Orientation Week

This week was jam-packed with a ton of welcome week activities. On Monday I went to orientation, where I got my temporary student ID and welcome packet. I met some other exchange students at orientation, and we went to a campus tour together, where we met even more international students. They came from everywhere, including France, Spain, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Tunisia, Egypt, Hungary, South Korea, Iran, etc. Almost everyone spoke both English and German, but most seemed to prefer speaking in English. Later on after the tour there was another event  called “Speedfriending” at a pub near the school, where we played team-building activities (the usual tower building stuff) and talked. I was the only American exchange student at these events (I’ve actually only met one other American so far), so I’ve been getting quite a few questions about the U.S. Two different groups approached me to ask if American men kiss their friends to greet them. They were shocked when I said American women (usually) don’t either. I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about U.S. politics and my hair, which is currently in box braids.

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“Speedfriending”

On Tuesday there was an intercultural workshop where they discussed adjusting to life in Germany and how to make friends with Germans. We were warned that Germans typically do not rush into friendships and it could take years to actually become someone’s friend. Then there was an international dance, where we learned some basic salsa dancing moves. I did not enjoy this part, and spent most of the time accidentally kicking my partners in the feet.

I bought tickets to Pink Floyd tribute concert by the Australian Pink Floyd band on Wednesday. I went by myself, because I bought my ticket before I had met anyone here. I was a few minutes late, and when I walked into the concert hall at 6 minutes past 8, everyone was already quietly seated and the show had started. The audience was practically silent during the show, and only clapped at the end of each song, occasionally whistling after a guitar solo. The crowd was also much older, but I still really enjoyed the show.

Thursday was a historical tour of the campus. I learned that the building I got my health insurance from used to be a concentration camp for intellectuals and communists. I also met with some other German and international students to eat at a traditional German restaurant, where I had my first Currywurst. Then we went to another international party, where I spent almost twenty minutes speaking with a student from Uzbekistan and answering his questions about current events in the U.S. There never seems to be any dancing at these parties, just conversation over music and beers.

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Currywurst mit Pommes

There were many other events, but I won’t list them all. Just know I am exhausted and class starts tomorrow. To see my orientation week vlog, click here.

Bis später!

Happy Rizzi House

Today I visited the Happy Rizzi House here in Braunschweig. It’s a very colorful building designed by the American artist James Rizzi. This place definitely stands out in the city, as everything else has a much more historic vibe to it (lots of cobblestone roads, old churches, etc).  Many of the more historic buildings were destroyed during the war, and they rebuilt some to look like they did before.

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A church

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Rathaus/ City Hall

Bureaucracy

You need a signed and stamped document for everything here. I can’t attend orientation for my host university without proof of registering with the city, a German bank account, health insurance, liability insurance, etc. My first mistake was trying to do things in the wrong order, and I had no clue there was an order. Before you can open a bank account, you need a Meldbescheinigung (proof that you have registered your address with the city), but you can’t get the Meldbescheinigung without a copy of your lease. You also have to schedule an appointment to open a bank account. After getting a bank account, you can get health insurance, but you have to bring proof that you’ve done all the aforementioned things. Then you get liability insurance, but they mail you the proof of that and give you a CD with all the important information on it in the meantime. Fun fact: My laptop doesn’t even have a CD drive, but I was way too exhausted to explain this, so I just took the CD.

But all in all, I’m super happy to be here. The city is beautiful, I’ve met some very nice people,  and I’ve gotten around everywhere by myself so far and almost completely in German. The lady who enrolled me in health insurance said, “Ihr Deutsch ist fast perfekt!” (English: “Your German is almost perfect.”)

-Bis bald!

 

Braunschweig

My first few days in Braunschweig have been full of adventure. My apartment came furnished with everything except toilet paper, a wireless router, and dishes, so I was on a mission to acquire these items. There is a grocery store about two minutes away, but the mall and most other big stores are about a twenty minute walk away, so my legs are very sore. There’s a tram, but you have to pay to ride it, and with walking being free and all…

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Here’s a short room tour/travel vlog video that I made

-Tchüss!!

I’m here!

I’m here! I made it safely, and only missed two trains (and almost a plane)  in the process. After landing in Hannover, I met another American student who will be studying abroad in a different city. We both were headed to the Hannover Hauptbahnhof (central station), and neither of us were sure how to get there, so we teamed up to figure it out. I missed my first train because I forgot to change the time on my phone an hour ahead of the time in London, but I just got on the next one. At the Hauptbahnhof, I went to what I thought was the right platform, but after asking someone who worked there, I learned that the platform, and the train that I was supposed to be on, was behind me at the next platform over. When I got there, the doors for the train were closed and I couldn’t find a button to open them. Eventually it started moving, and that’s how I missed a second train. When I finally got into my host city, I had to take another bus to my apartment building (with some help from another American exchange student). It was a very long journey, but I’m so excited to be here!

 

 

 

 

 

Almost there!

I’m currently at the airport in London, where I have a layover for a few hours until my flight to Hannover. My thoughts are all over the place, but I’m feeling a mixture of excitement and fear, which I think is pretty normal. I didn’t sleep very well on the plane from Atlanta, so I’m sure as soon as I finally get a chance to lay down I’ll be out like a light.

My checked suitcase was exactly 23 kg, which is the absolute max it can be. I almost cried tears of joy because I swore it would be overweight. I spent days unpacking and repacking and spreading clothes and shoes around to my carry-on, so I’m pretty happy about that. The downside is that now my backpack and purse are jam-packed with clothes, making them much heavier than I planned, but I can handle it for a few more hours.

 

10 Days…

In 10 days, I’ll be on my way to Germany, where I will spend the next few months. This week will be spent getting last minute supplies that I can’t live without (natural hair products, headphones, etc.), as well as getting other important documents together. When I arrive in my host city, I will need to get a German health insurance plan and open a bank account the next day, because you can’t attend orientation without proof of having done these things. I’m supposed to be assigned a “buddy” to help me accomplish these things, but I have yet to hear back about this, but hopefully I will within the next few days.

-Imani