Summer School…?

It feels like the weirdest thing EVER that people are graduating back at Whitman and finishing up the semester when my semester literally JUST started. It’s weird, but at the same time a summer semester is not as bad as it seems. Bike rides to class are less cold and I don’t always have to hide in a cafe or library between classes. The Englischer Garten is right behind the main University buildings which mean laying out on a blanket in the grass and studying those Econ notes under the sun.

I’m taking five classes this semester:

  • Intensive German Language
  • Wechselwirkungen: Natur und Kultur im Norden (ES-Humanities)
  • Industrial Organization
  • History of Economic Institutions
  • Klimapolitik (Climate Politics)

I’ve found my classes to be more challenging this semester but also more interesting because I’ve built up familiarity with the german system by now to be able to fully engage in my classes, especially the ones which are instructed in German. It’s so exciting to feel my german skills improving and every time my program mates and I are chilling somewhere, there is usually at least one person who complements us…maybe even to the point where we don’t even feel flattered anymore. Of course, there are always those who insist on speaking English with us even after we make it clear we want to practice speaking German. We persist though, and more often than not, continue to speak in German.

The past couple of weekends I’ve taken advantage of easy travel methods in Europe to do a bit of exploring. Whether by Flixbus or BlaBlaCar (a relatively inexpensive carpooling service in Germany), Couchsurfing or Airbnb, i’ve gotten to be a tourist in Strasbourg, Paris, and Thun. I enjoyed these places so much and had such unique experiences in each one of them. Although it’s exciting and everything to visit other cities, I like to spend most of my weekends here in Munich. It really feels like a home to me and every time I leave I feel like I’m missing out on something. I said at the start of this program that I didn’t want be travelling all the time. Not only would that exceed the budget I planned for this year, but it would also stop me from really experiencing life here in Munich. If I’m always coming and going then I’ll never really get to experience what it’s like to live and be here. Munich captured my heart from the very first month and there is so much here to preoccupy me that I have no reason to leave. In fact, I’m dreading having to leave this beautiful home in just 3 short months.

 

 

New day, new routine.

03.25.2019

Sometimes I feel like I’m finally getting into a routine here in Munich. And then something happens like my boss sending me to Switzerland to watch a “must see” Fasnacht parade (that starts at 4am!!!) or a coworker inviting me to a fashion show or having four familiar faces visiting me within the span of a week. I have slowly come to realize that a daily routine is not going to happen for me, and also that, while it provides a feeling of stability, it’s not really what I want anyway. Living in a city, where everything is changing all the time, is exhilarating. Beer festivals, climate demonstrations, pop-up art exhibitions, and countless program activities– Munich is constantly feeding me something new. Not having a routine is a reminder that this study abroad program is HUGE privilege, that I can’t take any of these experiences for granted.

With that in mind, the last couple of weeks have been packed full of spontaneous adventures. We’ve been having some beautiful spring weather which has resulted in bike rides through the park, hiking in the nearby german Alps, discovering new running routes, picnics, and just an overall improvement in my mood. The city feels like a whole new place with each season and I think I’m really liking this one. There is also a Starkbierfest happening now in Munich which likens to the Oktoberfest celebration, except that it happens spread throughout the city as opposed to on one big field. Essentially, each brewery crafts a stronger kind of bier which is served during these couple of weeks. By now, I understand how prominent a part of bavarian culture beer is, but somehow I still get surprised every time I hear about yet ANOTHER beer-related event. There are however, plenty of non-beer related events to balance them out.

While my internship is running smoothly and I am enjoying it, I am also excited for the summer semester (April 23 – July 26th) to start. It feels a little odd, that as we start the semester, students back at whitman will be finishing it up. However, I’ve picked out courses, all of which are super unique and that I wouldn’t find in Whitman’s catalogue, and I am ready to begin!! A nine-week semester break has certainly given me time to recharge and re-motivate myself.

Internship Underway!

03.08.2019

The winter semester has come to end and that means the year is halfway over and A NINE WEEK SEMESTER BREAK! I spent those wonderful first seven days playing in the Austrian Alps before making my way back to Munich to start my internship at Die Umwelt Akademie (translated: The Environmental Academy), an environmental NGO that strives to create awareness of environmental issues in the community. While some of my fellow program-mates are travelling their way around Europe or headed back to the states, some of us are also using this time to test out a career path. While either way is a break well spent, I am so happy to have this opportunity to gain skills that directly relate to my field of study. Working at Die Umwelt Akademie has also provided me with specific sets of vocabulary that I probably wouldn’t have picked up outside of an office environment. So far, I’ve helped with the presentations and workshops in schools, created content for the NGO’s social media pages, and managed sponsor lists. With varying tasks and a wonderful team of individuals to work alongside, I am excited for the next eight weeks of my internship in Munich.

