Das Abenteuer macht weiter

Just thought I’d take a break from my themed posts to write a general update. A lot has happened in the last two weeks, and it’s good to reflect and recap.

First and foremost, we (the international students) have completed the three-week pre-session, and now have a three-week interim before the semester properly starts. My essay and presentation seemed to impress my Dozent, and I got an overall grade of 1 (as high as it gets, where 6 is the lowest grade). Naturally, this course is pass/fail for UMN students, but I got my 5 ECTS credits which means I’ll get my 4 US credits back home. We even got a printed Zeugnis (certificate) at a ceremony! I neglected to take pictures of the room, but it looked like a much fancier affair than it was – like some sort of gala in a cave, not a bunch of loud internationals who barely speak German drinking before noon.

My contact with other international students will probably reduce now in favor of contact with locals, though I do hope to keep in contact with some of my newfound friends. One of my courses this semester will be another Sprachkurs (full-length this time), and a second is taught through IES Abroad, which leaves around 2 Uni Freiburg courses. German Literature courses are worth +50% ECTS points for international students – because of the difficulty – which is both alluring and intimidating. Taking one means the rest of my course load can be relatively light, but that one class may be hell on earth. We still have some time to decide, so I’ll need to mull that over.

Secondly, I’ve planned my very own trip to Austria! In about a week I’ll be spending about 6 days in Salzburg then another 4 in Bad Ischl, a small town nestled in the Salzkammergut region. The former is for city sight-seeing and culture, and the latter is for hiking and exploring nature. If you’ve never heard of the Salzkammergut before, you’re not alone – I never had until someone recommended it to me. Upon googling pictures of it, I decided I would forever hate myself if I missed it. It’s a region of mountains, lakes, and idyllic spa towns spanning east and south of Salzburg. One of my friends from UMN taught English there for a year and still has contacts in the area, so I won’t be going in totally blind.

I had never planned a trip 100% on my own before. Figuring things out logistically was a nightmare. I take a bus from Freiburg to Salzburg (trains were 3-4x more expensive while only taking 75-80% as long), then a train to Bad Ischl and back, then another bus home. I managed to cut costs significantly by booking beds in youth hostels – think of a cross between a college dorm and a hotel designed for traveling students and other vagrants. A bed in a dorm of 4-8 people with communal bathrooms, kitchens, and common areas runs about 15-30 per night, compared to 100+ for a hotel, or 60+ for AirBnB. I’m massively introverted, but I think it’ll be an interesting experience – maybe I’ll make some friends or traveling companions along the way.

Speaking of friends, I visited one this last weekend. We’ve known each other over the internet for nearly 10 years now and have just met in person for the first time. He took me to his hometown, a medium-sized (for Germany) town named Albstadt about two hours east of Freiburg, and showed me around. I intend to return there while I’m in Germany, so Albstadt will get its own post when I’ve accrued more photos and such. Meeting up was wonderful – it’s always interesting meeting people you’ve only known from Skype calls and whatnot for the first time in person, but it felt very natural. Almost like we were good friends, or something.

The weather has beautified immensely over the last week. Forget spring, it almost feels like summer. The “Sunniest City in Germany” is finally living up to its moniker, and I’m going around town in a t-shirt. Now that I’m on break, I actually find I don’t know what to do with myself in the morning and afternoon; almost to keep the momentum up, I’ve been going for morning walks through the park near my apartment, then taking the tram to the city and wandering around for a while. Today I searched for deutschsprachige Musik (German-language music) in a record store, but with scant success. There is plenty of good German music, but much less of the sort that I, personally, enjoy. I learned a new word, though; sich umschauen – to look around, or to browse.

I’m not certain what my next update will be about, or when it will be. Hopefully I’ll get one more out before Austria, and then I’ll have enough material to keep me going until the semester starts.

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