a swanky part of town with beautiful houses and the other end is the Klosterhof Brewery, which my friends Matt, Lydia and I walked to today. It's a monastery that brews fabulous beer and tasted fantastic after the ninety-minute walk that we had along the Philosophenweg to get to it!
Heiliggeistkirche in the Marktplatz. Less than five minutes from the AJY Study Center is the Marktplatz, which is dominated by the Heiliggeistkirche, or the Church of the Holy Spirit. I have seen my fair share of gorgeous churches, but I think the Heiliggeistkirche is one of my favorites. Where many Gothic churches are dark despite their soaring stained glass windows, the walls of the Heiliggeistkirche are whitewashed and the stonework is this pretty reddish color from the sandstone from around here that was used. The Rathaus, town hall, is also in the Marktplatz and I think tomorrow we're going to watch a parade of children that ends there with a big bonfire that sends away the winter!
And finally for today: Schloss Heidelberg. Similarly to churches, I think I've seen a fair amount of castles, but the Schloss was certainly impressive. When we visited on Wednesday, we couldn't really go inside because the whole thing is a ruin since it was destroyed by the French twice. My favorite part (aside from the views of the city it provided) was this one wall where the statuary was absolutely incredible...but there was blue sky behind the windows because the rest of the building was gone! We also took a really nice walk around the gardens, which were super pretty even though spring hasn’t quite reached Heidelberg yet.
German word for this post: der Spaziergang, a walk. We've been taking a lot of them lately...
March 17, 2013
Starting on Monday we began our Sprachunterricht, language course. Every weekday morning from 9-12 we are working to improve our German to a university level. It's not that we don't know how to speak German, if fact most of us speak quite well, but now we need to make our skills more sophisticated. Our teacher, Herr Dörr, is absolutely fantastic. He’s tough, but you can tell he genuinely wants you to learn.
Outside of class, this week we went to a festival in town called the Sommertagszug, visited the Popakademie in Mannheim, and went to Frankfurt. The Sommertagszug is a parade that they have here in Heidelberg where the children walk behind an effigy of the King of Winter holding poles of flowers. The effigy is then burned to welcome in the spring. Unfortunately it didn't quite work this year because it snowed for a good chunk of Tuesday while we were in Mannheim. The Popakademie is a university where students can get their Bachelor's or Master in pop music performance or business. Personally I think the music industry is a little fickle for me to get a degree in it, but the concept is pretty cool and we got to have a snowball fight in a playground nearby when we arrived early.
Although Frankfurt was not high on my list of German cities to visit, we did have a good time there on Wednesday despite the cold. We visited the Goethe Haus, walked through Römerberg (the old town square), and went into the Dom (cathedral). Most of the Altstadt was destroyed during World War Two so the majority of what we were looking at was reconstruction, but it was still really cool to see. The Dom was the site of the election of the Holy Roman Emperor from the Middle Ages to the early 1800s, which was really cool. We also got to see the European Central Bank (Frankfurt is a BIG banking city in Europe), the home of the Euro.
aufpassen - to pay attention. I think this is the phrase that I hear Herr Dörr say the most. "Passen Sie auf" Pay attention!
das Tohuwabohu - hullaballoo/ruckus. My friend Meghan taught me this one and it might have just become my favorite German word ever. I had to share it with you!
During the Fall 2012 semester, you can follow the travel blogs and experiences of several Gettysburg students who are currently studying in Berlin!
Greyson Norcross '14
Doing great work in Berlin http://doinggreatworkinberlin.wordpress.com/
Ned Strasbaugh '14
31 August 2012
Just about all of my friends have gone back to school, but I’m still here at home. I feel a little bit left out, honestly, because everyone else is already getting back to fun, interesting, diverse things, but I’ve got some bigger plans in store. Three-and-a-half months in Heidelberg, Germany, starting in three days.
I’m rather regretting not doing a full year already, and I haven’t even left yet, although there ARE certain things I need to do at Gettysburg in the spring: required classes for graduation and a leadership position for the college radio, to name two.
