The title is, for those who don’t share my love of indie films and/or Zach Braff, a reference to Garden State. This week a couple of friends from halls came over to watch films and this quote kind of summarised my feelings on ERASMUS this week. I’ve found that getting to know a new country and trying to blend in with its culture and customs forces you to learn incredibly quickly, and every day you gain a new perspective on both your host and home country. Even though I’ve only been in Germany for a relatively short time (6 weeks) I can tell that the ERASMUS experience will be a great influence on my life.
But enough Sunday-morning rambling. I’m currently in my room contemplating the hard-learned lesson that mixing € 1.39/litre wine, vodka jelly and a substance labelled ‘space punch’ (last night was a ‘Space Oddity’ party). It was a good night, especially the 1am U-Bahn venture to McDonalds in the city centre (which, like the vodka jelly, seemed like a marvellous idea at the time). Space parties aside, however, this week has also brought the realisation that ‘just passing’ my exams this year is going to prove more challenging that I first thought (the requirements of a year abroad vary from student to student, but I only need to pass my classes in Germany). I know I won’t feel particularly chuffed with myself if I barely scrape passes in my courses, and despite the stereotype of ERASMUS students as carefree and permanently drunk, finding a work-life balance which will include long stints in the library as well as cheap wine is currently a priority.
Luckily I’ve been speaking a lot more German this week, and I’m finally starting to ‘click’ with the language. Yesterday it actually felt a little strange to switch back to English – I visited Dachau with a group of international students, and then at dinner with my German neighbours (two guys called Rainer and Stefan, they stay up late and play folk music but compensate for this by providing free oranges/looking like a yeti). I met Stefan on the U-Bahn at 5am and managed to switch back to German without noticing after a night with English friends, but this week I also managed to purchase a giant bag of custard powder instead of flour – perhaps I am learning, but it’s a matter of baby steps.
Our tour guide in Dachau was grateful to have such a large group of us – apparently the town doesn’t attract many visitors, because of the association with the nearby concentration camp. I almost wish we hadn’t visited the camp – it was horribly easy to imagine how the prisoners had to live and the atmosphere was very intense – but it was certainly an experience that will stay with me for a long time.
This week I’ve also seen Death of a Salesman (we were in desperate need of some English-language entertainment) and had to pretend to be Hulk Hogan’s lawyer in Legal Research class. Unfortunately I’m still known simply as ‘Scotland’ in this class (I’ll accept it’s easier than ‘Lorna’, but I manage most of my classmates’ names, including Gerthard and Walloon). It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here for 6 weeks, but hopefully the next 6 will be as good as the last.