The Beginning

All of the UMASS exchange students, as well as many other students from all over the world, are housed in StuSie, or Studentensiedlung am Seepark, which is a dorm complex less than a 10-minute Strassenbahn ride from the University. We each have a private room in a suite, with communal kitchen and shared bathrooms. I will go into some detail about these living arrangements, as it is likely that in the foreseeable future, UMASS exchange students (and many other international students) will have ones akin to these. My room is equipped with ample closet and shelf space, a window that opens properly, a bed, desk with nice lamp, pleasant side-lighting (my light pulsingly emits a G 392Hz and then flickers itself on once the switch is pressed) and a radiator with an adjustable thermostat. I got lucky, and the previous resident left a wifi router, so that I can connect directly in my room. There are LAN connection ports in all the rooms here, but not all modern computers have the appropriate ports for those. Many other students purchased routers. At the University, there are a couple types of wifi, including eduroam, and we have library access, so the investment in a router is not really necessary. Each room is equipped with a bed with a firm but not rock-like foam mattress, but no bedding. There is an option to order a starter package of that (items from IKEA) upon one’s arrival, and many people do that. The kitchen usually will have many leftover items from previous residents, so it is not necessary to purchase the kitchen starter package, but you may need to go out and acquire specific items.

We are sort of structured as a suite, due to the shared spaces (the kitchen also has a large table for dining or playing boardgames or whatever), and the other folks are from all over the world. Some of them are here to write masters’ theses, others as undergraduates – really all sorts of students in all sorts of fields. It is important to establish a good rapport with the suitemates, just so all of the cleaning goes well and you can make good connections to practice language about and through which to learn about the environs and also about a host of different cultures, but unless you all make an effort, there will not be tons of incidental socialization, since we are each busy with our own itinerary.

Some of StuSie. There is lots of construction going on all over the city.

This morning, we all registered with the city, which is required so as to avoid social security fraud among recipients thereof, and for the census, among other reasons. It was a straightforward process, and the whole experience was akin to a trip to the DMV, albeit quieter, cleaner, and generally with a more positive level of interaction. The trip there, as was move-in, in fact, was facilitated by the UMASS – Baden-
Württemberg exchange coordinator, presently a woman named Silke Uebelherr. We UMASS students waited until our appointment, and then were each asked a few questions, including whether we were students, married, and/or baptized.

This morning, we began the pre-semester German language course at the University of Freiburg. We are split up into 12 different levels, based on an online placement test. My class was taught entirely in German, and the teacher made a habit of both explaining new vocabulary by describing it using other German words, and inserting her wry sense of humor whenever possible. There are 15 or so of us in this group, and she was sure to give sufficient individual and group attention to keep anyone interested engaged.

After the class, most students there (i.e. quite a lot!) had lunch at one of the MENSAs – these are the equivalent of American dining halls. For a moderate price ( 2.80 euros for the main meal today), one can healthily fill their stomach. There was quite the line, and unfortunately for now it is primarily English-speaking, for the common language of us international students, particularly those in the lower levels of German, is English.

To end, I have two anecdotes to relate:

  1. After school I got off of the Strassenbahn to pick up some bread for dinner. It was the end of the day, about an hour before closing, and I was the only customer. I examined the merchandise, as though most of it is excessively sweet, it makes quite the picture, and some items are quite tasty. Finally I ordered two “Semmeln”, which is how Austrians refer to those ubiquitous German white rolls that serve as snacks and complements to meals. In the USA, Kaiser rolls (Kaiser-Semmeln) are a knockoff, but do not come close to the ideal crusty-outside, soft-inside little breads that are often baked by a human and consist of pronounceable ingredients. To the people of this area, however, these rolls are often known as “Weck”. The proprietor, an Austrian herself, was taken by this, and my use of another dialect word, and carried on a lively conversation. As I left, she slipped another bag into my hand – “Nimmst du das damit.” – containing two croissants. It was the end of the day, and they were sure to be enjoyed in this case, but regardless, the gesture was much appreciated.
  2. Yesterday was Rosenmontag, a Carnival variation, and people took to the streets, rip-roaring around dressed as all sorts of witches, characters, and faerie folk. Many had woodland-themed clothes, and some even had wooden masks with dramatic, sometimes bridging on grotesque, features. Much of the population had been drinking, and this was made evident by unusually high level of noise on the public transportation and confetti flying through the air. Far into the night, Schlager-musik emanated from the door of each pub and several restaurants and other gathering spots, and people yelled across the streets to each other the traditional Rosenmontag greetings of “ALi”, responded to by “Aalaf”.
  3. The flowers are beginning to bloom here!
The University Library – Ich freue mich darauf viele Zeit hier zu lernen!

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