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Monday, June 13, 2016

The State of Germerica

Lately, I haven't really been using this blog to tell you guys what is going on in my life - and there is a lot going on! So, I am going to do that today in the first ever...

State of Germerica Address!

Just like the president's annual State of the Union address, I will move through this post by topic, providing update on all of the progress I have made in my life throughout the past few months. Who knows, maybe this will even become an annual or biannual thing. Only time will tell.

The First State of Germerica Address


Now let's see what topics are on the docket today...

Writing My Master's Thesis

I am still hard at work writing my master's thesis. My goal is to be completely finished by the end of the semester (September 30), which means I have 3.5 months to finish writing my 80-120 pages, turn it in, wait for my supervisors to grade it, and then orally defend my thesis to my supervisors. Currently, I am still in the writing stage, trying to write at least 500 words per day (you can keep up with my progress on Twitter).


I Won an Award!

Speaking of school, I won an award! Every year, my university gives an award on behalf of the DAAD to the best international student. And this year, they are giving it to me! I'll make sure to put up some pictures on the blog after the award ceremony on July 6th.


Working Hard

As I write my thesis, I am also still working hard on some side projects and freelance jobs. Once a week, I tutor two German high school girls in English - make sure to check out my most recent Mistranslation Monday to see the kind of antics that go on here. I am also working with Eight Hours and Change and am looking forward to showing some American students around my university's campus at the end of the month!


European Championships

The UEFA European Championships (for you Americans out there, this is a soccer competition among the European countries) started on June 10th, which means my football/soccer consumption has gone up 100% over the past few days. I'm also part of a betting pot with Marco's family, which is kind of a joke since I have no idea who is any good, and I am already in last place.


Summer Vacation

In the midst of all this craziness, Marco and I are also getting ready to go on vacation! My brother is getting married on Long Island in mid-July, so Marco and I going to be flying to the U.S. for two weeks! But there is still lots of things to do before then...

So, that's the state of my Germerican life right now. If you have any big summer plans, let me know in the comments below!

Monday, June 6, 2016

He's My Sponge! | Mistranslation Monday

I recently started tutoring two female German high school students in English. Seeing as I have no experience in talking to teenagers or teaching English, this has been an interesting experience to say the least.

Sexy sponge man


During our sessions, I discuss all kinds of things with the girls, from dream vacations to embarrassing school stories. Since we only speak English, they occasionally come across words for which they don't know the English translation. So, after saying the German word, they will pause, waiting for me to say it in English before they continue with their story.

My German is good enough that this method works 99% of the time.

One day, as we were talking about boys (oooo la la), one of my students got caught up in telling me about a particular boy from her school.

"He can speak Russian and is just so cute. He is my... my... Schwamm!" she exclaimed. Or at least that is what I heard.

"Sponge? He's your sponge?" I asked, quite confused.

"No! Not Schwamm, Schwarm!"

I still didn't understand. Although I knew that Schwarm means "swarm" (as in a swarm of bees), it made no sense to me in this context.

"You know... I like him, and I go crazy whenever I see him!" she explained.

Aha! Suddenly I knew what she meant, and it made sense that I had never heard this word used before.

"Your crush?" I asked.

"YES! He's my CRUSH!!"

I guess I've reached that point in my life where I am more likely to discuss sponges than crushes. At least I have these girls to teach me all the German teenage vocabulary I am missing out on!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Save Money as a Student in Germany

As a foreign student, many people seem to have this expectation that I can take trips to amazing European cities and attractions every weekend. While I'd love to, the truth is that I can't afford it. But for what my blog lacks in sexy travel photos, I hope it can make up for in practical tips for living abroad.



One of the main reasons I chose to further my education in Germany was because of the free tuition. However, free tuition doesn't mean free living.

I still have student loans from my bachelor's degree. I am not financially supported by my parents. I don't have very much savings. I'm not qualified for many student jobs. I can't get BAföG (German student loans that students only have to pay back half of after graduating).

So, I have had to work student jobs to support myself and learn to live frugally as a student in Germany. Here are the best tips I have learned during my past two years of studying in Germany:


Shop at a Discount(er)
Discount grocery stores are a German tradition (better known in German as "discounters"). Aldi, Lidl, Penny, Netto - no matter where you are in Germany, there is bound to be one nearby. Luckily, I live about 500 meters from a Penny, and it is where I do all of my grocery shopping.

Sure, you don't have the huge selection of products like you do at bigger grocery stores like Edeka or Kaufland, but there's still plenty of choose from. I also find that the lack of overwhelming variety means I am more likely to stick to the staples and not waste money on specialty items or unneeded snacks.


Read Digital & Borrowed
In my experience, professors at German universities will do everything in their power to ensure that students do not have to spend (much) money on books and other materials for class. In fact, I have only bought one book (10€) during my entire Master's program. Most professors would upload all the relevant articles and book chapters online for the students to download.

If your professor doesn't upload the necessary materials, try asking them for their copy of the book (either to read or quickly scan) or check to see if there is a copy available in the library. I have had luck with both of these methods. So before spending a lot of money on books you'll likely only read once, I highly suggest trying them out.


Use Your Student ID
From free local transportation to reduced ticket prices, student IDs (better known as "student tickets" in Germany) bring a lot of financial benefits for students. These benefits will depend on your particular Bundesland and university, so make sure to check your university website to see what benefits yours offers.


Join Rewards Programs
If you are willing to sell your personal data, then there are some rewards programs you can join to gain points or money back towards future purchases. The most popular include PayBack, a rewards card for many of Germany's most popular stores (e.g. Rewe, dm, Real), and ShopKick, an app where you get points for entering and scanning products.


Get Free Stuff
I haven't bought shampoo or conditioner in over a year. How? I participate in product trials with trnd. All you have to do is create a profile, answer a few questionnaires, and they will email you whenever you qualify for a product trial. In the past, I have tested Ritter Sport chocolate, paper towels, dish soap, shampoo and conditioner, and hair styling products. In return, you just have to fill out some questionnaires about the products. (By the way, I'm not getting paid for this. I just like the program.)


Check Sales Flyers
I feel like I'm about 100 years old when I check the sales flyers every week in the paper, but it's worth it! Discount grocery stores (see #1) carry specialty products each week, and it is impossible to find a better deal on things like bed sheets, towels, furniture, and kitchen equipment than during these sales.

So, be smart, and find the sale. But be warned - the Germans love a sale, and if the sale on bed sheets starts on Monday, they will be mostly sold out by Monday afternoon. If you don't get sales flyers, you can also check out your local sales ads with the app kaufDA.


Book Early
If you are going to take a train journey inside Germany, book your train tickets at least 2 months ahead of time. Booking early will almost guarantee that you will find a train to your desired location for a maximum 29€ each way.


Graduate On Time
German students don't like graduating on time. The pressure that weighs so heavily on students in the U.S. just doesn't seem to exist in Germany, and it is very normal for Germans to take one (or two...) extra semesters to finish their degrees. In fact, I do not know anyone that started at the same time as me who is graduating on time from my program (besides me).

The problem with this is that taking extra semesters to finish doesn't just cost you in semester fees. You will likely have to extend your visa (there goes 100€), and you will be entering the job market later. While I'm not suggesting you stress yourself out and rush your studies, be proactive from the beginning on, and try your best to stay in the Regelstudienzeit. You can do it! (But if you don't, don't worry. Only 40% of German university students graduate on time.)


Hope these tips help! Let me know if you have any more in the comments below!
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