Greetings from Tübingen! Sorry it’s been a while – I haven’t actually fallen off the face of the earth, regardless of how it may seem. In this blog, I’ll be writing about two recent weekend day trips right after a short summary of my life over the past few weeks!
Everything here has definitely been starting to settle down a little bit, with the start of the winter semester. It’s been a little difficult getting used to the German university system in that I have so much extra time. Or so it seems… At home, there is absolutely ALWAYS something to do when I’m at Valpo. Always a paper to write, a book to read, a presentation to practice, a quiz to study for, an assignment to complete, a meeting to attend etc. Here, my classes meet once a week (with the exception of Theology, which meets twice a week) as opposed to courses at Valpo, which usually require 3 or 4 class periods per week. While American universities practice “Continuous Assessment” throughout the course of the semester, German universities typically place most, if not all of the emphasis, on a final presentation and/or exam. In some of my classes here, the only grade I will receive all semester long is the final exam grade.
What does that mean? No homework! Or so I originally thought. What it really means is that I’ve got to get a move on, and get myself on track to learning tons of material. (I know, I sound like a giant slacker, but many of the German students I’ve talked to also haven’t done much yet this semester either… Which makes me feel better. I’ve just been allowing myself to experience the life of a typical German student by living a comfortable life of social events while getting to know people and places. Just for a few short weeks
There’s really nothing assigned that I have to do, but there are online articles, books, and other supplementary materials that may very well be required knowledge for the tests in February. Which means that over the past few days, I’ve been scrambling a little to get organized with my course materials and start the learning process of preparing for the final exams. Almost every course here has PDF files online containing all the necessary course information, which I spent a painstaking 1.5 hours as well as €15 printing out in the library last week. (You’d think that printing something would be as easy as clicking print, confirming the print job by clicking “OK,” walking to the nearest printer, and collecting your double-sided document. Not here. Such as simple, everyday task would be too easy for the Germans, who like to complicate things just a little too much sometimes. But I’m not complaining! Just a cultural difference, and me poking a little fun!)
Anyway, during a conversation with a German friend here who studied for one semester in Missouri, I was told that universities in America are “easier” than in Germany. I found that opinion to be interesting, but I simply could not agree. It is a wonder that I survived the courseload I had last semester at home – it was in no way easy! There is, however, some truth to his comment, in regards to how American students are expected to learn. In my opinion, the American university system has much more structure than that of Germany. Students are expected to keep up with the pace of the course, but they are also told what they need to learn by the given deadlines (more or less.) Such a system leaves no room for the “guessing game” of, “what will be important on the test, what does the professor find most valuable, and what do I need to learn?” that I feel I’m currently struggling to play. In many of my courses at home, the semester is broken up into thirds, with three large exams at the end of every section rather than one single exam at the end. The content isn’t easier, but it is helpful actually knowing what you have to learn and be responsible for. At the end of the day you’re still learning, you just don’t have to take a lucky stab in the dark at a semester’s worth of content. Just my opinion…
Anyway, on Tuesday of last week, I decided to join another class, after already missing the first two. I figured that I had the extra time in my weekly schedule to pick up another marketing class, so after a few emails back and forth with the professor, I was officially registered for “Industriegütermarketing” (Industrial Goods Marketing.) The only catch was that I have to give a presentation with two other people next Wednesday, during our first “Übung” period. (An übung is similar to a “lab” course at Valpo – the material covered coincides with what is being taught in the lectures, and during this period you are given the chance to work through and apply the content learned in class.)
For the presentation, I’ll be talking about a case study about an electric company in New York, and explaining why they did not get a bid to build electric motor components for a company in Ohio. At home, this would be an extremely interesting topic to me, as a business major. Here, although interesting, it’s pretty complex. The case study has quite a few characters and a complex sequence of events that’s not exactly easy to understand, much less present. I’ve already had to give a few presentations in my language courses but it’s much easier presenting to other international students who, much like myself, are still in the process of learning German and don’t yet speak it perfectly!
So, other than a little slap in the face by reality and some homework etc. I really haven’t been up to too many exciting ventures besides the two small trips I’m about to write about! Next weekend, I’m off to Frankfurt to visit one of my best friends who was an exchange student in my High School, and I may be going to Sweden at the end of next month, but that remains to be determined! I have a couple different options for how I’ll be spending Christmas, but I haven’t been able to decide yet between them!
