Long time no read! I think I'll spend this post catching you all up on what I've been doing since my last post (thankfully, I haven't had to test the effectiveness of my insurance here again.) What I have been doing is a lot of traveling within Germany plus I got to go on a big birthday trip to Paris and London with my boyfriend! On my own, I made a big trip to Berlin as well as a couple day trips to Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Heidelberg. The number of castles and museums I've been to is a little bit unreal. Europe really loves castles and museums. I'll be sharing some of my best tips and tools for traveling in Europe, as I've gotten very familiar (and very frustrated) with public transportation here.
One of the first places I check when I'm planning a trip is the website GoEuro. It's a tool that helps you compare the prices and travel times for different methods of travel- train, bus, and plane. It's really good for helping you weigh the pros and cons of different ways to travel. I haven't actually flown anywhere in Europe because I don't want to deal with the hassle of airport security and passports and everything. I traveled to Munich, Berlin, Paris, and London by train and Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Heidelberg by bus. It really comes down to how much you want to spend versus how much time you are willing to give up (buses generally take longer than trains).
2. DeutscheBahn and FlixBus
DeutscheBahn (otherwise known as DB) is the train system within Germany and FlixBus is the cheapest bus option for traveling within Europe. I have the DB app on my phone because if you buy a ticket at the station, it doesn't actually tell you what platform to go to, which was something totally foreign to me (everything is foreign to me, really). With the app you are able to locate the platform you'll depart from as well as check for delays or buy tickets. One giant problem I've had with DB is delays. I don't know who coined the term "German efficiency" but whoever did never rode with Deutsche Bahn. I had to take 3 trains to get to Berlin and I missed every single connection because of unexplained delays. There was one point in the train station where I was literally on the verge of tears because I was so frustrated so when a panhandler asked me for money it almost set me over the edge. My biggest tip is that if you have connections, leave 30+ minutes between them or you will more than likely miss your train. And make sure to buy a FlexPreis ticket because this ensures that even if you miss the train you were supposed to take, you can get on the next one for no extra charge.
3. Always travel with cash
A big adjustment I've had to make in Europe is that everything is very cash based. I'm used to being able to go to the store and buy a pack of gum with my debit card. A lot of establishments in smaller German cities don't accept cards at all, or you can only use one if you spend a certain amount of money. I didn't encounter this problem as much in bigger cities like Paris or Berlin, but if you're planning on stopping for any street food or going on a hop on/hop off bus tour, it's good to have cash just in case.
4. Speaking of hop on/hop off bus tours
DO THEM! I got the chance to take one while I was in Berlin and it's the cheapest way to travel within a city. It's good to do one entire round on the tour first so you can get your bearings and make note of where you may want to stop. Once you've done that, you can hop off on the next round at any of the spots you'd like to experience more in depth. A lot of the times it'll be much cheaper and a whole lot easier than navigating the city bus or train (definitely cheaper than a taxi) and you'll get to hear about the city in English during the tour.
5. Staying safe while traveling
This isn't a really surprising tip but with everything that has been happening within Europe, it's important I mention it. I'm lucky to be living and studying in such a small town in Southern Germany because it's so far from the locations of the recent terror attacks. However, my boyfriend and I visited Notre Dame the day before a terror attack and then we got to London the morning after the London Bridge attack. Big cities in Europe have been hit hard with terrorism lately, which is why I've done a lot more of my solo traveling in the latter part of my study abroad in smaller towns like Freiburg and Heidelberg. Not only is it safer, but you'll also get to have a much different cultural experience than bigger, more touristy places. This is a good article on how to stay safe while traveling in Europe.
As my study abroad comes to an end (I have 11 more days left in Germany) it's good to reflect on all the traveling I've been able to do. On my way home I'll have an 8 hour layover in Istanbul so I can check that off my list too (though this might be cheating since I'm not even going to leave the airport). I have my first final exam on Friday which I'm pretty nervous about, but I will be talking more about my university experience in my next post.
If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know that I struggled with insurance at the beginning of this journey. It was frustrating because I was having to pay for two separate insurances that I was sure I was never even going to use. But the joke is on me, because this past week I had to go to the hospital. I am not writing to you from beyond the grave, don't worry. Without going into really nasty details, I have an infection that I am now on antibiotics for and it's not a big deal at all.
Tübingen is a university town. A third of the population here are actually students. We're known for our world class research in science and medicine, so lucky for me there's 17 hospitals in my town. I was starting to have some symptoms on Tuesday but thought that if I just powered through and drank a lot of water I would be fine. On Wednesday, it got worse and I was between a rock and a hard place. I know a good amount of German, but I never learned how to communicate with doctors. I can say "I have a headache" and that's about it. I was panicking because I knew I couldn't stay home and tough it out, but I also was really nervous to go to the emergency room where they might not understand me. I swallowed my pride, hopped on the bus, and told myself that the only important thing is that I see a doctor.
