11:49pm. It’s been a while…a while since I’ve blogged, a while since I’ve properly updated my website (eek), and holy moly I’ve already been in Germany for three and a half weeks?! Time to update my lovely readers on my life…
The month before I left for Germany was hectic to say the least. In the midst of packing/planning/preparing to leave, I drove back and forth to New York City from Rochester three times, and I was working many hours between wonderful jobs at Eastman Res Life and Student Life offices and at WXXI 91.5 radio station. I knew that leaving Rochester/Eastman would be difficult, but I still wasn’t prepared for how sad I would feel in the days leading up to my departure. But, as they say, I am very lucky to have such beautiful things/people in my life to make it so hard to leave! We had a really fun “see you later” party at Victoire the night before I left, and Ji-Yeon made me my final batch of Korean fried chicken afterwards circa 2am..a proper send-off for sure. And, of course, to me there are no real goodbyes. Music is such a small world, and I know I'll be crossing paths with all of my colleagues at Eastman many, many time in the future. But, will I be crying on graduation day when I'm not there will you all? Absolutely yes.
So, on to Germany. My first week was filled with logistical (painful-but-necessary) tasks such as applying for my residence permit, opening a bank account, registering for school, and getting health insurance approval. Fun times, right? Not exactly…Oh, and throw in the jet lag and a splash of homesickness. It was not the ideal arrival, but it was life and I lived it!
My home in Freiburg is a Studentenwohnheim, which is a cross between a dorm and an apartment (75% dorm). There are 15 people living on my floor, and we share a kitchen, living room, and bathroom. It is hectic and a bit dirty, but in my case, the benefits far outweigh drawbacks. As an exchange student, it is great to live with so many other people. My floor-mates have become some of my best friends, and they've helped me with everything from proof-reading emails to buying a bike! Six of the people on my floor are German, and I am the only American, so I get to practice speaking A LOT at home. Here are some insights into Wohnheim Life:
#1: The amazing view from my window!
#2 Benefit: Free German Lessons
#3 Cleaning out the freezer: “How old is this?! smells like cat food…”
#4 Learning how to make Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes)
The Hochschule für Musik Freiburg is right around the corner from the Wohnheim, which is excellent. The school itself is beautiful; one of my favorite things is that nearly every classroom has big windows...plenty of sunlight and fresh air. The classes I’m taking are challenging. Mondays I go to a Kindergarten in the morning for a Lehrpraxis, or teaching-practice course. There are three of us in the group. For now, I’m observing my two colleagues teach lessons, but by the end of the semester I’ll get a chance to teach a bit. After that, I have a contemporary music analysis course. I’ll be doing an analysis and presentation of Morton Feldman’s The Viola in my Life III in a few weeks…lots to do to prepare that one! Tuesdays, I have a Nordic Walking class in the morning. I signed up because I thought it’d be a fun, easy-going class, but boy was I wrong. The first day, the teacher lectured the group about how if we can’t speak sufficient german, we should drop because the technique is so detailed, etc. Needless to say, was a little more than slightly intimidated, but I decided to stay. I just have to laugh at myself when she repeats her instructions to me over and over and then eventually I get it…or not. After that I take a composition concept seminar. We have been talking about modern composition methods and how to incorporate some of them into teaching..way cool. Wednesdays I’ve got another education seminar about the Grundlagen, or Fundamentals, of teaching. Next, a seminar on teaching ear-training, and finally ending the day with Violin/Viola Methods (Pedagogy). Thursday, I have a small early childhood education discussion group. Fridays I’ve got a really neat seminar called “Heute gehn’n Wir ins Konzert.[Transaltion: Today, we’re going to a concert!] This seminar is all about outreach, educational concerts, and taking school groups to concerts. I really love this course, and one cool perk is that we are going to get to visit some Freiburger Barockorchester rehearsals...eeep! All of my classes are Seminar style, which means they are small, discussion-based courses. In addition to my classes, I am taking some viola lessons, playing chamber music, playing with the Freiburg Akademisches Orchestra, and I have a tandem language partner that I meet with once a week for a half hour of English and a half hour of German!
Everything I just wrote out seems like a lot, but in reality, I have plenty of free time to practice, exercise and relax. The weather here is out-of-this-world beautiful most days, so I really like to go hiking, swimming, or running. I’ve started training for the Rochester Half Marathon in September!! I’m currently able to run for an hour (10ish km), and I’m aiming to keep that time increasing. Running long distances is ridiculously easy in a place like this though because of the breathtaking scenery. Here are a few photos taken on my runs!
Natürlich, the most challenging aspect of this whole experience has been the language barrier! I’ve had five semesters of german at Eastman, and I took two month-long language classes in Germany last summer. I’m understandable (for the most part), but I have LOADS to learn. All of my classs/lessons/rehearsals/everything is in German. Some days I come home feeling utterly defeated, but I am so thankful for the type of immersion I’m getting. I know that if I have the right amount of patience, (those of you who know me know how hard that can be!) I can learn quickly. I’ve set a small goal to speak at least once in every class...no matter how much of a fool I make of myself, and I do my best to avoid speaking English. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to that has moved to a new country or spent a significant part of their life abroad has shared their experiences about first few months and being a little clueless, not understanding much, etc. One one hand, I’m working as hard as I can to catch up and speak more fluently, but on the other hand, I’m enjoying this part of my life and trying to find the beauty in the challenges and the new-ness that is before me. Plus, sometimes I really can't help but laugh at myself…for the “deer in the headlights” look I sometimes give my colleagues/professors in class when they ask me something…for accidentally setting off the basement fire alarm three times because I did not understand the sign that said “Swipe your ID before opening door...” for standing at the ATM for 15 minutes, holding up the line because I’m trying to do everything in German... for making up danglish words like “abilitat’ that actually don’t exist… It will only get better from here.
So, before I sign off I will share a few of my favorite German words/expressions I’ve learned thus far:
bedingslose Achtung- Condition-less attention
Antippen- to tap
die Zuwendung- devotion
der Schlag- Pulse/beat. Schlagzeug is also percussion…how logical!
böse- evil, harmful, naughty
Last but not least,
“Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof-” Idiom meaning 'I understand nothing'.