Of course, maybe I’m subconsciously using these reasons as excuses more than anything else. Excuses to say “I’m not only missed, I’m NEEDED back home.” Or maybe, subconsciously, I’m kind of afraid of this major step I’m taking into an environment I’ve never experienced before, where I am not only a new student, but an outsider. The minority. A foreigner.
One German word for "foreigner" is "der Ausländer." As with many German words, you can see the conjunction of smaller words to form this new word, illuminating a new understanding of what context such a word is not only used in, but also offers. Ausländer, literally, means "Outlander." In that sense, there’s almost a subtext of separation, as if Germans everywhere are saying “You are not of this land. You don’t belong here.” On the other hand, I’ve held an impression of Germans as very forthright people, speaking quite bluntly, and with that in mind, to use the word "Outlander" to describe someone not of the same country, or land, would be innocently accurate.
I guess, one way or another, that’s the reality I’m going to have to accept for the next three-and-a-half months: I’m the outsider. I’m the foreigner. I’m American. Look at me, everyone! I’m American! Here I go, doing my American things, and speaking your language with my American accent! Ho hum! Isn’t this fun?
Of course, even though I’m an Outlander to them, I guess that also makes them Outlanders to me. If anything they do or think or say is different, I can go ahead and say “Well, they’re foreign! I guess that’s how they do things here! Ho hum! Gee, this sure is fun! Isn’t this fun?” before proceeding to do it myself. That way, I suppose, I can learn more about what I take for granted, and how people are different, and how we are all connected to each other through our thoughts and actions, even though we are separated by miles and miles and miles.
There it is, isn’t it? The whole experience of studying abroad explained: one culture clashes with another on so many different levels. Not only opening my eyes up, but forcing them open to so many different things. The food, the classes, the architecture, the history, the politics, the mindset, the days, the nights, the people, the scenery. It’s all there, crying out: “Let me show you just how much bigger your world is about to become.”
A foreigner, with an Outlander’s perspective, looking into this strange, new land. If that’s so, let me be an Outlander… and have the time of my life.
Connor Lees '13
Living in Berlin
1 March 2012
Living abroad is a wonderfully stressful undertaking. You live in a new country, maybe with a new family. You live with new rules, you live with new food and new sights. It’s amazing, there are so many new things to live with. And in the end, when everything you’ve lived with has become familiar, you have to leave all too soon. I think.
And the one word I stressed above was “live.” I am studying here in Berlin, and the thing is, Germans have two words to our one. The verb “leben” refers to the biological act of living, breathing, circulating blood. The works. “Wohnen” refers to the place of residence one takes. You know, your address, your state, your country, simply put. But I want to take an English major’s look at these two words and maybe take a little deeper look into what they mean.
Living in Berlin, I have become a part of one of the biggest cities in the world, despite being a tree-hugging nature-loving outdoorsman. It has been an incredible adventure of ups and downs, and it has only been two months here. I have seen some of the most historic sights in the world, and traveled to some of the most fascinating cities too. I have taken thousands of photos, but also forgotten my camera; I even snapped photos of statues despite strict warnings to the opposite (Michaelangelo’s David really was impressive). But either way, every day here is a new adventure, and a whole new experience, from the mundane to the spectacular.
Back to my silly analysis of German verbs. If someone were to ask me right now where I live, I would say “Ich wohne in Berlin.” Why? Because, well, that’s grammatically correct and I don’t want German people giving me weird looks. But do I really “wohnen” here? To me, this verb seems like it represents the fundamental act of just being somewhere, going through the motions and simply existing. It’s just a way of telling someone where you are. But as I said above, I have seen everything from the Brandenburg Gate to the Roman Coliseum. I have seen the rebuilt city of Dresden, and the flourishing city of Frankfurt. I do not simply “wohnen” here. “Leben” on the other hand seems much more appropriate. This word embodies the human experience, the growing and the feeling that being alive entails. It is not just existing somewhere, it is being a changing, dynamic thing. And my time here has shown that I am just that. I am growing, seeing, learning, feeling and experiencing.