On Saturday, October 29 a group of us hiked to a chapel (the Würmlinger Kapelle) right outside of nearby Würmlingen. (You may remember my post a few weeks back about our first failed attempt to hike there, but this time we knew the way!) Among our group were Rachel, Jake, and I from Valpo, a friend of Jake who was visiting from Spain, two friends from Deutsch Kompakt, and a couple French friends that I’ve met over the past few weeks. We started at 11:00 AM on the Neckarbrücke (the Neckar Bridge) and made our way through the castle, and down the path to the chapel.
The hike took about two hours to finally reach the chapel, where we proceeded to look around for awhile, and visit the grave of a former supporter and financial contributor to Valpo’s German program who lived in Würmlingen. The chapel is 961 years old, and somewhat of a well-known landmark for this region. It has been honored over the years by many poets, including Ludwig Uhland of Tübingen.
See this link for the text of Uhland’s poem (in German): http://www.historisches-wuerttemberg.de/kultur/dichter/uhland/kapelle.htm
There were a couple steep ascents, but overall it wasn’t a bad hike. The chapel is on top of a large hill covered in small vineyards, and the view from the top was beautiful. We all brought picnics along, which we enjoyed at the bottom of the hill before taking a nap on the grass. For the end of October, the weather was nothing like what I would have expected at this time of year after having lived 20 years in the brutally-cold Midwest. It really felt like it could have been a month-and-a-half earlier. After another two-hour hike back, we were back in Tübingen. I can only speak for myself, but the 10k trek tired me out more than I expected it to. All in all, it was a great day, and a must-do day trip for everyone who studies in Tübingen or Reutlingen!
Weekend excursion number 2 was a trip to nearby Burg Hollenzollern, (Hollenzollern Castle), home of the royal family of Prussia. Although the country of Prussia was effectively dissolved by the Nazis in 1932 and officially ceased to exist in 1947, the castle remains one of several official residences of Georg Friedrich, the current prince of Prussia. I find it strange that there is still a royal, extremely-wealthy Prussian family. They have their own website: http://www.preussen.de/en/today.html. In a way, it must be pretty nice to be the prince of a non-existent country. You’re royal, loaded, and you have absolutely zero political power or work to do! You could finance your whole life with the interest of all the investments and bank accounts started by your historically-royal and powerful family. And you get to carry the title, “Prince of Prussia.” Sounds great to me!
The castle is the third to have stood atop the mountain in the Swabian Alb range (not to be confused with the Alps, which has a very similar sound in German). It was completed in 1867, which means that it is both relatively new and in very good condition in comparison to most castles in Germany. Burg Hollenzolern has a very fairy-tale-like appearance to it, and although it fits the image that comes to mind when most Americans hear the word, “Castle,” it’s really quite unique. Most castles in Germany are multiple hundreds of years old. They’re cold, impersonal, and in many cases, nothing more than archaeological ruins.
We had originally planned on taking the tour in English, as Jake’s friend visiting from Spain was still with us. After buying the ticket and standing in the extremely long line, we were nearly an hour late for the English tour. It was a very beautiful October day, and Burg Hollenzollern simply couldn’t accommodate all the tourists that wanted in on the 1:00 tour. So, 45 minutes later, our tour began in German. It was no problem for us, and translating everything into English was good practice.
Photography was prohibited inside of the castle, so I unfortunately don’t have any pictures to post from inside. The tour was excellent, and it is also a must-see for any tourists to the area / students studying in Reutlingen or Tübingen.
The castle also has a Biergarten and an excellent restaurant, where we elected to have dinner. There were a few hardy people enjoying the food and beer in the biergarten, but by the time evening rolled around it was too cold for us outside! The restaurant featured all sorts of traditional Swabian foods, including my favorite variety of Potato Salad typical of Southwest Germany.
Check out this website for more information about Burg Hollenzollern: http://www.burg-hohenzollern.com/startpage.html.
That’s all for now!
Next blog post to come sometime next week about my upcoming trip to Frankfurt! Wish me luck this week in classes as I attempt to understand everything! The philosophy “Fake it until you make it,” has never had so much relevance in my life as it does right now
Check out my album October 2011 in Tübingen + Vienna! to see all my pictures from the two day-trips described above! (They’re at the end of the album.)