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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

American to German Grade Conversion

The best possible GPA in the U.S. is a 4.0. The worst passing grade in Germany is a 4.0. You can see why accurately converting your grade when applying to schools in a different country is important.

How to convert an American GPA to a German Note
Unfortunately, converting grades between different countries is confusing. I first encountered this confusion when I was applying to Master's programs in Germany, and I wanted to make sure my American GPA was high enough for the programs I was applying to. 

Note: German grades are on a scale of 1.0 (best possible grade) to 4.0 (lowest passing grade). 5.0 is a failing grade. Most Master's programs in Germany require a GPA of 2.5, although this varies by program.

One of the first resources I came across in my research was the Wikipedia article on "Academic Grading in Germany." There you will find a very confusing chart and a quick description of the Modified Bavarian Formula, but not much else. So, I will try to make this all a little bit easier to understand.

In general, the Modified Bavarian Formula is the way to go when converting foreign grades from any country into the German system. Here is what this formula looks like:

Modified Bavarian Formula
Nmax = highest possible grade in your home country's grading system
Nmin = lowest possible passing grade in your home country's grading system
Nd = the grade you want to convert

When using the Modified Bavarian Formula to convert American grades, it would (usually) look like this (using 3.5 as the GPA to be converted):

Nmax = 4.0 
Nmin = 2.0
Nd = 3.5
Modified Bavarian Formula for 3.5 GPA

Do the math, and you will find out that an American 3.5 converts to a German 1.75.

For a quick conversion, here is a chart I made using the Modified Bavarian Formula (Nmax=4.0; Nmin=2.0; note that some American universities do grade differently). This will give you a rough idea of what your American GPA or American letter grade would convert to in the German system:

American to German grade conversion
I hope this helps, and good luck to anyone applying to study in Germany!

Friday, July 24, 2015

My 2 Year Expat Anniversary!

Today marks 2 straight years of living in Germany! While I feel like I should say something like, "The time has gone by so fast! I can't believe it's already been two years!" I am actually feeling the opposite. It's more like, "Only two years? I feel like I've been living here for at least 5!"

I suppose that is just because of all the things that have happened in these past two years. I flew to Germany on a one-way ticket on July 24, 2013. If you want to see a review of everything that happened in my first year, check out my one year anniversary post.

Here is a look back at my second year in Germany.

July 2014

  • My parents visited for two weeks, and we made a lovely tour through Germany
  • Germany won the world cup! Best of all, this happened while my parents were here, so we all got to celebrate together

August 2014

September 2014

  • I celebrated my 3-year anniversary since coming to Germany for the first time to study abroad in 2011!

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

  • Marco and I tested our American and German dialects
  • I got all of my grades back from my first semester of grad school, and I did (actually a little bit better than) average!

July 2015

And here we are in July 2015! I am done with classes for my second semester, but I still have 6 term papers to write (wish me luck and lots of productivity). It's crazy to think about how different my life is right now (read: more stressful) than one year ago. But I am very happy to be where I am, and hope that my update in one year from now will include finishing up my Master's degree and getting ready for a successful job hunt!

Here's to another great year in Germany!

            Tuesday, July 21, 2015

            Germany's Obsession with Titles

            Recently, I saw a poster on campus for a lecture called Warum ich als Wissenschaftler der Bibel glaube (Why I believe the bible as a scientist). However, it was not topic that caught my attention. Rather, it was the man's name.

            Here is a picture of the bottom half of the poster:

            The name of the man who is giving the lecture is "Dir. U. Prof. A. D. Dr. Werner Gitt." His titles take up more space on the poster than his actual name! What the heck do these letters even mean?!

            Well, let's take a look...

            Dir. = Director
            U. = Und (and - why is this necessary!?)
            Prof. = Professor
            A. D. = Außer Dienst (meaning that he doesn't currently work as a professor)
            Dr. = Doctor

            Really?! Are all of those letters really necessary? Do we need to tell the world our entire life stories via letters before our names? I mean, after all of that, I feel like I certainly do not need to see this man's resume. I already know his entire academic background: He got a PhD, worked as a professor, stopped working as a professor to become the director (of a university, I suppose?), and now he goes around giving speeches about why he believes the bible. Got it.

            Coincidentally, I got an email invitation just a few days later to another lecture, but this time given by a woman. Her name was listed as:

            Frau Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Eveline Goodman

            Although not quite as long as Gitt's, it is the fact that Dr. is written two times here that really confused me. So, let's take a look at what this one means:

            Frau = Mrs. (it kills me that Germans write this before "Dr." or "Prof." -- could you imagine going to the doctor and saying "Hi Mr. Dr. Smith!"? The Germans actually do that!)
            Prof. = Professor
            Dr. = Doctor
            Dr. h.c.= Doctor honoris causa, which is an honorary doctor title

            So, although it is not quite as telling as the man above's, Frau Goodman's title still gives us an insight into her academic and professional background. Curious about the honorary title, I looked up her Wikipedia page, which says that she was an Austrian Jew that survived the holocaust by fleeing to the Netherlands and went on to become the first female Rabbi in Austria. Amazing! But still, that is one long string of letters in front of her name.

