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Monday, March 30, 2015

It Will Go Horribly! | Mistranslation Monday

Now that final exams are over, and I am feeling a little more relaxed, it is time for another Mistranslation Monday!

This one goes back to November, when I was preparing to give my first presentation in German for one of my graduate school classes. The night before my presentation, my friend Sarah texted me.

Es wird schon scheif gehen!

Here is my literal translation of the above messages:

Sarah: Best of luck tomorrow! I am sure that it will go wrong.
Me: You are sure it will go wrong? I hope it doesn't go wrong...

I remember when I first read the message, I was seriously confused. She kind of contradicted herself when she said that she wishes me luck, but then says that it will go horribly. Maybe she forgot to put a "not" in that second sentence?

Luckily, Sarah quickly wrote back, explaining it is a common saying, similar to telling someone "break a leg" before they go on stage.

So, the next time you want to assure your friend that everything will be fine, just go ahead and tell them "Everything will go horribly!" If they look confused, just tell them it's a German thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My First Semester of Grad School in Germany

After finishing my last exam paper yesterday, it is official! I am done with my first semester of graduate school in Germany! YAY!

First Semester of Graduate School in Germany

Here's a look back at everything I accomplished this semester (in numbers):

6 grad school courses

...4 of which were in German and 2 of which were in English (thank goodness). For my undergrad, I only ever had to take 5 courses each semester, so balancing 6 was fairly challenging.

2 final exams

One was in English, thank goodness. However, the other one wasn't, and that was by far the hardest thing I did all semester. Translated to English, the course was titled "Theoretical contexts of the cultural sciences." Doesn't that sound like a load of fun? Anyways, check out my last blog post to read more about it, which was appropriately titled "The Final Exam from Hell."

3 presentations

Two of my courses required that I give a presentation. The first was in English, so that wasn't too big of a deal. However, I also had to give 2 in German! Those were both pretty terrifying, but they went pretty smoothly!

4 term papers

I much prefer writing papers to taking final exams. I finished my last term paper yesterday, which means I have nearly 2 weeks of vacation (besides working 15 hours/week) before the new semester starts!

7 classes for next semester

Was my first semester in Germany perfect? Hell no. But everything worked out in the end, and for that I am grateful. I am also still a part of the program and have signed up for 7 classes for the summer semester, which goes from April through September. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Final Exam from Hell

If you read my very melodramatic post about feeling like a failure, then you already know that I have not had the best of luck with final exams this semester, or should I say final exam.

I only had 2 final exams to take this semester. One of them went great, and I passed it without a problem. The other one, however, is what I will call the final exam from hell. It has not gotten this name because it is a difficult exam, but rather just because of my horrible luck in trying to take it.

It all started when I thought the time of the exam was 2 hours later than it actually was. So, when I showed up to the lecture hall to take it, all of my classmates were standing outside, talking about how they thought they did.

Commence panic and crying.

After a good cry on the German boyfriend's shoulder, I came to my senses and realized thanked the German gods of bureaucracy that every student gets 3 tries to take a final exam. The re-take for this exam was scheduled to be held 6 weeks later. So, I sat and waited (well, in the meantime I did write 4 term papers and take the other final exam).

Unfortunately, nobody mentioned to me that I would have to register for the second exam. More importantly, I had exactly 7 days to register, a time period which ended exactly one week before the re-take exam was held. So, by the time I decided to start studying for the exam again, 6 days before it would be held, I realized one day too late that I was not registered.

Commence panic and more crying.

Looking up the rules online, I immediately saw that "late registration is now allowed." I ran to the information desk at the university that afternoon, and in typical German bureaucratic fashion, I got passed around from person to person until I finally received the name of someone who only works three days per week from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. So, I sent her an email, begging to be able to take the damn test.

The next day, I received a reply in which she gave me yet another name. So, when emailing him, I sent my professor an email as well. Luckily, both men got back to me that afternoon and said that they "understand my irritation with the situation," and that I can, in fact, take the exam.

Commence a different kind of panic.

By the time I got official word that I could take the exam, there were only 4 days left to exam day. So, I studied my butt off for 4 days and made sure to show up on exam day 30 minutes early. In typical German style, there were already people there before me.

Anyways, on February 17th at 12:15 p.m. GMT+1, I finally laid pen to paper and took the final exam from hell. I actually took it! Now, let's just hope I pass it, or I will have to use my third and final attempt to take the damn test again, and I don't know if my heart could take it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Please Don't... | Mistranslation Monday

Most people reading this blog are probably familiar with the German word for "please," which is bitte. Well, this simple word actually comes from the verb bitten.

Okay. So, if bitte means "please," then the verb bitten probably means "to please," right? 


But, this is a common mistake that Germans make when writing emails and requests. So, instead of translating "Ich bitte dich..." to something like "I am asking you..." (with "ask" as the proper translation of bitten in this instance), Germans sometimes accidentally start of an email with "I please you..."

And when you are getting such an email from a coworker, all you can think is, "Please don't."

And like all mistranslations that the German boyfriend and I see quite often, this one has now become a normal part of our conversations with each other.

"Marco, I please you to help me make dinner."

"Hey Courtney, I please you to bring me the ketchup."

Hopefully we don't accidentally use this one in front of guests, because they could get the wrong idea.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Get a Job with a German Student Visa

Studying in Germany is great! It is way cheaper than in the U.S. (as long as you go to a public school), there are great universities, and there is a huge selection of interesting degree programs (many that are even in English!).

