I’ve been wanting to write a January update, but not too much has been blowing up in terms of news this month. Two posts ago (accessible here), I wrote a long account of fun adventures that I did at the beginning of January, and things have been laying low since then. A few weeks ago, the program had its mid-year seminar. All of the students on the CIEE portion of CBYX, the ones who I spent Language Camp with (read about Language Camp here) met at a youth hostel in Bonn and we spent the weekend together again after five months of exchange. Seeing everyone again and seeing how far we all had come was exciting and heart-warming, and it was wonderful to be back with a group of such bright and kind individuals. We all spoke German! It was crazy and so so cool! The magic of five months of immersion, hab ich Recht, oder hab ich Recht?
Mid-Year was great and basically a little weekend of Language Camp nostalgia, I was definitely sad to leave. However, January being a typical month for me seems to indicate that I am finally settled in, which is how I do feel. I go to choir on Mondays, Spanish on Thursdays, and an Amnesty International extra-curricular group every other week. I do fun things after school like hopping on a train to go see a modern art museum in the next city with a friend or grabbing coffee during a free period. I have more choir on Saturdays, I play ukulele and watch German dubbed How I Met Your Mother in my free time, and get along well with everyone at school. Just lots of normal things. And that is good! I feel at home here. I understand the train system, I walk to school and go through a different schedule every day, and I feel like a part of my host family’s family. I even feel at home with my incorrect German and the amount that I still don’t understand. I always heard from other exchange students that they felt that they were proficient by five months of exchange. I can say that I most definitely feel proficient, but I think that my idea of proficient was different before coming here. I assumed that proficient was a large vocab base, a thorough understanding of grammar, and not having to pause to think about how to say something.
I was wrong mostly on that third point, the idea that proficiency is equal to not having to pause to think about how to say something. I have learned a ridiculous amount of vocabulary for the (objectively) short amount of time that I’ve been here, and I understand *some* grammar. German grammar is unspeakably (ha, get it?) difficult. But, I find myself having to pause often to figure out how to say something and to get it across in the way that I mean it. On the other hand, I can understand a rough 60-70 percent of everything that happens around me and can respond accordingly at almost all times. I think it’s fair to say that that’s proficient.
My comments on grammar and proficiency were longer than I intended them to be, so I apologize to non-language nerds who have been bored for the last two paragraphs. I wanted to write an update about school and the classes I’m taking, now that I am in the second semester of the school year here. My feelings on my classes as recorded in September can be seen here. My feelings on my classes as of now can be seen in the following:
Musik: Still, I love this class. We are putting on a concert at the end of this month and performing a Les Miserables medley, which makes me really, really, really excited. Since the concert is being organized by the students, some things can be poorly planned or double-scheduled at times, which is frustrating. But, overall, no complaints. I have been loving the course.
Biologie: I dropped this class. It was boring and I took Bio freshman year. I replaced it with…
Erdkunde: Geography! I’m still relatively new to this course because we only meet twice a week, but the teacher is eccentric and funny and I understand a lot of what goes on. Small exchange successes!
Religion: We still learn Christian religion, which I think is interesting. I like the teacher and the assignments we do are engaging, I’m definitely glad I am taking it.
Deutsch: I am still taking ten hours of German class a week. It is a lot. In the US, a class spends about two weeks on a topic that is really important, and maybe 4 days for a topic that is standard. In Germany, we spend about two months per topic. This can be a little exhausting, but being in a German as a Second Language Course has been a life-saver and has helped me so much with grammar and vocabulary.
Mathe: Exchange has been so good to me and I have been so fortunate to have been handed all of the luck in the world in terms of host family and friends and extra-curriculars. That being said: I hate this class. Being positive is an important part of staying sane while living in a country where you don’t understand anything, and I have given all of my best efforts to do that in every area of my life here. But. I hate my math class. We are learning calculus, which I have never learned. Cady Heron was wrong. Math is NOT the same in every language. However, I am doing my best and all that good stuff, but I do not expect to be able to understand and learn complicated mathematics that I have never dealt with, in another language.
Sozialwissenschaft (SW, or SoWi): My politics class! The teacher can be a little bit boring but he is interested in American politics and we have interesting class discussions, I definitely wish there was more of an outlet to be able to have those conversations in American schools.
Philosophie: I LOVE this class. The teacher is so very eccentric, but wickedly intelligent, and we talk about topics that are impossible to solve, but wildly interesting to talk about. Philosophy is definitely one of my favorite classes.
Englisch: Also one of my favorites, but not really because of the learning value I get from it. My teacher, though sweet and very smart, made the fatal mistake of telling me in front of the class that I speak “false English”, because “That’s what happens when one is American.” My classmates have not stopped making jokes since. I might add that her comment about me not speaking “correct” English came about after I pronounced the words “tissue” and “issue” with a sh sound where the double s lies. She was convinced that they were to be pronounced with only an s sound and has not stopped saying “issoo” and “tissoo” in front of the class simply to prove that both pronunciations work. I don’t think I have ever had to hold back as much laughter as when a woman who learned English in a German college told me that I don’t speak English. Our topic for the next two months is the American Dream, and I think it will be interesting to hear my classmate’s perspectives in an academic setting about my country and its values.
Jugendchor: Like I mentioned in my first post about classes, singing in the school choir is recorded on the students’ report card. Choir is as good as ever, I am very grateful to have outlets to sing here.
It is already February and this year is just flying by. This Friday will mark five months since I moved in with my host family, and I have been in Germany for nearly six months. All good things. I am content with life and the way I have been settled in, and I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had here.
German Vocab Word of the Day: die Gabel (fork)