The receptionist spoke a small amount of English which I was so relieved about. He asked me for my symptoms and my insurance card and told me to have a seat. I was seen by a nurse within 10 minutes and she was younger than the receptionist so she spoke a lot more English. I had to pee in a cup and then go wait again. I was then seen by a doctor who gave me an ultrasound and a prescription for an antibiotic..... and that was it! I was in and out in 45 minutes and the whole visit was covered by insurance. I picked up my prescription and it only costed me 5 euros. I'm almost done with the antibiotics now and I'm feeling a lot better.
Moral of the story here is make sure you have insurance!!! As big of a hassle as it was in the beginning, I don't know what I would have done without my insurance card. I didn't have to fill out any paperwork at the hospital which I know would have been another hurdle for me. My mom joked that I need to travel with a medical team at all times, after fainting last month and now this. But with this insurance card I AM INVINCIBLE! Also, don't try to tough out sickness because you're afraid of the language barrier. I nearly gave myself a heart attack freaking out about looking stupid in front of doctors and nurses, when it really wasn't bad at all. The purpose of language is communication, so even if you can't speak perfectly, as long as you get your point across you've already succeeded. Hopefully this week will be a little less.... sick. Bis bald!
Before I came to Germany, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the language. I took German language courses for 5 semesters so I wasn't worried that I would die out here. However, learning German in a classroom setting is so much different than actually being immersed in the culture and being required to speak the language. I learned to read fairytales and name random pieces of furniture, but when it came to having to order in a restaurant or navigate around the city I was having a much harder time. Here are the top 10 most useful German words and phrases I've found myself using here.
Along with a good understanding of how to count (and interpret military time), this guide should get you through very basic interactions in Germany. Most people here speak English, but it's definitely not the language they choose to use first. I've had people come up to me in the kitchen in my dorm and start speaking at me rapidly in German, but when they realize I'm a native English speaker they're able to switch with ease. Be careful though: many older Germans are not fluent in English since it's taught back in grade school, so don't depend on everyone knowing English to get by.
In other news, my boyfriend visited Tübingen for the weekend and we got to do some touristy things. Below are a couple photos of us rowing on the Neckar River during the one nice day of weather we've had for weeks. By "us rowing" I actually mean he rowed and I sat there. Teamwork makes the dream work.
With the start of classes I'm trying to buckle down since a lot of the coursework is self directed so this past weekend was a nice break from the stress. Hopefully the weather will start looking up soon. The Hawaii girl in me isn't loving the cold and snow anymore... it's lost the magic. Anyways! That's all I have for now. Bis bald!
I knew that going to a German university would be so much different than my education experience back home in Hawaii. There wouldn't have really been a point in studying abroad if it was just like what I knew. Today I'm going to be talking about some of the differences I've noticed so far.
1. Registration (and attendance) is not required*
I put an asterisk because at least for a single semester exchange student, you will likely only be participating in lecture style courses (unless you get a special exception.) Lectures at the University of Tübingen are proper giant lectures... 100-150 students in a big old wooden lecture hall (see below). There is no registration for the class, although you do have to register for your exams about two weeks into the semester. Since there's not really an official roster because there's no registration--attendance isn't mandatory. HOWEVER, classes are blocked into much larger chunks here. I go to a 2 hour lecture once a week and then a two hour practice course once a week per subject. That means that if you choose to skip class, you'll be missing out on what equates to an entire week of classes in Manoa terms. So even though it's not required, I don't see how you could pass if you don't go...
2. Most classes are taught in German
We're in Germany. It shouldn't be a surprise that most classes are taught in their native tongue. I was lucky enough to get into classes that are all taught in English, because even though I have studied the language for almost 3 years it is still a lot easier for me to follow along in English. I know that most German universities require you to take a language exam in order to enroll, but Tübingen doesn't. Yay! If you're reading my blog because you're trying to figure out whether to go to Tübingen or the only other Shidler partner school in Germany (Otto Beisheim School of Management aka WHU) I do know that something like 80% of WHU's undergraduate courses are taught in English, so that might be a better option if you love Germany but want a wider selection of courses. I had really loose requirements for what I needed to take abroad (mostly upper division electives and an international business elective) so this wasn't an issue for me, which is why I chose Tübingen.
3. There isn't as much student support
I don't mean that the professors are evil and don't care about you, but I believe that this may just be a cultural difference between Germany and America. They really don't hold your hand here. Back home, there are lots of opportunities for homework and sometimes extra credit, and in general your professors are a lot more involved in your academic experience. In Germany, my grades are depending almost exclusively on one big exam at the end of the semester. For my innovation and technological change class I have to complete a couple assignments, and I need to do a presentation for my international business course, but the exams will still determine ~80% of my final grades. I'm a little worried because I always like to have a buffer of extra assignments, but I'm sure I'll be okay.
