“Have you forgotten where I’ll be studying again?”
“I know it begins with a ‘k’…Kopparberg?”
I tried not to get too offended when my friend confused my ERASMUS destination of choice, Munich, with a Swedish cider. He did, after all, remind me today that I’ll be on my way to Germany in exactly 2 weeks, and has been thoughtful enough to notice that my mood is instantly improved by Bierwurst, Schwarzbrot and even Sauerkraut. Since accepting my place at the Ludwig Maximilians University I’ve become far too excited around German foodstuffs and only venture into Lidl alone.
Of course, my feelings on the exhange are often closer to terror than eager anticipation. On a recent night in the pubs, a (male, of course) friend decided that I needed to become a beer drinker in preparation for living in Germany. Over the course of the night he bought various different brands of beer, and I was made to try them in turn. This was not a productive exercise – the only one I liked was a Mexican lager flavoured with tequila. I was struck with the (hopefully irrational) fear that native Bavarians will view my dislike of beer as a rejection of their culture, and shun me when I pass on the Becks and order a Kopparberg (or worse, a Desperado). A friend who recently began her ERASMUS described her life in the final few weeks before her flight to France as an “administrative nightmare” – an exaggeration perhaps, but I have found that the Germans certainly like their paperwork. Additionally, I’m faced with a look of concerned surprise and the exclamation: “but why would you want to study law in German?!” almost every time I share my plans for the upcoming academic year.
The language barrier is what frightens me most. Admittedly I’ve had to spend a lot of time improving my German over the summer – I’ve had many skype conversations with my Tandem partner (I would definitely recommend getting involved with Tandem), who has taught me that I should never confess to German over the age of 14 to liking Tokio Hotel. I’ve also been watching German films and poring over my grammar textbook and the newspaper ‘die Zeit’ to a slightly obsessive extent.
Studying in a foreign country in a language I’m still not entirely comfortable with does seem daunting, but I reckon I’m adventurous rather than a little bit crazy – every ERASMUS student I’ve met in Edinburgh has loved their experience. A friend from law who will soon be travelling to Paris to study reckons I’ll come back from Germany with a blond boyfriend called Hans, an excellent tan and a penchant for wearing lederhosen. This doesn’t exactly appeal, but I have found that during my waitressing job I’ve been daydreaming about meeting new people, visiting the sights recommended by my Dorling Kindersley guidebook and getting to grips with Bavarian life (minus the beer). Despite the nerves, every day I look forward to Germany a little bit more.