Forming an Offline Club, and other such updates

Carolina Weatherall Headshot
Carolina Weatherall
April 19, 2024

Recently Instagram recommended I attend a weekend getaway in the Netherlands with a relatively new initiative called the “Offline Club.” The accompanying reel showed a group of content, happy looking people lounging on blankets with books in the grass; people smiling at one another while peeling oranges in a naturally-lit kitchen; a trio out on a walk in the fields, gazing ponderously at the sky and the highland cows, and, if that wasn’t already enough: people gathered around a long natural-wood table laden with fresh, local (very healthy: probably vegan) dishes. I was sorely tempted. 

I found myself flipping through their story archives, researching the distance between Freiburg and Amsterdam, weighing train schedules, eurail passes and plane tickets. Leafing through my wall calendar, collating program exam dates with university exams. When I plan to be in Prague for my own research (more on that later, maybe), Vienna to sift through archives (really, now I’m just teasing) or in Paris to meet friends from my home college (hi Bowdoin!). In reality, I cannot attend one of these offline retreats. On the contrary, I will be remaining online for the foreseeable future. 

My university classes started this week, which is very confusing to anyone I’ve spoken to outside of Germany. Essentially, the German university system has a “winter semester” and a “summer semester.” The winter semester runs from mid October through the first week of February, and the summer semester begins in April and runs until the end of July. But, as I am also taking classes at my IES Abroad center, I have been in classes now for about a month. The IES Abroad semester will end in June, and then I will only be taking two classes at the university and starting work for my internship (more on this later, certainly. Oh, so many exciting things!). 

I’ve also been navigating two simultaneous course registrations: one for my home college, and one for the University of Freiburg. My home professors kindly met with me over zoom (despite the series of springtime ice storms and ensuing power outages Maine has experienced over the last few weeks) and I now have a relatively clear picture of what my next semester of college will look like. Suffice to say, I’ve required the internet. 

I have not, however, always had access to the internet. And I still haven’t figured out how to connect my phone to the university network. And cafés in Freiburg are simply that: cafés. Not coworking spaces, not laptop haunts, not conducive to taking a phone call. I admit I smile a little bit when I glimpse those “romanticizing studying” photos: laptops open in the coffee shop, artful cappuccinos stamping coffee rings on literature lecture notes or what-have-you. I appreciate them, then I romanticize them even more. I wrote an essay for art history in a coffee shop the other day, and it was the most focused I have probably ever been. I had no access to the internet, so I couldn’t look up words in my favorite German dictionary ( Instead, I just had to go with my gut and conjure my own synonyms. 

My first few weeks in Freiburg romanticized travel in its own right, because I put off purchasing a phone plan as long as I could (procrastination: sound familiar?). Then I had to give up my passport for an indefinite period during which the Bundestag ascertained whether I was worthy of remaining in Germany for six months. Thus I was forced to preplan every journey I took, from the least significant: WG to grocery store, to the most ambitious: Frankfurt airport to the IES-Abroad Freiburg center while jet-lagged and carrying a heavy assortment of awkwardly-proportioned luggage. 

Indeed, I’ve unconsciously curated my own, solo, Offline Club. I’d just failed to put a name to it until, ironically, Instagram informed me that such a thing exists. And though of course I’d like to attend the official “Offline Club Getaway” in Hooghalen and lock my phone in a cupboard, I’ll restrain myself from the temptation of spending money I don’t have and formulate my own. 

Here’s how I intend to go about it: 

  • Intentionally carry a book with me wherever I go. Whenever I am waiting for someone, stuck on the Straßenbahn, alone in a coffee shop, I can pull out my book and get a few pages in. 
  • Turn off the internet when writing an essay. Turns out I’m more adept in German than I thought, and don’t need to constantly access the dictionary. Must be some correlation to studying abroad…
  • Delete social media apps. Within reason, because I am also a social media correspondent. 
  • Ask locals for directions. This is an excellent way to practice language competency. I asked some locals in Berlin where they had gotten their ice cream and they pointed me to a delightful ice cream shop not even two blocks away. 
  • Prepare directions ahead of time. Our parents made it this far. Why can’t we? I also find it is easier to gain a sense of my surroundings when I am forced to watch road signs and recognize landmarks. 
  • Socialize immersively. There are boundless friendships waiting to be had, when we open ourselves up to them. I’ve been to a number of international student events, and made new friends from all over the world. Since then, I’ve met these friends at coffee shops, for walks in the park, at university events and, just by chance, I’ve spotted them throughout the city. 

In the next installment of my Freiburg Blog series whatever-you-wish-to-call-it I’ll provide some more exciting updates. Maybe a glimpse into my day-to-day life. Then I have parents visiting, so I’ll be on the lookout for the “Freiburg Must-Sees” and assemble a list. 

And with that I’m going to turn off my internet and meet my language partner for lunch. 

Until next time, <3 C

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Carolina Weatherall Headshot

Carolina Weatherall

I like telling stories and writing long-winded essays about my cultural observations. I generally wind up where there are books, or people talking about them, or—better yet—people celebrating queer, feminist or minoritized voices in twenty-first literature.

2024 Spring
Home University:
Bowdoin College
German Language
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