I learned a new German word this week which pretty much sums up my next few weeks – Klangst. Klausur (exam) + Angst (fear) = Klangst. Additionally, ‘klangst’ is a derivative of ‘klingen’, which means ‘to ring or sound’ (usually in reference to alarms). The German obsession with plays-on-words such as this is growing tiresome, but I do quite like ‘Klangst’ and it’s clearly struck a chord with most of Munich’s exchange students. Due to the LMU’s slightly OCD library rules (you have to lock your bag and coat in a locker, and aren’t allowed iPods, phones, water, snacks or more than one book at a time past the lockers), I’ve been studying in Starbucks
Fortunately life is still busy enough to keep me distracted from the upcoming terror of Strafrecht/ criminal law. One of the best nights of my ERASMUS experience so far was the Burns’ night at one of the other Edinburgh student’s flats. One of her friends brought almost a whole suitcase of haggis from Scotland, I provided whisky, tablet, fudge and macaroons. I’ve never felt so patriotic.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to travel into the Alps to try skiing. The trip was organised by the exchange society, who as always provide very cheap accommodation and discounts on the skipasses and food. They managed to score discounted ski lessons for the beginners, and we were taught to ski by the maverick of the slopes, Eric. Despite being dressed in neon-coloured ski-gear, Eric managed to give off a kind of slightly-stoned-caveman vibe, and he certainly lived up to this first impression when he decided that we were ready to tackle a red (intermediate) slope after only 1 1/2 days of lessons. Despite the fact that our responses to this idea ranged from lukewarm enthusiasm to abject terror and we had only just mastered the ‘baby’ slopes, Eric led us all to the chairlift, assuring us that we would be just fine. Although this baptism of fire may have ultimately been beneficial – the beginners’ slopes we attempted afterwards seemed far easier than they had that morning – the experience was fairly terrifying. On one particularly steep stretch of slope I was involved in a 3-person pile-up, when we all veered simultaneously away from a steep verge and into a ditch.
Our beginners’ group managed to acquire the reputation as the nerds of the ski-trip, after leaving the pub before our first day of lessons well before 11pm. We insisted that we wanted to get a decent night’s sleep (breakfast was at 7.30am!), the supervisors responded by yelling ‘but it’s ERAAAASMUS’ and trying to get us to buy more drinks. The same supervisors had already passed round a bottle of Jaegermeister during the afternoon train journey. At times it seems like ERASMUS culture is irrevocably tied to hedonistic drinking and partying. Certainly, my first few months in Germany were hectic to say the least and I’ve enjoyed not having the same academic pressure I had in Edinburgh. However, ERASMUS can be so much more than one long hangover – the highlights of my experience so far have been more about the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen. It’s not a necessarily a misconception that alcohol never fully leaves the bloodstream of an ERASMUS student – some students I know don’t seem to live in daylight hours, at all – but it’s not true for all of us. I guess the gem of wisdom I’d like to impart today is that you have to make an exchange year what you want it to be. And only drink the Jaeger in the afternoon once in a while, and never before skiing.