So my plans to blog daily about life in Germany have failed miserably. I started writing a travel diary but that lasted, what, two weeks? Ah well. Here is a summary of my last month.
I arrived first thing in Berlin. The weather was actually good, and seeing as I have friends in Berlin, it was a very convenient and easy stay. We visited the touristy places as well as a couple of other places here and there. The S-Bahn and U-Bahn (metro and underground) plan is extremely confusing, seeing as the network is very complicated and has many circles that interconnect. Definitely would’ve gotten lost if I did not have someone with me. In Munich on the other hand (details in a bit), it was very easy getting around the city even though I was completely alone on the first day. I was the one to lead my friends around the city even though I arrived only a couple of hours before they did, and given my sense of direction, or lack thereof, that is quite an accomplishment.
After 5 days of Berlin (I even extended my trip one more day because I didn’t want to leave), I was off to the city I was going to study in, Jena. A relatively small city, but the scenery is gorgeous. The city is located in a valley and surrounded by green mountains everywhere. The state in which it’s located, Thueringen, is known as the Green Heart of Germany due to its forests . It’s a student city with 25% of the population being students, so it’s really vibrant even though it’s considered a small city. It is most known for its optic industry, and writers Goethe and Schiller have both lived in Jena at some point. The location is also very convenient, it’s around the middle and is a hub of many connections, so it’s very convenient to get into or get out of the city. Students are also entitled to visit the other cities in the state for free, like Weimar and Erfurt.
My stay there has been very enjoyable. The first day I arrived, I started my German language course, so I met a lot of amazing people, and that has been great. Accommodation-wise, I have a single apartment, with my own bathroom and kitchenette, and it’s pretty big. It’s also located on the 6th floors, which provides for beautiful beautiful scenery but is not good when you have to transport a big ass TV and sofa. Downside is that it’s far from the city center and the university. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to the university, and I’m sure that’s going to affect my motivation to leave the house later on, when it’s freezing cold and I have lectures to attend. But all is good so far. The weather has been surprisingly good so far (you just know it’s gonna rain because I said that), but seriously it was really warm today and it’s raining heavily in Amman. Hmmm.
I met up with friends and went to Oktoberfest 2 weeks ago, and that was AMAZING. Imagine a huge field filled with Bavarian food stands, candy stands, amusement rides and of course the beer tents. We went on the weekend, so it was unbelievably crowded. The only downside was the constant rain, alas, who cares when you’re in Munich. Also we couldn’t get in the tents the day after we arrived. We were supposed to arrive at 8 AM (yes, AM, I kid you not), and then wait till 9 till the tents opened, but we failed to wake up early and arrived at 10 and all FOURTEEN tents were full. We waited and waited, but 3 hours later, it stopped raining, we were like screw it we’ll sit outside and the fun fun fun began. Oktoberfest is the BEST place to meet people. You just sit down on the benches and start talking to all sorts of people: Italians, Swiss, a German whose father is Jordanian -seriously that was a freaky incident, we just stopped a random person for a lighter, and turns out her father is Jordanian. And she was wearing a Paul Frank shirt, like my bag!- Anyway we only paid for our first beer, then people started inviting us (Mama if you’re reading this, of course I only had one beer). We were only there for 3 days so we didn’t have time to see anything else other than the city center with it’s famous dancing clock, the Glockenspiel, and the Allianz Arena, where Bayern Munich play. But yes, Munich is a beautiful city.
And now about the transportation systems. Needless to say, the German transport system is unbelievably organized. In the big cities you will find the S-Bahn or the high speed metros, the U-bahn or the underground rails and the typical trams and buses you will find in all cities. As for intercity connections, there’s the high speed IC and ICE trains which are very fast and convenient, but VERY expensive. A ticket to Munich and back would’ve cost me 160 Euros, which I find ridiculous. Solution: MITFAHREN! That would be the German word for hitch-hiking. As in getting in cars with strangers? Are you bloody insane, you might ask. But then you find out it’s the cheapest, most convenient way to get around and it’s completely 100% safe. You log on to a famous German website, mitfahrengelegenheit.de, write down where do you want to go and the date, and see how many offers there are. You start making phone calls, to see which ones are available, and to check out the person. How many people are going to be with us? What car do you drive? How much do I have to pay? A person cannot make an offer without having a verified account, so it would be pretty stupid to post your personal information and then go and, I don’t know, murder the people you’re driving. But still, it’s important to travel safely. For example, to Munich I picked one that was “from women, to women”. And it’s a great chance to improve your language. Honestly, bravo Germany, for inventing such an efficient system.
And now about the education part. Well up till a week ago, it was really siya7a o safar (travel and tourism) for me, as we didn’t have classes or anything, apart from the German course, but it’s so much fun, I don’t think it counts. We’d just travel around and go out all the time. But then you enter your first lecture and leave thinking “just what the $%^# where you talking about for the past hour?” Sure, my language skills are fine, but not sufficient to attend scientific lectures in fast German, possibly low-voiced and with a dialect as well. So yes, that hasn’t been fun. As exchange students, they know it’s tough, so they don’t expect you to garner what the German students are supposed to, but they do expect you to study your ass off and pass the same exam the Germans take. I sincerely hope it will get easier in time. In comparison with the Jordanian system (at least the one I was exposed to at the GJU), I wouldn’t say the teachers are better, but rather the atmosphere is so stimulating here. The students want to learn. They don’t take attendance, but the lectures are always full. The professor simply mentors, he/she does not dictate. Students are taught to think, not memorize. And that I love.
I realize this was supposed to be a summary, but I seem to be in a blogging mood and don’t want to stop. Are you still reading? Hehe. Ok random points:
- The Germans are not always punctual. Most of them are, but not always. I have arrived earlier than Germans on several occasions.
- The German definition of a pillow is umm, weird? A mushy square peace of stuffed cloth is NOT a pillow. And I haven’t been able to find a non-mushy pillow till now. My back and neck are suffering as a result. Also, my bed is very small – I fell off it the first night. Not funny. Ok a little. So I bought a sofa-bed, and I have been sleeping on it since. But still not very comfortable. I would kill for my bed right now. Yes, murder, I kid you not.
- The food is good. I haven’t technically cooked yet (all the meals I prepared lacked a protein animal form), but for a hot meal you can eat at the student cafeteria for about 2 Euros. But they add sauce to everything. And potatoes. I’m getting sick of the potatoes. Also, after a week of eating random meals, I, believe it or not, missed vegetables. I actually shop for vegetables now. There’s only so much pork and potatoes your body can survive on.
- What else, what else? My spoken English has been significantly deteriorating. All I’ve been exposed to lately is foreign English with an accent. The Germans don’t pronounce “th”, seriously we tried it, cannot be done! The French don’t pronounce the “h” and many, may other seemingly funny, but eventually disastrous alterations to what is considered correct English. I hope my writing skills have not deteriorated . If they have, don’t tell me, and leave me in denial.
- The German bureaucracy. It’s bullshit. It’s ridiculous. It’s bloody impossible. If you thought bureaucracy was bad in Jordan, I invite you here. The forms, the emails, the phone-calls, the visits. AAAAH. And Deutsche Bank should die. I’ve been here for a month, and they still haven’t sent me my online PIN. Die, I tell you.
But apart from the expected nostalgia, I’m really happy and this is going to be an amazing year with great learning opportunities.
Bye bye for now. Seriously if you read all this, I must be really interesting or you’re very bored. Whichever it is, thanks for reading! Bye!