            What do you think about all these titles? Are they necessary?

            Tuesday, July 14, 2015

            How to Exchange Your License for a German Driver's License

            Although all cities/states are different, here are the steps I took to get my foreign driver's license exchanged for a German driver's license:
            1. Contact the local Führerscheinstelle by phone or email, and ask what documents are needed to exchange your driver's license
            2. Collect the required documents, which usually include:
              • Foreign driver's license
              • Passport/Visa
              • Biometric Photo
              • Translation of Foreign Driver's License (40€ at ADAC)
            3. Bring documents to the local Führerscheinstelle and pay the fee (35€)
            4. Pick up your German driver's license a couple weeks later
            How to Get a German Driver's License

            Getting my German driver's license had been on my to-do list since the German boyfriend tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me to drive stick shift over a year ago. Since foreigners in Germany are only allowed to drive with their foreign driver's license for their first 6 months in the country, I have not been allowed to drive in Germany since December 2013. Luckily, residents of some countries (U.S. included) have up to three years to trade in their foreign license for a German one.

            **The rules are different for each state of the U.S. Check the U.S. Embassy website to see if your state has a reciprocal agreement with Germany**

            Before getting started, I read blog posts by both Sarah Stäbler and Alex Butts about their experience with exchanging their American driver's licenses. Unfortunately, all I learned from those posts is that everyone's experiences is different. Like many bureaucratic process in Germany, each city/state has different requirements, so I knew I had to start off my contacting my local driver's license office... ugh.

            Luckily, I found the email address for my local Führerscheinstelle online, so instead of wasting my time at the German equivalent of the DMV, I send them an email.
            Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

            ich bin eine Amerikanerin und wohne in Lüneburg. Ich habe einen Führerschein
            aus dem Bundesstaat Illinois und ich möchte diesen in einen deutschen
            Führerschein umschreiben. Welche Dokumente brauche ich dafür und wie
            verläuft der Prozess?

            Herzliche Grüße,
            Courtney Martin
            The next day, I received a reply:
            Guten Morgen Frau Martin, 
            bitte kommen Sie mit folgenden Unterlagen zu denÖffnungszeiten in die Führerscheinstelle:
            - Personalausweis oder Pass mit Meldebescheinigung- Führerschein aus  Illinois- biometrisches Passbild- 35 €
            Bei Ihrer persönlichen Vorsprache kann dann der weitere Ablauf besprochen werden. 
            A few days later, I went to the Führerscheinstelle, and only had to wait about 5 minutes to meet with the woman responsible for all residents with last names beginning with L-Q.  She made copies of my American passport, German visa, and American driver's license. I also gave her a biometic picture and 35 €. She then said that she would send the request my German driver's license, and I all I had left to do was get my American driver's license translated. This is done at the ADAC (like the German equivalent of AAA) and costs 40 € for non-members.

            It is important to also note that I went to the Führerscheinstelle all by myself. Generally, I believe in always bringing a German with for any bureaucratic processes (civil servants don't really like wasting their time with people that speak baby German). So, I was incredibly proud that the trip ended up being so successful!

            A few days later, I dropped off my American license at the ADAC, paying 40€ for the translation. I had to wait one week for the translation to be finished, and during this time, I got a call from the Führerscheinstelle to tell me that my German license was ready to be picked up! So, once my translation was ready, I went back to the ADAC, picked up the documents, went back to the Führerscheinstelle, and I got my German license that very day!

            My German driver's license

            Note that you do have to trade in your foreign license for the German license when you do it this way. However, you can return to the Führerscheinstelle at any time to trade in your German license for your foreign license at any time (and vice versa) for free. So, for example, I can go back to get my American license before flying to the U.S. in September.

            Overall, the process is pretty simple and much more inexpensive than doing German driving school (that process costs around 2,000€). So, if your home country's driver's license is recognized by Germany, get to the Führerscheinstelle before your three years are up!

            Wednesday, July 8, 2015

            School on My Birthday?!

            I have a summer birthday. This means that throughout my whole life, my birthday celebrations were always filled with warm weather, swimming pools, barbecues, and most importantly, no school.

            This continued through college, as summer break for American universities typically lasts from mid-May through August. Now, however, as I am nearing the end of my second semester of graduate school in Germany, this no-school birthday streak is coming to an end.

            Courtney's 24th birthday 2014
            Me on my birthday last year, when Marco gave me way too many candy and sweets (and I was a lot more tan than I am this year because I wasn't holed up in front of a computer doing schoolwork everyday).

            Classes for the summer semester at German universities ends early to mid-July. At my university, for example, classes end on July 10th this year. Lucky for me, my birthday falls on a Wednesday -- a day I don't actually have any classes. But I do still have classes on Thursday, so it is still going to be my first birthday that I have to spend doing schoolwork. What a bummer.

            Add to that the fact that we've really only had a handful of days with temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit so far this year, I honestly feel more like it is May than July. It certainly isn't time for my birthday yet, is it? Wait, what? My birthday is today?!

            Where did my summer birthday go?!
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