Saturday, 30 April 2011

Two months in Erlangen already - OMG.

Wow, I really need to be better at this blogging business. Once again it is ages since I last posted. I have now been in Erlangen for 2 months. I can barely believe it! A week after I arrived, my orientation course began and I met some of the most awesome people ever, including a Hungarian guy called Balazs, who claims to be here to party and studying is just a thing on the side. His catchphrase in German is "Ich bin hier zu Party, studieren ist eine Nebenwirkung!" He also loves to use the word awesome. I say this word a lot but he says it in almost every sentence! Balazs created our Erasmus Erlangen group on Facebook - this earned him the nickname of "Capitano." Best nickname ever!

The orientation course was very helpful; the people who organised it helped us to set up bank accounts, register with the local authorities and organise health insurance. I can't believe how much more helpful the Germans are than the French! I had to do all of this sort of stuff myself in Lyon, it was not fun at all. Other things included in the orientation course were a tour of the university library and a session of "intercultural training." The latter was interesting, albeit a little strange. We did a quiz about Germany, and we were taught about various social norms such as how far away to stand from someone. Apparently the acceptable distance to stand from a German is 1.2 to 3.6 metres. At the intercultural training I met the second group of exchange students, who made our already awesome Erasmus group even more awesome!

The orientation course wasn't all bureaucracy and boring stuff, we also had 3 day trips. I will write about those in another post because otherwise this post will be insanely long and you will all get bored or else strain your eyes. So I will move on and talk about my intensive language course. I took a placement test which would determine the class I would go into. I found the test to be alright, it was a simple fill in the gaps type thing. The next day we were given our results and told some more about the course. When I found out that I had been placed at level C1, my heart sank because I thought this meant I was going to be in the bottom class. However I then realised that according to the European testing standards, A is the lowest level and C is the highest. You can see why I got confused! Once I realised I was in the top class, I was relieved but I also began to panic, because I was expecting to be in one of the middle classes. I was worried that I would end up feeling way out of my depth. When the course started the following day, I actually felt comfortable at the level I was at. After all I wasn't expecting this course to be child's play; I wanted a challenge. As a warm up exercise the teacher asked us to get into small groups and discuss how we felt about the course. I was in a group with Anna, a Polish girl I knew from the orientation, Balazs and two other people. Balazs instantly started complaining that there was too much homework. This frustrated me because he seemed to think that this course was going to be like primary school i.e. lots of talking and hardly any written work. He had said that he didn't care whether he made grammar mistakes or not. I wanted to scream at him! If you don't care about mistakes, then why on earth are you doing this language course?! Anyway, I digress. The language course lasted 4 weeks and it was seriously intense, but I got a lot out of it. I definitely think my German improved. Some of my friends in the lower classes didn't get nearly as much out of the course as I did. Even in the B2 class (the level right below mine) the exercises were incredibly basic; the sort of German one would have learned in second year. I felt sorry for the people in these classes, since they couldn't move to a higher class, so the course was pretty much a waste of time for them.

After the language course ended, there was an international evening - a party where everyone brought food from their own country. I made little triangular jam sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Very English picnic! I don't quite know why, but they were really popular! The variety of foods was really interesting: the Japanese people brought sushi, the Americans brought mac & cheese, one of the other Brits made bangers and mash - yummy! My friends Becca and Kim made pancakes. I had a great time, there was good music, good food and cool people. One of the funniest moments was when Balazs made an announcement over the microphone, saying "why is there no beer?" I laughed so much! Later on, the Japanese students did a traditional dance for us. It was fab! Unfortunately I had to leave this amazing party early because I was going home the next day and I still had to pack. Details about my time at home in another post. I promise I'll post sooner this time!