Since some are back in the states, travelling, or in Berlin doing their internship, it has gotten much quieter in Studentenstadt (where we live), and as someone who loves being around people, it’s honestly been tough. The people with whom I normally get coffee, my running partners, and my friends who were only here for the winter semester are all gone and I’ve had to do some readjusting. To do this, I’ve started a few things. For one, self reflection. I’ve started running without headphones so that I can actually feel what I am thinking. I’ve also started journaling more, painting, trying out a plastic-free lifestyle, cooking with new recipes, and wandering around Munich trying to find the hidden places I would never happen upon in my daily routine.

Have these things worked? Tremendously. I am not sure that I have ever had so much “Me Time” in my life and it has allowed me to reflect on this past semester and how my priorities need to shift. The time flew by (Es geht wie im Flug!), and I am stoked to have another five months ahead of me. I remember thinking at the beginning of the year that maybe I would get tired of Munich. Now I dread the day I’ll have to go home. Of course Walla Walla has its charm and I miss my family and friends back in Walla Walla, but living in this city has given me some of the most invigorating experiences of my life, and I’m not quite done making the most of it.

 

Welcome to Studenstadt.

12.11.2018

Studentenstadt, which translates to “Student City,” is my home sweet home for the year– a sizeable complex of high-rises nestled comfortably against the Englischer Garten, one of the largest urban parks in the world. I live on the fifth floor of an 8-story building with a big tree outside my window, surrounded by 2,500 other students who also decided Munich is a great place to study.

When I arrived back in August, I walked up from the U-bahn (Munich’s Underground) station and wasn’t exactly thrilled with the place. At first glance, the housing complex looked old and dingy and run-down. The complex, in fact, was built in the 1960/70’s and had seen better days. I was about to find out, however, that this was a place built for functionality and community, not necessarily to please the eye. Studentenstadt, called “Stusta” for short, is the largest student housing complex in Germany. It has it’s own bars, a cafe, small convenient store, library and plenty of grass to lay out a blanket and study or barbeque with friends. While the concrete buildings may be stained and a little out-dated, Stusta has unparalleled character and a lively community feel unlike anything I’ve experienced.

My room is cozy and was furnished with german books, kitchen and school supplies, a disco light, a Karl Marx piggy bank and other curiosities left behind by previous program participants. I have my own bathroom and shower, closet and drawer space, and a big desk that spans a side of my room. I also live right next to the kitchen which I share with my half of the floor.

**Note for prospective program participants: Everyone in the program is spread throughout the complex in different buildings so not everyone has the  same accommodations– not everyone has their own toilet and shower**

I really really really love it here, and it didn’t take me long to figure that out. Before I left, I was told not to expect small talk, not to expect the open doors or friendliness that one would find at Whitman or other colleges/universities back in the states. Well, maybe I lucked out or something, but my experience has been the opposite. The first night I was here, I was feeling pretty anxious and didn’t really want to leave my room, but before long, my floor-mates were knocking on my door asking if I wanted to walk with them to a Biergarten in the park behind our building. I was so happy (and surprised) that they were so friendly and welcoming and I spent that evening sipping a beer, getting to know my floor-mates and learning what to expect from Studentenstadt and Munich in general.

Studentenstadt certainly has a different atmosphere than Whitman, but it makes Munich feel like home away from home.

Oktoberfest

10.07.2018

Before I arrived in Munich, practically the only thing I knew about the city was that it is home to the world’s largest beer festival, Oktoberfest. While not at all the reason I chose this program, I was nonetheless excited that I would get to attend this world renown festival where the pretzels are bigger than your face and dirndls and lederhosen are commonplace.

To give some perspective, Oktoberfest takes place over a period of 18 days on grounds that equate the size of 60 football fields. Attracting over six million visitors each year, the festival is, plainly said, enormous. During this time Munich is completely transformed. The subways are constantly packed with people, small talk with strangers becomes normal and other Whitties, who are studying abroad in Europe, begin showing up left and right.

happening so early on in the year (Sept. 22nd), the Oktoberfest period is a great time to meet new people. I went a few different times with different groups of people and got to know a lot of other students that I otherwise might not have met. I went with my floor-mates one time, my RA’s and other people from my building another time and of course together with my program peeps and our mentors.

Contrary to popular belief, Oktoberfest is about more than drinking copious amounts of beer. There are rollercoasters, carnival games and stalls and stalls of bavarian specialties like schnitzel sandwiches, Würstl (sausages), and Lebkuchen (gingerbread hearts). Each tent at the festival corresponds to well-known breweries that have a long-rooted history in bavarian culture and inside the tents you’ll have the pleasure of hearing live folk music and learning traditional songs.

Oktoberfest is certainly a fun perk to studying in Munich (which is already exciting), but even as deconstruction begins, I know there are more exciting things to come.

