Erasmus Exchange in Freiburg. Part I

Today is my first day in Freiburg and thus I decided that this occasion deserves a post.

First of all, in regard to my first post, I can say that I did manage to do some language preparation before coming  here. I went to Brake (near Bielefeld) to volunteer in a Bible school for two weeks. That might not sound like a very long period, but I can assure you that even a bit of time spent in Germany before coming to the exchange is really useful simply because it makes you realise that coping with communication in a foreign language (even if you, like me, don’t have superb skills in that language yet) is not as hard as it appears to be. I did not do any extra German courses since I was simply helping out in the garden team, however, I learned a lot of useful everyday words, expressions, colloquialisms and (most important of all) got the feeling of the language which you can only get when you spend some time completely exposed to it. If you are like me and don’t have any time/money for a language course or traveling in Germany during summer, I would highly recommend volunteering. Another thing which I would recommend doing is reading, watching films, chatting with your German friends in German (you can find some German people in German society or via Tandem if you haven’t yet encountered any)… But I’m sure you have been told that many times. I think it’s quite important to find something that you like in the language you are trying to learn. E.g. if you are a fan of fantasy, watch Lord of the Rings or Hobbit in German, read some fantasy stories… That makes the learning process much more enjoyable. However, I would advise against developing skills in one area only (e.g. reading) and ignoring all other ones, because that will both make you less confident in the language and your overall progress slower.

Now back to where I started. Today is my first day in Freiburg and I can certainly thank God that it actually went quite well. Below I’m going to briefly discuss a few topics.

Getting there
I took an easyjet flight from Edinburgh to Basel Euroairport and that seems to be the cheapest and fastest way to get close to Freiburg by plane. From the airport there are two ways to get to Freiburg. One is to take the bus to Basel and from there take a train to Freiburg. From the research I did this option is around 6-8 euro cheaper, but takes slightly longer and is a bit more complicated since you would need Swiss currency. The other way (I chose this one) is to take a direct bus to Freiburg from the airport. If you decide to take this option, don’t forget that you have to leave the airport on the French side. A single ticket costs 26 euros and that’s the webpage of the bus service.

Getting around the city
Since I have only spent one day here, I don’t have a lot to say on this topic yet, however it seems that Freiburg has a well developed system of S-Bahns (trams). I would highly recommend to print out the tram scheme as you will most likely find it quite useful to have, especially if your accommodation is quite far away and you have lots of luggage. A single ticket costs 2.20 euro. That seems quite expensive to me and since I plan to do some exploration of the area and hiking in the surrounding hills I’m going to buy the Semesterticket available to the university students.

Accommodation
Before coming to Freiburg I decided that I will live in a Studentwohnheim and I have been assigned to Ulrich-Zasius-Haus. It is slightly annoying that when you apply for student accommodation here as an international student, you don’t get to chose the place where you would like to live… On the other hand, at least you can be almost fully certain that you will be offered a place…

Disadvantages of the accommodation:
1) this Wohnheim seems to be one of the oldest ones in Freiburg and that is quite obvious;
2) every floor has 16 rooms and 3 showers, 3 toilets, medium size kitchen and a medium size living room and a balcony; it seems that with so many people it might get a bit crowded later on…;
3) it is about 30-40 min (on-foot) away from the main university campus.

Advantages:
1) nice view to the hills;
2) international students get a furnished room and bedding with one set of linens;
3) there is a personal sink in the room;
4) every floor has their own representative whom you can approach with various questions and who organises various things;
5) there are a few shops nearby where you can buy food at reasonable prices.

People
So far all the people I’ve met have been very friendly and helpful. Their German seemed quite clear and understandable. I’m not sure whether that is because they don’t have a strong distinct accent here or because they were being nice to a person who is clearly not a native German speaker. I also got some help with my bags from a random lady whom I asked for directions to my Wohnheim. Furthermore, the person who deals with accommodation contracts of international students (Uwe Divora) in the Studierendenwerk is very helpful and is happy to explain the particularities of the contract in English.

I wish I knew
In Ulrich-Zasius-Haus you will need an internet cable to get internet connection. In case you don’t have it, you can buy it at electronics shop at the east end of the Lehener Straße after going through the underground crossing.

Just to end this post I will put a picture of a view through my window
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