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.
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
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 face a few obstacles. That just happens when you go from living in a rural area to living in 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.
Anyways, I am super excited to improve my German, meet some locals, and soak up some bavarian culture!