The German language actually has a great word for that last one, “to experience.” It’s “erleben”. Funny thing, that right in the heart of this word sits the word “leben.” And that is exactly what I am getting at with my unusual analysis of the German language. When I came abroad here, my goal was to experience. Culture, food, language, history; everything that anyone can find and discover in the short time I have away from home. Anything that can change someone, help someone grow. That is why I don’t think that I simply “wohnen” here, I don’t simply exist here. I am growing, constantly changing, and learning more and more every day, and it could not be more incredible. And that is what the abroad experience is supposed to be about right? Having the time of your life in a completely new world?
And so far I have done just that, and I really have grown along the way. My map reading skills are now impeccable instead of pitifully hopeless, I actually made decisions for once in my life, I found a curiosity like never before, and to go with that, I have developed a spontaneous side which has never failed to lead to something, be that good or bad. All these things, I think, have played a vital role in making this experience one absolutely worth living.
And if you were to ask me what I mean by living now, I would tell you “Ich lebe in Berlin.”
Hilary A. Landfried '13
Teaching English and more in Heidelberg
16 November 2011
"I'll just wait until there is more control in the room." I couldn't help it, my mouth dropped open. What five-year-old kid has that much spunk already?!
Along with taking classes in Heidelberg, I am also teaching English in an elementary school to the first and second grades. However, my English lessons are really only about a third of the time. During the other two-thirds, I assist in German. That's right. I help teach the little kiddies how to add 1+1 or write the letter "P." However, at times, I am of little to no use in German, particularly during the moments when I need to reprimand bad behavior.
One day, one of the teachers I assist asked me to do something, and while I finished my own task, I missed the instructions she gave the rest of the class. When she left to go get a coffee, I was supposed to make sure that order stayed. Unfortunately, me yelling "Genug! Genug! Nein. Macht ihr das nicht!" and gesturing wildly doesn't really make me someone to listen to. One of the girls attempted to help out by telling me what the class was supposed to be doing. However, when I couldn't enforce it, she told me that she wouldn't be participating until someone better able to control the class was back in the room.
To be honest, moments like that make the experience more enjoyable. The kids just have so much personality. However, nothing is better when I can get them to understand something, explaining it in either German or English. Earlier this week, I taught my second class how to count to thirty. We began with merely learning how to say the numbers, and then I passed out bingo cards. For the first round, I called out the numbers. After that, I began asking students to volunteer. By the end of the class, nearly every student was on their feet begging to be the next caller.
Elementary school in Germany doesn't strike me as so different from school in America. Most of the subjects are the same and taught in a similar manner. What is different is the amount of responsibility the students have. Often times, as I ride the tram to my Praktikum (internship), the person sitting next to me will be a six-year-old, making his way to school completely solo. Students can leave the room as they please to use the restroom, and when it is break time, they hardly need a teacher to lead them around the halls of the school. The main difference I notice between children inside and outside school in Germany and the USA is that kids in Germany are not babied nearly as much.
As far as I have been able to observe, this continues into high school (called Gymnasium and a bit different in its set-up in Germany) and also into University. Most of my professors could care less if I show up to class. Furthermore, they don't want to talk to me after class if I do have a question. It is certainly a different experience to the education system I've always known.
Sara Vanasse '13
Link to Sara's Blog: Life is a cabaret, old chum...Stories of Sara's adventures in Berlin and Beyond
Ich bin ein Berliner
6 November 2011
My classes really are wonderful and they are contributing to my experience over here in ways that I never imagined. I am loving my Berlin: History, Memory, and Literature class. Everything that we read is about Berlin (obviously) and has enriched my appreciation for the city's history, culture, and made me a total nerd about the city's architecture, progress over time, and total destruction. I am also in an Islam and Europe class, which has been an interesting experience. I do not necessarily love the actual class structure, but the material is so poignant considering the huge Turkish population of Berlin. It has been weird to be in a class with such a heavy political edge where not everyone shares the same opinions that I have "grown up with" in Gettysburg. What I love about my program is the conglomeration of American students that have come together who are so different from my home college experience. I am also really enjoying my Pop Culture class because I have been able to understand some of the funny German obsessions (such as "Indians" or Native Americans, Elvis, Black Culture, Jazz, Rap, and Cowboys) and appreciate the influence of imported American culture. My last class is German, which is actually really fun! We adore our professor, Andrea, who is super cool and we have an awesome and hilarious time.
