Erasmus Exchange in Freiburg. Part XI. Fire and advice for introverts

It’s been almost a month since my last blog. Sorry for not updating it, it was a busy time. On the bright side, now I have a few things to write about.

Fire
One of the less pleasant experiences I’ve had in the past month was fire in my Studentwohnheim. And no, I don’t mean someone burning the toast and consequently triggering the fire alarm, I mean actual flames which you can clearly see from the outside licking the ceiling. As you might guess, after all the false alarms in Edinburgh’s student accommodations actual fire was something unexpected. What was also unexpected, is that there was no fire alarm (because the fire-alarm in the kitchen of that floor was turned off). I found out about the fire from other students whom I heard shouting something in the corridor and opened my door to see what was going on…

I don’t want to leave the story on the cliffhanger, thus I can say that no one was hurt, the building stank horrendously for a couple of days and the kitchen in the floor above my floor where the fire has started was unusable for a couple of weeks. Thank God for (closed!) fire-doors, otherwise it could have ended in a more destructive manner.

Now a few things I learned from that:
1. If  someone in your flat thinks that turning off/removing the batteries or disabling the fire alarm in the kitchen in some other way is a good idea because they are smoking/cooking something with lots of smoke, you might want to discourage them… or at least remind them to put the fire alarm back on afterwards (since that tends to be forgotten quite often).
2. Despite all the experience with false fire alarms (which I assume that you have if you’ve ever lived in student accommodation) next time you might want to make sure that you at least have proper shoes, coat and your phone with you. Talking from personal experience, I went outside with slippers which was not very nice since we had to wait for quite a while till we could go back… and having your phone is kind of useful in case it’s your floor/flat that is burning and you might need help afterwards or if you’ve forgotten to grab your keys with you and can’t find your flatmates in the crowd of people.

Now moving on to something different.

Progressing with your language skills despite of being unsociable introvert

I’m not sure how many of you have this problem, but those who have, fear not! you are not alone and you can manage this! I am an introvert and a thought of finding lots of new friends to practise your German via lots of socializing makes me cringe and either run away into a forest or (if the weather is horrible) get under my duvet with a cup of tea and a nice thick book (which obviously has nothing to do with my studies). However, if I did that all the time, this year would be just a waste of time in an interesting environment… If you think you might have problems with that as well, I have a few tips which you might find useful.

  • BOOKS. If you like reading books and haven’t started reading in German for pleasure (I mean the type of books you actually like, not the ones you have to read for your courses), I’d advise to do that. Last summer I bought a 1000p. fantasy book in German and it’s been lying on my shelve for months looking very thick, scary and full of German words… Around a month ago my friend challenged me to start reading it. It was SO hard in the beginning… I managed to read no more than 10p per day, but as the plot of the book developed and I got used to reading in German it got easier and easier and a few days ago I noticed that I read more than 100p. in a few hours while procrastinating. You know what’s good about such procrastination ? Yes! this type of procrastination can actually be useful!!! You are improving your German while doing it, even though you might not be directly studying. You get the feeling of the language, you improve your skills of understanding words from the context and gradually it makes reading of academic literature easier as well. Just find something you like and procrastinate productively!
  • If reading is not your thing, watching films/tv series/anime/etc in German can also be useful.
  • Audio Books. I love books, I just have to have another bullet point about them 😀 On a more serious note, audio books can be very helpful, especially if you are one of those people who always get slightly miserable marks from listening tests. They are also a very nice way to spend your time while walking to uni, waiting at tram/bus stop, sitting in a bus/tram/train/plane… Personally, lately I’ve been listening to Narnia in German.
  • Investing your time in people. As a fellow introvert I can understand if you don’t want to get involved with large groups and do a lot of socializing. However that doesn’t mean that you should shut yourself in your room. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith (I certainly didn’t mean to make any reference to AC, not at all). Thus… try to spend at least some time with German speaking people every week. Obviously not only because they are German, but because having friends all over the world is nice and if you won’t use the opportunity to interact with people around you, by the end of your exchange you’ll feel like nothing has changed and you learned nothing…
    I am aware that it can be  ‘easy to say, hard to do’  type of situation. Try to take the initiative sometimes: invite that person from your course with whom you sometimes chat (and whose name you most likely don’t remember) to have a walk, go to a cinema, etc; try to interact with your flatmates and get to know them better instead of always saying an awkward Hallo before disappearing behind your room doors; if you are a Christian, get involved in a church; try to find people with common interests… The last one can be quite hard since there are no Societies here as we understand them in Edinburgh, however, posting something in University Groups on Facebook can (surprisingly) be quite effective. E.g. this is the way I found out that one of the girls on my floor is also interested in climbing and we started going climbing together every couple of weeks.
  • Last but not least. Be strong, don’t give up and don’t shut yourself in.

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