Last week, I shared some of the really cools things I’ve been doing in the IES program. This week has been a lot harder. During orientation for abroad programs, the staff usually talks about culture shock and adjustment periods. They usually describe it as having an initial honeymoon period where everything is new and exciting, followed by a crash. I’m currently having that crash. Classes started on Monday, and while many seem very interesting, I’m struggling to adjust to being in school again, and the shiny-new feeling of being abroad is wearing off. I’m in a sorority at school, and we have recruitment at the beginning of the fall, so now I’m seeing the pictures of all my friends back home. It’s made it actually hit home that I’m around 6000 miles away from almost everyhing I know. I’ve also gotten a cold, and so I’m battling that in a place that is almost entirely foreign to me; I can’t go to a drug store and buy brand name tylenol or cough syrup, nor can I easily call my mom for support and comfort. With my health and energy so low, I’m really feeling the distance.
That said, Germany has been very interesting this week. We just had the national elections which resulted, as predicted, with Angela Merkel winning another term as Chancellor. Here’s a quick breakdown of German’s governmental system:
After World War Two, it was decided that the executive branch, ie the president, should not be allowed to make a powergrab like Hitler did before the war. Thus, the constitution created in 1949 ensured that the presidency is mostly a figurehead, kind of like the queen of England. Instead, much of the power is between the Chancellor and the Parliament. There are also balances on the Chancellorship so that a Chancellor could not easily make a powergrab either. The system is also multiparty, with each party putting forth candidates for the Chancellorship, like Martin Schulz, or just representing the party. Accordingly, elections are two fold: citizens vote for both a candidate and a party. Thus, even if their candidate does not win, there is a chance the candidate can get into Parliament for their party. A party needs to have at least 5% of the vote to get seats in Parliament.
In this week’s election, the political party AFD, controversially known for being strongly against Islam and immigrants, and having counter-progressive views on women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights, won an astounding 12.6% of the vote, getting seats in the Parliament for the first time every and becoming the third largest party in Germany. This could spell changes for the country, and not necessarily ones that Freiburg will agree with; we’ll see!