Potato, pot-a-to [Emma Kennedy, Freie Universität Berlin]

After a four-and-a-half month break from education and a wonderfully exciting introductory period in Berlin, the inevitable has happened: classes at uni have begun. It’s always slightly difficult making the adjustment back into student mode after the obscenely long summer break, but I’m glad to be back at uni as the classes give structure to my week and they seem very interesting so far. I’m taking three courses especially for Erasmus students – although they interest me, I was initially wary about only choosing courses geared towards international students. However we were advised that the ‘normal’ classes would probably be too difficult for this semester, so I’m sticking to the recommendations, although I might attend a few lectures for German students just to see what I can pick up. I’m also doing 8 hours of language classes per week which, combined with the other courses, give me more than enough ECTS credits that Edinburgh requires me to take back for one semester. At universities in Germany students are encouraged to choose their own courses and create a timetable themselves. It’s different to Edinburgh where we don’t have as much freedom or control over which lectures we attend, and I think I prefer the system here. My timetable has worked out very nicely and I only have classes 4 days a week, which leaves 1 glorious day free for possible excursions to other cities – ahem, I mean for work and getting ahead with reading!

Apparently I have felt the need to discuss the weather in every post thus far (forgive me, I’m British), so to continue the theme: Berlin is becoming seriously cold. My winter coat, gloves and scarf, usually confined to the back of the wardrobe until at least November, have made an early appearance this year. It’s a real contrast to sunshine that greeted me when I first arrived. Not that I’m complaining; there is still plenty to enjoy when the temperature drops and the colder weather seems fitting with the beginning of the uni semester. It’s somehow much easier to be stuck inside studying when it’s so chilly outdoors. However my Mum and sister, who came to visit me earlier this week, were amazed to travel from Aberdeen to somewhere even colder. It’s not often that that happens…

I attend my first two Erasmus parties, which were everything I expected them to be – crowded, fun and full of friendly international people. The second party was hosted in Kino International, described as “an old cinema with Eastern-German style”, not that we could see much of it past the hundreds of people who were squished up beside each other on the dance floor. The parties are a great way to meet new people and to finally strike up conversation with those that you were too shy to approach in lectures but there is a definite Erasmus ‘community’ – the same faces kept cropping up both nights. Although it’s nice to have a place for all the Erasmus students to come together, my friends and I are going to investigate somewhere a little more off the beaten track next time, in the hope of getting to know some more native speakers.

I often eat lunch in the uni cafeteria, amusingly called Mensa – I feel quite intelligent carrying the card around in my purse (even though it only entitles me to a plate of schnitzel mit pommes, and unfortunately not membership to an elitist high-IQ organisation). The cafe is a prettier version of the JMC at Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls and in general the food is far tastier. However today I was served a nutritionist’s nightmare and a German’s dream – potato, with a side dish of potato. It disguised itself as Kartoffelpuffer mit Kartoffelklösse but I knew the truth… sadly by then the queue was too long to change my mind. I had to swiftly rethink my supper plans of a baked potato… On a similar note, I also tried the famous Berlin Currywurst (yup, that’s sausage and curry powder, lovingly married together in a sticky tomato sauce). I think it would be a definite hit in Scotland – perhaps they could create a deep-fried version for those hell-bent on getting coronary artery disease? I have to confess, though, I did rather enjoy it!

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