Me. Claire. And no one else. There’s not a single other UNC student going to the same university in Germany. No, I don’t mind that. In fact, I prefer it. That way there’s no expectation that I’ll be friends with other UNC in Germany. I’d much rather make friends on my own than have them forced upon me. Speaking of friends, one of my goals while I’m there is to avoid making any friends that speak English as their first language or as a nearly-perfect second language. Obviously, I have no intention of being unfriendly to English speakers, and I’m quite dubious that my resolution will hold. But nevertheless, I’m going to try to befriend people with whom I can only speak Spanish or German. Yeah, there’s no way it’s going to work.
An exchange program! Theoretically, I am being swapped with a German student. My tuition pays for them to take classes at UNC system school, and their tuition pays for me to take classes in Germany. (That makes it a very uneven trade, since university is practically free in Germany. Oh well.) I will live in the dorms and take classes just like any German university student. And, yup, all my classes will be taught entirely in German.
From early March through July. One semester. The academic calendar in Germany is different than ours. The winter semester begins in October and goes through February, to my understanding, while the summer semester starts in April and goes through July. So why am I going in March? Well, all March long there’s an intensive language course for international students coming to the university. We study German at least four hours a day in order to – hopefully – bring our fluency up to the level necessary to survive classes in German. In April the regular German university students return and real classes begin.
Freiburg, Germany, specifically Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. It’s nearly as south and west as you can possibly go in Germany, right near the boarders with France and Switzerland. From my limited research, the weather appears to be reasonably mild and the scenery verdant and woodsy. More importantly, the university offers classes in all of my areas of study: Linguistics, Spanish, and German.
That is the question, isn’t it?
Well, I suppose the main reason is that German is my minor, though why that is, I do not really know. I’d wanted to start taking another language at some point in college, but I never intended to start so soon. However, I’m glad I did. At the only half-serious suggestion of my friend, I joined her in German 101, after swapping it for a freshman seminar that I disliked during the first week of freshman year. Of course, I enjoyed it, so I just kept taking classes, and at some point I realized that I had no intention of stopping, so I just declared German as my minor. I’m completely convinced that it’s possible to minor in a subject – especially a language – and graduate without any sort of really useful knowledge about said subject. Therefore, I suppose this exchange program is, to me, a chance to legitimize my German minor – to prove to myself and future employers that I actually have a functional knowledge of German, not just one learned for an hour a day, three days a week in an American classroom.
Besides that, I like Germany. At least, I think I do, based on the grand total of 2.5 days I spent there during our Europe 2012 trip. In fact, I think that’s the real and original reason that I began taking German in the first place. Those few hurried days in Germany in 2012 were quite frustrating: I didn’t understand the language. It’d been ages since I’d traveled somewhere where people spoke a language other than Spanish or English. Not understanding a solitary word of what I heard or read felt like a novelty all over again and frustrated me to no end. But at the same time, I really loved the part of Germany I saw. The Bavarian countryside was lush and rolling. Munich was clean, orderly, and bustling. Good bread and cheese could be found everywhere, as is true throughout much of Europe, I understand. It was all lovely. I determined that I wanted to return to live in Germany someday. Lo and behold, that’s what I’m going to do. But first I took some German. A whole three semesters of it, which brought me up through 4th semester German (that discrepancy is another story).
In addition to my desires to live in Germany, study German, and legitimize my minor, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) taking linguistics and Spanish classes, too. I suspect it will be fascinating to experience linguistics and Spanish classes being taught in German, especially from a pedagogical perspective.
Through a state-to-state student exchange between the university system of the state of North Carolina and the German state of Baden-Württemburg. Other than that, by plane, with my entire life stuffed into a suitcase in tow.
So that’s the story, people. Questions?