Regardless of how cheap the tuition is, however, moving abroad is never cheap, and you will probably want to get a part-time job during your studies.

Step 1: Read Your Visa Carefully

Before looking for a job, you need to know exactly what type of work you are allowed to do, and how many hours you are allowed to work per month. If you received an electronic residence permit, then this information is written on the Zusatzblatt (mine is pictured below). If you just got a sticker in your passport, then it should be written on the top page of the sticker.

German student visa

My Zusatzblatt (on the right) has all of the information regarding how many days/year I am allowed to work. For the standard student visa, you are allowed to work 120 full days or 240 half days per calender year. Since a half-day is 4 hours, this basically means that you are allowed to work 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. As a student, you probably would not want to work more than this anyways.

 German student application visa

Pictured above is the sticker from my student application visa, which states that I was not allowed to seek employment (Erwerbstätigkeit nicht getstattet).

NOTE: Most student visas specifically forbid freelance work. Unless you have a freelance visa, you are now allowed to have a freelance job such as teaching English.

2. Start Searching for a Job

After you know what type of job you are allowed to have, you can start searching. Student jobs at a university are called studentische Hilfskraft (abbreviated SHK) or wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft (abbreviated WHK). If you like the idea of working on campus, then this is what you should look for. Most universities have their own job portal on their website, which would be a great place to start.

If you are looking to get off campus, then other popular websites for finding a job in Germany include IndeedMonster, and Job Scout 24.

You may also consider making a Xing account, which Germans prefer to LinkedIn.

3. Make a Resume/CV/Lebenslauf

Once you found some jobs to apply to, it is time to make an updated resume targeted for your desired job. Since you are in Germany, you may also want to write a German-style resume, which includes your photo, birthday, nationality, and more. For more information, read my guide on how to write a German resume.

How to write a German resume

4. Apply to Jobs

After you have updated your resume, it is time to apply to the jobs you found. If it is just a part-time student job, then you probably do not need to write a cover letter. Rather, just include 1-2 paragraphs about why you are qualified for the job and excited to work for the organization in an email. Remember to attach your resume as a PDF, and hope for the best.

If the job description is in English, then you can probably get away with doing everything in English. If the job description is in German, however, then make sure to include a German resume and write your cover letter/email in German. Since the jobs I applied to wrote their descriptions in German, but English fluency was required, I included a German and English version of my resume.

5. Rock the Interview

Doing a job interview in German (when German isn't your native language) is terrifying. Trust me, I've had to do it. My only advice is to speak slowly and clearly as possible. Good luck!

6. Fill Out the Paperwork

Once you have the job, you will have to fill out a lot of paperwork. If you followed my day of German bureaucracy, then you know that I spent a lot of time trying to round up all of the documents I needed before I could finally sign my work contract. Some of the documents you will probably have to provide your new employer include:
  • Visa / Aufenthaltserlaubnis
  • Passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Social Security Card / Sozialversicherungsausweis
  • Student ID
If you did apply for a student job at your university (SHK/WHK), then your wage is based upon your education level. So, you may also have to provide your college transcripts to prove that you already have a Bachelor's or Master's degree.

Viel Glück!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Top Picks on Netflix Germany

I never had Netflix when I lived in the U.S. Now that it has come to Germany, however, I am obsessed. Although I know many expats complain about the selection of Netflix Germany vs. Netflix USA, I am pretty happy with it so far. So, I figured I would share what I have been loving on Netflix Germany lately for my other movie-streaming residents of Germany.

Oh, and if you do not have Netflix or live in Germany, then just consider this a  list of movies and TV shows that I have been enjoying lately :)

TV Series

1. Orphan Black

Orphan Black

This show is about clones. Does that sound kind of cheesy? Yes. But it is amazingly well done, and the main actress, who actually plays over five characters in the show, does an amazing job at making each character completely unique. 

2. Der Tatortreiniger

Der Tatortreiniger

For any German-speakers out there, this is definitely worth a watch. Each episode simply shows the main character, Schotty, and the strange things and people he encounters as he cleans a crime scene for 30 minutes.

3. Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black

If you have Netflix, then you have probably already seen, or at least heard of, Orange is the New Black. It's about a women's prison. I know that may not sound "like your thing," but the German boyfriend thought that too, and he ended up liking it.


1. In Bruges

In Bruges

"Maybe that's what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in Bruges."

Despite the fact that that's the last line of the film, this movie actually made Marco and me really want to visit Bruges...

Warning: the accents in this movie are incredibly difficult to understand. Marco said that it might as well just have been a silent movie, because he could not understand a word anyone said until we finally turned subtitles on. Unfortunately, however, they only Netflix only had German subtitles, which is annoying when you are watching the movie in English.

2. Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth

You have to have been living in a hole if you have not yet seen Pan's Labyrinth, but in case you haven't, I highly recommend it. And if you have already seen it, it is always worth a second watch.

3. The Next Three Days

72 Stunden | The Next Three Days

I'm a sucker for a good action movie that adds suspense by always telling you how many days are left until the climax of the movie. Also, as a type 1 diabetics, Marco and I also find it funny when action movies incorporate type 1 diabetes into the plot of the film. Thanks to this film, we now know how to break each other out of jail!

4. Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading

I was only going to name 3 movies, but I just felt like I had to include this after watching it the last week. This movie does not have awesome ratings on Netflix or IMDB, but I really liked the pointlessness of it all. Heck, this story is probably eerily similar to how a lot of situations in government and law enforcement play out.

Do you have any TV or movie recommendations?
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