On your bike [Emma Kennedy, Freie Universität Berlin]

“Wow!” I thought. “A bike for 22€? Surely that’s too good to be true?” And sadly it was. Lured by the bright, shiny lights (and bargain prices) of the fleamarket, a few weeks ago I found myself handing my cash over to a complete stranger in return for a slightly rusty, but apparently functioning, bicycle. He had overheard me telling my friend that I’d come to the market in order to buy a bike, and guess what? He was there to sell his! He assured me that it was in perfect condition, apart from one partly deflated tyre and a defunct bell. And all for 22€, how could I resist? However the reason for the cheap sale became apparent when I attempted to cycle home. I managed to go about 50ft along the street before the bike proved completely unusable and I had to lug it home on three different trains. You know what they say about karma – whatever comes around goes around. Well, I hope something deeply unpleasant happens to that man… Anyway, it has cost more in repairs than I paid in the first place but it does at last appear to be working, at least for the time being. And so I will continue to use my bike (christened ‘Basil’ because of the name written on the basket. Yes, it has a basket) until it verges on unsafe. Or perhaps I should try and flog it off at the next fleamarket?! I think the lesson here is, if you are serious about getting a bike whilst you are abroad, it would be wise to go to a proper retailer!

In other news, classes are in full swing and I’m enjoying having a proper routine. Contrary to popular belief (the Erasmus year has been compared to an extended Fresher’s Week and I hear we have a reputation as nocturnal party animals, to whom studying is an alien concept), the Erasmus students in my classes all seem very hard-working and dedicated. We have to give Referats, or spoken presentations, in front of the class and I have been seriously impressed by the standard of the presentations I’ve seen. I’m not sure how I feel about having to give a spoken presentation – they take me right out of my comfort zone as I prefer to have the information in front of me rather than in my head, and I’m usually the type of person who has a cluster of A4 pages filled with notes before I begin writing an essay. However we’ve been doing them in our German classes at Edinburgh since 1st year, so it’s nothing completely new, and I’m sure it’ll be valuable practise for when I’ll inevitably have to do something similar in job interviews etc. My first presentation isn’t until January, so I’m trying not to worry too much, just observing my classmates’ styles and trying to note a few of their confidence tricks for myself.

The other night was Hallowe’en and, although it’s not as widely celebrated in Germany as it is back home, we were determined to carry on the tradition of donning stupid costumes and going out for drinks. As always, I’d left my costume until the last minute (or approximately 4 hours before we were due to go out), but I managed to fashion some sort of Grecian get-up (it was Hallowe’en, who said I needed to look authentic?!) out of the Adam part of an Adam and Eve costume… clearly all the Eve outfits had been snapped up by people more organised than me. Anyway, I got some very strange looks as I took my choice to the till. The cashier was probably wondering what I planned to do with the leaf-covered men’s underwear, but I had a cunning plan – quick job with the scissors and I had two leafy garlands to garnish my shoes with. Blue Peter, eat your heart out. All in all, we had a fun Hallowe’en, although I have to say I prefer it in Edinburgh, where everybody has a costume on and you don’t feel like a complete crackpot for using public transport in fancy dress.

It’s still a bit of a novelty studying in the uni library – Edinburgh’s was a former multi-storey car park and looks it (although kudos to them, they are renovating it!) but the one here is lovely and bright. However my one gripe with the system is the compulsory use of the library lockers. You’re not allowed to just barge straight in, handbag, coat and laptop case in tow. All of your things must be stored in a locker at the entrance, and only your books etc. can be carried in in a see-through plastic bag. Fair enough, good system to prevent theft and to protect the books from greedy guzzlers who have snuck in food. The system fails, though, when all of the lockers are full and you have to queue for 10 minutes just to get into the library. It certainly does not help one’s work ethic when you are being denied entry to your chosen place of learning! It should be interesting to see how this problem is resolved when exam time rolls around.

Categories: Berlin, GermanyTags: , ,

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