So much has happened in the six and a half months I have spent abroad. By the start of second semester in April, I will have visited eleven countries! I will detail the countries in later posts, but right now I’d like to talk about my experiences at Uni Konstanz.
The class system is much different than the schedule at UMass. Here, my politics courses only meet once a week. I am not used to this, since most of my classes at UMass met twice, if not three times a week. This affects the workload of the classes; each week I have on average eighty pages of reading per politics class! Because there is only one meeting a week, it is more difficult to discuss all aspects of the readings before moving on to the topic for the next week. I think that because of this I value class time more and come to class more prepared with concepts and questions in mind. There’s a greater need for individual studying and understanding, which I find to be very beneficial.
My german language classes function much in the same way as the german classes in the United States. Adjusting has not been very difficult in this regard. I think that my favorite course this past semester has been a German Grammar course, something I did not expect. Most people learning German dread grammar, and rightfully so. However, something about the complexities really interests me! I find it fun trying to figure out the rules and apply them. Next semester, I plan on taking another grammar class that is a continuation of this one, so check back in in July to see if I still like German grammar.
Because I tend to focus on social and political theory, I do not generally take many courses pertaining to international politics. This semester, I took a class on the history of the European Union to set myself up to take courses about Europe next semester. While the history of the organization was interesting, I was fascinated by the concept of a European identity, which we talked about quite often. I personally do not feel connected to the concept of a North American identity, especially not over my American identity. So, the idea of allegiance or identification to a group of countries, rather than just one, was unfamiliar to me. In a class filled with Europeans, we discussed what it means to be European and whether people identify with more than just their country. It was interesting to analyze and contextualize how people perceived themselves as a non-European. I think I will apply what I learned about how people perceive Europe and being European to my other courses I hope to take that address problems and issues pertinent to European politics.
My first six months in Germany have been more that I could have ever foreseen. Culturally, I think I prepared myself for living in Konstanz a good amount. It was very helpful to have previously experienced German culture in high school. If I had not already lived in Germany, I think my culture shock would have been less tolerable and harder to overcome. I enjoy the Konstanz community and feel comfortable existing amongst Germans and other Europeans. I am excited to see what the second semester brings and how my sense of Konstanz will change!