I still can’t believe this is really happening. I’m studying computer science in the historic city of Braunschweig. I even get to live directly downtown, where I can nearly hear the noise from the nearby Christmas market.
When I first arrived, I was tired, shocked, and then it hit me… no amount of language courses could have prepared me to live abroad. I had applied for a peer student before I left, and she was (and still is) so welcoming. She and her friend picked me up by car from the train station, and took me to her place where I could stay the night, as I wasn’t able to get the keys for my apartment for the following 2 days.
I thought I was arriving early, about 15 days before classes started, but I discovered this was the perfect amount of time to get everything in order. The university system in Germany is completely different than in the US. This along with the language barrier made my first time in Braunschweig pretty stressful. I had to apply for health insurance, open a bank account, sign in at the University, get everything sorted with housing, sign in to the city, and get phone service all without getting lost. I only got lost a few times.
One thing was clear. My main focus was to be able to understand people when they talk., All my lectures are all held in German, and it is exciting for me to say that this past week I have reached the point of understanding most everything everyone is saying. I write this on the 15th of December- 2 months and 6 days and 20 hours after my arrival.
Lectures are all in German, but as I am studying computer science, many of the diagrams on the powerpoints, as well as the code, are all in English. This really helps my understanding. I have been taking classes, which all seem to be focused on algorithms currently. In addition, I am taking an English course titled “Scientific Writing.” Most of the students in this course are master students, and as I am a bachelor student, I feel the most under-qualified to take this course. This says a lot, as I am the only native speaker in this course (excluding the teacher, of course). For most of my classmates, this course is to help them learn english, but I have learned equally as much in this course from them.
One of the current tasks is to perform a piece of research in my field. I have chosen the same (or similar) topic as my capstone project, and it excites me that I get to explore a little in that area before I go home and perform the capstone project.
The German culture is really interesting. I have already mentioned the Christmas Market near my apartment. I have gone 3 times, and it has been amazing each time. It is dark, the square in front of city hall is wall-to-wall people. There are cookies, Gluehwein (Mulled Wine- the traditional Christmas market drink), Bratwurst in any form imaginable, many cabbage type food, fries, and many more tasty things! I definitely believe I will be gaining weight while abroad. I have also made some German friends here, and I spend a fair amount of time at their house. In this manner I have also experienced German cuisine. One thing that I’m told I really need to try is called a mettbrötchen. This is a roll with raw seasoned ground pork on top. I’ve heard it described as “German Sushi”
This week is the last week of classes before Christmas. I can’t wait to have 14 days off. I’m going to get to travel, see friends, and experience lots of new things. Thank you GLI for helping all this happen!