“Ich bin ein Berliner”

04.10.2018

My friends have been talking up Berlin for AGES and now I finally know what they meant. Our second major program trip took us to the big capital city where we stayed in a spunky, cozy hostel in Kreuzberg, just a short walk from the Ubahn (subway) station and a famous gemüse Döner stand(veggie Kebab). The trip was extremely well organized and executed and I did so much more than I ever would have if I’d simply been traveling on my own.

Berlin is incredible. Every street corner speaks to Berlin’s endless history, art and culture. It was entirely different from the Germany I’ve been used to. For five days, our beloved professor Christel and program manager Mia showed us Berlin and all of its idiosyncrasies and wonders. From WWII museums to eccentric bars to vintage flee markets, our days were spent exploring all there was to offer. Alongside scheduled programs and activities, we had quite a bit of free time providing us with the chance to get in that much needed nap or go off exploring for a while.

I also got the chance to meet up with my “das Haus” housemates from last semester. It was amazing to see that we’re all studying abroad pursuing our common passion for German language and culture. We attended the Reunification festival that weekend, which celebrated the anniversary of the Berlin Wall opening.

Incomplete itinerary:

  • Moroccan dinner w/ the whole program
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Walking Tour w/ personal Stories from Christel
  • Cruisin’ down Spree River
  • Tour of Bundestag govt’ buildings
  • Jewish Museum
  • Holocaust Memorial
  • ALBA Berlin Basketball game
  • Alternative Bars (think old warehouse w/ art, fooseball, IPA’s, exposed brick…)
  • Kreuzberg Poetry Slam (auf Deutsch)
  • Mauerpark Fleamarket
  • Pergamon Museum (and a billion other museums)
  • Currywurst
  • Reggae Club
  • Tempelhofer Field (Military airport turned park)

Five days is definitely not enough time to experience everything Berlin has to offer, but it’s sure enough time to figure out that you want to come back.

Ps. If you find that Words in my Articles are capitalized for no Reason, it’s because all Nouns in the German Language are capitalized and I’ve gotten in the Habit of writing that way.

09.18.2018

Just a week into the pre-semester, my class hopped on a bus and headed to Hintersee, a lake in the South of Germany. Far from a vacation, this week was full of grammar lessons, homework and tests. However, surrounded by mountains and the bluest water schoolwork was far from daunting. Every morning for me started with a run around the lake followed by a quick dip in the icy water.

It was during this week that I really got to know the other students and staff on my program. Our staff is INCREDIBLY supportive and helpful and as a group of 12 students, we have really gotten to know our professors and program staff well. After class we could go hiking, jump in the lake, take the boats out or nap under the sun by the lake. In the evening we’d grab a drink, hold study sessions together, or make a bonfire.

As we can only speak German with each other (part of a verbal contract we created and agreed to at the beginning of the year), it is sometimes hard to get to know each other because engaging in deeper conversations requires vocabulary that we don’t necessarily have yet. It was different here, though. Here, we had time to engage in slow conversations and also did activities that didn’t require speaking to get to know each other.

It was weird to suddenly be removed from Munich because I was finally getting used to it, but it was the perfect way to kick-off the semester and I was relieved to find that coming back to Munich was an easy transition.

We have several more trips planned for the year (Berlin, Vienna) so this is really just the beginning.

 

Photo by Sarah Price

09.09.2018

Well here I am, five weeks in and loving Munich more than I have loved any other city in the world! I live next to a park bigger than Central Park, I can ride my bike to school everyday, take a dip in the river that runs right through the city, hop on a train to the Alps for a day, visit a castle or two, or head to an FC Bayern match. Plainly said, there is NEVER a dull moment here in Munich!

While the Year of Study in Munich program just started last week, I arrived over a month ago to take an intensive German course at Ludwig Maximilians Universität to better prepare for my year here. I got to know students from from all over the world who share my passion for German language. This was SOOO much fun and an incredibly rewarding experience that has helped me tremendously in adapting to my new life in Munich.

Now the real thing has started and I am hitting the books along with 11 other students from Whitman, University of Puget Sound, and Lewis & Clark College. The Semester doesn’t start until the middle of October but since all of the courses will be in German, we are doing a pre-semester of only German language and culture courses.

These five weeks have flown by, however I still get overwhelmed sometimes by the fact that I will be here for an entire year. When I’m all settled in and have a routine going, will Munich not seem so exciting? Maybe I’ll get homesick? Undoubtedly, I’m going hit a few obstacles. That just happens when you go from living in a rural area to a city of 1.4 million. Already, I have taken the U-bahn (subway) in the wrong direction, locked myself out of my room, and gotten stared at as I jaywalked across an empty street (I later found out that this is very taboo and can result in a 60€ fine…whoops). But WOW do you learn fast! It also helps that my program staff are incredibly resourceful and supportive and my hall-mates so welcoming.

Anyway, I am super excited to improve my German, meet some locals, and soak up some bavarian culture!

Schloss Neuschwanstein