Jonathan Hofe '13
Travels with a German Rail Pass
3 November 2011
Where did I leave off last? Ah yes, I had made a DSH-3 (something which no one has done in some time I take and my grammar professor/teacher/whatever-he-is was very proud of me) and had completed a grueling 4-week intensive grammar course. That was probably the most fun time of my life.
After this amazing grammar course, we were given a week of free time to spend as we willed and a free German Rail Pass (which allows one to travel on any train [or bus or subway or tram or metro] uninhibited for five days within a 30 day period). During this time, I traveled with my best friends here in Heidelberg into the Alps to the Königsee in the southern/eastern-most tip of Germany and spent a week there in an all-too-small tent.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Literally. During the day, temperatures soared to a whopping 26 degrees Celsius! That's something like...78 degrees Fahrenheit. Since we were in a valley in the Alps, what I assume happened is the sunlight was reflected off of the mountains and was projected into the valley. Then as soon as the sun set over the mountains, there was an immediate temperature drop. It went from 26 degrees to 10 in a matter of minutes. Ten degrees Celsius is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Wild temperature swings aside, I think the first full day there we took a cable car to the top of Jenner, the tallest mountain in the area and enjoyed a day filled with hiking, good Bavarian Weizen, Fresh Buttermilk!, wild and crazy pigtails, Strawberry Icecream and exhaustion, lots of exhaustion. Overall it was a fantastic day.
The next day we went to Berchtesgaden, which is a quaint little mountain...well it's larger than a town but smaller than a city, so I'm not sure what to call it. Either way, it was fun and we ended up just finding a pizza place and eating and sitting around for hours while there. I feel like Berchestgaden is known for something but I can't think of why or what and neither could any of the Jungs (boys) with me. Of course, like every other town in that area, there is a giant salt mine, but other than that, I can't think of anything. It was in this town, near the Austrian border, that I had my very first run-in with Rivella, the national drink of Switzerland. It's made from lactic acid, but has no milk in it and has a very odd yet pleasant flavor. We made a half-hearted attempt to go to Salzburg in Austria, but it never happened so we spent the day sampling the Königsee's finest bars and restaurants.
After our fun, exciting, dirty week "camping" in the Alps we made our way to Vienna. A city of art, culture etc. It was, in some ways, less exciting than the Alps and, in other ways, much more exciting than the Alps. For those of you who are not aware, there is a restaurant in Vienna called Café Central, where, about a hundred years ago, important people met and many people shared ideas and helped further a new artistic and literary movement in Austrian history. It is here where we wined and dined. Fish, pork, noodles, wine, champagne, Kaiserschmarrn, we ate it all and it was good. We were in a giant room with vaulted ceilings, white marble everything, tuxedoed waiters who knew everything about the restaurant backwards and forwards, a man playing amazing pieces on a piano in the front. It was probably the best restaurant I've ever been to and would highly recommend it to anyone, given they're willing to pay a bit more. The next day we went to a cafe and went and one of us bought a suit. The next day, we took several trains 12 hours back to Heidelberg.
That was all about a month ago. Now I've got four classes: Creative Writing; Theater; Literature and Society at the Turn of the Century; and Exercises in Reading, Writing, and Understanding. I had a hard time trying to figure out what classes I was going to take, since I need 15-16 credits to have a full course load. I also joined a choir (for one credit) called Cappela Carolina and we are singing Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil. Even though I still have the occasional bout of depression/homesickness, Heidelberg has become a bit of home.
Jonathan Hofe '13
30 September 2011
The last month has been exciting. Upon arrival in Heidelberg we were given keys and dropped off in our rooms and told to meet at the AJY center several hours later. My room is perhaps 8x12; furnished with a bed, desk, armoire, bookshelf, and sink; completely white beside some wood-colored trim and old mauve curtains. This is my first time living in a dorm situation, since I commute at Gettysburg, and I must say, it is a bit of a difference. Since there is no dining hall (or at least not one nearby) I cook most of my meals in the small, shared kitchen. Unfortunately, my budget doesn't allow much room for more than bread and jam.