This tidbit is specific to Tübingen, though it could apply to other German universities: In regards to course selection, you won't receive really any guidance at all. I scheduled an appointment when I first got to Tübingen with the international student advisor for the business and economics department, and it wasn't like the appointments I'm used to at OSAS where you get to really outline what to take and what you need to graduate. I was told that most students take a maximum of 30 ECTS (6 ECTS = ~3 Manoa credits) and that I could take Master's courses as an undergraduate if I thought I could handle them... and that's it. Course selection beyond that is up to you, so I advise you to plan out your schedule with your academic advisor at Manoa before coming here.
4. The semesters and breaks are a lot different
If you've kept up with my blog at all, you know I just recently began my semester here. Tübingen began classes in mid-April and my exams will take place at the end of July/beginning of August. This is like most German universities, however if you are considering WHU, their schedule is a bit more similar to Manoa (they begin their spring semester in January and end in May). There are official breaks during the semester here, but nothing comparable to the super long winter and summer breaks that we have in America. I get a week off in June and some random holidays scattered throughout the semester, but that's it.
5. There's no campus
This one is Tübingen specific, so if you're here for any other reason beyond loving my excellent writing and caring about me (hi mom and dad!), this section might not matter to you. Tübingen is a university town--one third of people living in this town are students. That being said, there is no actual campus. I'm used to the clearly defined little bubble of Manoa where all my business classes are in one building. With Tübingen, university buildings are scattered everywhere throughout the city. My innovation and technological change lecture is in a building right next to a Turkish restaurant and bakeshop and I have my accounting and international business lectures a couple minutes from the city center which is full of tourists and shops. There is no clearly defined campus... everything is scattered everywhere. This doesn't bother me and it actually works out really great when you have big gaps between classes. I just wasn't used to it at first.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm only in my third week of classes so I'm sure there's still a lot to discover. My boyfriend is coming to visit this week (hi Jun!), so I'll hopefully have lots of fun touristy things to show you guys in my next post. Bis bald!
It was all too good to be true! I was so used to the panic that normally sets in during registration season at Manoa, so I was so excited to be at a university where registration usually isn't required. Keyword here being usually. I talked about the classes I was going to attend in my last blog post, and I started those classes this week. So far, only lectures have begun and exercises/practice courses begin at the start of May.
I noticed the night before my first day of class that my most important course (International Business--I need this one to transfer back to Manoa as my IB elective credit and had already gotten my petition approved before I left) required that students send in a registration form in order to enroll in the lecture. This isn't typical of lectures, but since part of the grade for this class is a group assignment everyone has to register. I sent in my application and got a response two days later that it was FULL. MY HEART DIED. I pleaded and played the exchange student card, but they told me that no exceptions could be made. On top of all of this, I found out that I didn't have the proper pre-requisites to take my European Economic Integration course. While it isn't necessarily required (meaning they don't ever actually check to see if you have actually taken the pre-req classes) I could tell from the first lecture that I wasn't going to be able to follow along with my really limited knowledge of introductory economics and trade theory. This left me scrambling to find two more classes that I could take to replace the two I had to drop.
I immediately sent in a handful of petitions to my academic advisor at OSAS, Rikki Mitsunaga and she submitted them with a rush. I'm still waiting to hear back, but the absolutely great and magical news is that there was a registration misunderstanding and I was actually allowed to register for the International Business course! I chose to take a course called "Innovation and Technological Change" in place of the European Economic Integration class that I dropped, so now it's just a waiting game.
So far though, I've really enjoyed the classes that I've chosen. It's interesting to learn about accounting in a foreign country. Germany relies on different accounting standards, but the basic knowledge is the same. It's fun to hear my professor talk about American examples (everyone was perplexed by a Walmart case study we did) and I'm learning to look at what I already know from a very different perspective. Below is what a typical week looks like for me, though I also have a blocked course (you can read more about that in my previous post) that will take place at the end of May.
I'm glad to have everything sorted out and even more glad about my long weekends! It's a big weight off my worrywart shoulders, so now all that's left is to cross my fingers for my course petitions. I tried to submit as many petitions as I could before I left for Germany, but a lot of the classes that I had petitioned for ended up not being offered this semester. It really depends on the university you attend and the availability of accurate information, but I recommend trying to do everything you can while you're still home and have plenty of time to figure everything out. It will save you a lot of stress in the end.
I'm really looking forward to all of my classes and I'm glad it has all worked out the way it did. I'll talk to you next week. Bis bald!