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Friday, October 17, 2014

My First Week of Grad School in Germany

It's official: I made it through my first week of grad school in Germany! So, I figured it now it is the perfect time to give you my first impression on how it will be to study in Germany.

No, I am not going to grad school in the mountains (unfortunately).















To help organize my thoughts after this whirl-wind week, let's look at each of the parts of student life:

Classes

For my Master's program, I have to take 6 classes each semester for 3 semesters. Then, my fourth semester is dedicated to writing a Master's thesis. In general, the classes are structured much like mine were in the U.S., with the exception that there is no homework or midterms. In fact, the entire grade depends on a single paper or exam in most cases, and I have already had many of my professors say that they wish there just were no grades at all, because they find them a poor measure of learning. If only...

Final Exams

Since I study humanities, not natural sciences, most of my final exams are term papers (just like it was for my Bachelor's degree). Lucky for me, however, some of my classes do have a final exam. "Theoretische Kontexte der Kulturwissenschaften" is one of these courses, and I am dreading this exam already. Luckily, you always get a second chance (and maybe even a third, fourth, etc.) to take the exam if you fail the first time. Yay!


Professors

As I have already said, my program is in German, and I am (as far as I can tell so far) the only non-German in any of my courses. This definitely means that I am at a bit of a disadvantage, especially since my courses focus on the writings of famous German academics (who I have never heard of, but everyone else in class seems to have). Oh well...

Campus

If you read my post last week, then you know that going to college in Germany is free (even for foreigners like me). So, it is no surprise that college campuses here do not have quite as many bells and whistles as American universities. This means no computer labs, no free gym, no buildings dedicated to providing lounge areas. But I am willing to give these things up in order to not graduate with five-figures of debt again!

Natural garden on campus

Students

I don't know if this is because all of my classmates are German or simply because it is a Master's programs (probably a bit of both), but everyone just seems so damn eager. In one of my classes, the professor did not have the syllabus ready, and the other students just about lost it. "When will have the syllabus ready?" "What are we doing next week?" "What should I be thinking about as I read the text?" Yes, those were all real questions asked in class, even the last one.

Books

In the U.S., I think I spent an average of $500 per semester on books. The poor natural science kids spent much more. Well, not in Germany, because all of the professors just scan the texts that they want us to read and upload them online. Score!

All in all, so far so good. I will keep you guys updated on how giving presentations and writing papers in German actually go, as that will inevitably be happening within the next month (ugh).

If you are interested in doing an English-language international Master's program in Germany, then you should also check out Alex at Speaking Denglish's post about her first week of class.

8 comments:

  1. Mandi | No Apathy AllowedOctober 17, 2014 at 3:02 AM

    Congrats on making it through the first week! I hope it will be a great two years for you.

    Since the Uni Bremen is a few minutes outside of the city center, it does actually have a campus feeling -- providing recreational facilities, a swimming pool, cafes and lounges, and a cafeteria -- maybe because there's more space? Is Lüneburg's uni in the center of the city?

    I'd be curious to hear about your lunch time routine too. An hour-long break in the Mensa is such an ingrained part of my day now that I can't imagine it otherwise!

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  2. Thanks so much!

    Wow, that sounds nice. I love Bremen, but have never seen the university. And yeah, Leuphana (previously Lüneburg Universität) was created from old army barracks, so they made due with the buildings that were there without much room to expand. BUT a new building is being contructed right now (should be done in a year, I think), which is one of the biggest construction projects in Germany right now: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/leuphana-uni-lueneburg-zentralgebaeude-von-libeskind-sorgt-fuer-aerger-a-964827.html

    As for lunch, I think the one-hour Mittagspause in the Mensa is a part of standard uni-life :) My favorite days are when they have Milchreis for dessert.

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  3. Viel Erfolg mit deinem Studium! :)


    PS. under students you put my classmates or Germans I think you meant "are"?

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  4. Thanks!

    PS. Shhh... you didn't see anything ;)

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  5. gone!
    I want to attend German classes just to expose myself to more German,

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  6. Love following along, as always! Also, just as reference, Uni Heidelberg has some awesome English-speaking grad programs (I'm in one right now!) as well :) If you are ever in Heidelberg, let me know! We have a bunch of bloggers in/around the area and like meeting up!

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  7. Congratulations on surviving the first week (you look so much happier in your picture than I did after Week One of my German class..)! There definitely are so many perks to getting a Masters here in Germany, and I'm definitely interested in following along with your process. Now if only I could just be fluent in German already..

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  8. ...That picture may have been taken a week before my classes started :)

    Also, you should come to appreciate the term "proficient" rather than "fluent." Am I proficient in German? Yes. I can take classes and understand the professor. I can have a conversation with a native German. I can watch German movies. Can I understand these theoretical texts I have to read for class tomorrow? No. Because I am not (and will probably never be) truly fluent. Ugh.

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