Over the past three weeks, we all took part in an intensive German course. It was split into three groups and Hilary and I both fell into the "advanced" group. Our teacher, was a bit crazy (frequently saying things such as: "Sie spielen mit Ihrem Leben!" "Ich springe gleich aus dem Fenster 'raus!" and our favorite "Holen Sie mir die Pistole, damit ich mich erschießen kann") but a good teacher and overall a nice guy (outside of class). We spent about 3 hours a day with him learning the ins and outs of German grammar for four weeks. When this period finally came to an end, we had only to take the dreaded DSH.
The DSH, for those of you who do not know, is basically a German language proficiency exam to see if one's German is good enough to take university classes. It also takes roughly five hours for the written section and at least a half hour for the oral section. It took me about an hour for the oral section because while other people only read a text for about 15 minutes and then talked to two examiners for about 20 minutes, we (I and another AJY student) were left to read the text for about half an hour and then talked to the examiners for another half hour.
But now all that is over. I passed the DSH with a DSH-3, which means I could take masters courses at Heidelberg University if I so choose. Since I'm still an undergraduate, I think I'll pass. What next, you ask? Well, I have an exciting week in store for me. First, four days of camping at Königsee (Germany's third largest lake) in south Bavaria in the Alps and then off to Salzburg and Vienna for a few days before returning next weekend and finally starting classes on Monday. The classes I'm taking, if you're interested, most likely will be: Politik der BRD (or something akin to that), three literature courses including Brechts Lyrik and Literatur um die Jahrhundertwende and also Kreatives Schreiben. All promise to be exciting and challenging and I look forward to finally beginning classes.
Hilary A. Landfried '13
2 September 2011
As my plane touched down in Basel, Switzerland, I couldn't help but think, "finally, I can really practice my German." After all, I've always been told that one must surround oneself with a language in order to acquire it. Unfortunately, I didn't pay attention when people also told me that Swiss German is not Hochdeutsch.
Basel is situated in the uppermost region of Switzerland. Nestled between France and Germany, it is the third largest city in Switzerland, and next to Geneva, the city with the second largest number of immigrants. However, contrary to what I would have expected, the largest foreign population in Basel was German. Everyone in the stores and at the University could understand my Hochdeutch; nonetheless, it turns out there is a bit of animosity directed toward the Germans from the Swiss that dates back to before WWII. (I even found a book in the train station slamming Germans for working/living in Switzerland). For this reason, Hochdeutsch was not always well received. Often I found myself having to choose between English and Swiss German. I learned what I thought were the most important phrases: Grüezi (a common greeting pronounced something like greetsie), and a phrase that sounds like "Habzee Shocki?" (meaning, "do you have chocolate?").
After spending ten weeks in Switzerland and doing a bit of traveling on the weekends, I can safely say it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. Not only are the natural landscapes beautiful, but there are also many old buildings and historical places. A good deal of Switzerland's preservation has to do with its policy of neutrality. Unlike many of the other countries in Europe, Switzerland was physically untouched by WWI and WWII. The last thing to scathe Basel was an earthquake in the 1300s.
Along with Switzerland's neutrality, its four national languages create an interesting atmosphere. One of the trips I took was to Bellizona in Lugano, the southern Italian-speaking canton. There is a marked difference between the cultures of German-speaking Swiss and their Italian-speaking counterparts. The same holds true for the French cantons. In fact, on maps depicting the ways the different cantons vote on an issue, a line forms between the German and French-speaking cantons. Basel, perhaps due to its large immigrant population, normally votes along the same lines as the French cantons.
Although it is obvious that the surrounding countries (Italy, France, Austria, and Germany) influence parts of Swiss culture, one could hardly call Swiss German culture "German," or Swiss Italian culture "Italian." This tiny country made up of many different languages and mindsets still functions very much as a single country. On August 1st, the Swiss National Day, as I sat along the banks of the Rhine watching fireworks with people from Switzerland, France, Turkey, and America, it was very obvious that the Swiss and Switzerland are very much their own people and country.