A year of halves

wrote this back in July when applying to be an Erasmus blogger here…already sounds a  bit cheesy reading through again, but it makes a decent first post I suppose!

Hi, I’m Richard and I can already say for sure that my year abroad in Germany will be quite a strange time…

Unusually for most students on Erasmus exchange, I’ll be splitting my year abroad between six months as an English language assistant and one semester at university. Also, quite unusually, I have been allocated two relatively tiny places to work and study in: no bustling, diverse cities for me; no underground art scenes to discover; no street-tram networks which Germany seems to do so well. Perhaps most unusually of all, I am intending to do all travelling there, during and back over land- including arriving in Denmark by boat, and spending most of March 2012 cycling the 800km from Husum, Schleswig-Holstein, the inspiringly-named ‘grey town by the sea’ in the north, to Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, an old university town in the south-west. With a combined population of just over 100,000, I’m slightly worried the two places will make Edinburgh seem like some futuristic metropolis. Or perhaps simply glad that I chose not to do my degree at St Andrews..!

If things weren’t divided up enough already, I’ve been informed that I’m going to be ‘shared’ between two schools while in Husum (a Grundschule=primary and a Gymnasium≈grammar). Then at Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen I’ll be trying to satisfy both the German and Linguistics departments of Edinburgh with my course credits that I bring back home….

I’m pretty confident with German, having studied it for pretty much ten years now(!) However, since I like a challenge (you may have already noticed), I want to satisfy one of my linguistic interests by learning some of the only other nationally-recognised language during my time abroad: Deutsche Gebärdensprache (DGS), or German sign language. I expect there will be other challenges, like being a vegetarian in a country famed for its Würste, sitting exams in the quite-clearly-summer month of July, living off the possessions I can fit inside two panniers, and keeping myself entertained while living in a seaside village for half a year…

I was in Germany for a 10-week period a few years back, but it was a frustratingly inadequate amount of time, both for making real progress with the language and because I had to leave new friends and a place that I had just started getting used to. Since my assistantship contract starts at the beginning of September while the German Sommersemester finishes at the end of July, plus my own self-imposed travel restrictions, this could turn out to be an entire 11months straight abroad. In that time I hope to really get under the skin of the country, see how it can vary from end to end, and get to know its people in a way I think smaller places will facilitate much better than if I were off to be just another Brit in Berlin, zum Beispiel.

On the 23rd of August I’m off on the ferry to Esbjerg… but until then, auf Wiederlesen (haha),

Richard

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