Getting Schooled

Lorraine Engleman
June 7, 2016

As of today, I’ve officially been in Freiburg for two weeks, and I think we’re finally starting to get into some sort of routine. There are even moments when I forget the fact that I’m in Germany and this is completely crazy! One of my biggest concerns going into this was what the classes would be like, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to the makeup of a typical school day.

Like I’ve mentioned, I’m taking two classes: the required seminar and the elective on culture and religion. The other two electives center on politics and economics. Typically, the elective is from 9:00am to 10:40am and the seminar follows at 10:50am to 12:30pm so that the evenings are free. Classes are an hour and forty minutes long, which probably seems like forever to those who are used to the standard 75 minute college class, but for someone like me who’s been taking nearly three hour education classes, it’s a welcome abbreviation.

Notice I said “typically.” My elective professor has a weird schedule, so sometimes my class gets moved to the evening or cancelled altogether. I like getting to sleep in a bit, but I do not like that I-just-had-lunch-and-now-I-need-a-nap slump that hits right when class starts. There are also days when we’re apparently going to have double class sessions, which is not exactly my idea of a good time.

Also, there are six random German classes sprinkled in over the first two weeks, usually from 2:00pm-3:00pm. Tomorrow is my last one, so after that there won’t be any more German. (And if you’re fairly fluent, they don’t make you take it. I, unfortunately, am far from fairly fluent and need all the instruction I can get. I am picking up a few things, though.) So an example of a regular day would start at 9:00am with the elective, then the seminar, then an hour and a half for lunch, and finally German class ending at 3:00pm.

Now about lunch! It’s quite a bit longer than the lunch break I’m used to, so there’s time to either go back home and eat, pop into a café, or walk to the Mensa (university cafeteria), which is what I usually do. The Mensa is humongous, and there are four different options you can go for, which are displayed on a screen when you first walk in. Unfortunately, it’s all in German, so I usually just pretend to read the board, make a generic comment like “Hmm, it all sounds pretty good…” and then just follow the crowd and eat whatever ends up on my plate. You can’t really go wrong with German food… I have yet to be disappointed with anything at the Mensa. You pay with your Unicard, which is used both as a debit card and a way to get student discounts elsewhere. All you have to do is lay it down on the scanner real quick and you’re good to go.

Classes are held at the IES Abroad center, not at the actual university. The old building has our classrooms all on the top floor, and there’s only a few of them. As far as in-class differences go, there aren’t that many. Some of the desks are cushioned, there are projectors and dry erase boards instead of SMART Boards, and the classrooms are small. In seminar we’re not allowed to use our laptops, and we’ve been told it’s rude to eat or chew gum during lecture. I was worried about not being able to understand my professors through their accents, but that’s not been a problem so far.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the coursework is insane. It’s probably partially because they’re 300-level courses, partially because it’s cramming a lot of material into only a few weeks, and partially because I hardly know what’s going on in class. I would definitely recommend majoring in one of the topics or at least having some background knowledge on the European Union, because I am for sure struggling. Having class every day Monday through Friday is rough… going from an “I have one week to complete this” mentality in the Education program to a panicked “This has to be done by tomorrow” mindset is quite an adjustment. The classes are pretty much lecture-based, with a little group work and discussion thrown in every once in a while. There is a LOT of reading: upwards of thirty pages per class per night, with correlating discussion questions due the next day in addition to long-term papers and projects. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for other activities, so we’re hoping that the staff will be willing to negotiate the workload since there seems to be a disconnect between what the administrators think we have time for and what the professors are assigning us.

I am worn out and already looking forward to our fieldtrip to Bosnia-Herzegovina this weekend, but all things considered, my experience in Freiburg thus far has gone well. My professors are friendly enough, and though the classes are over my head, I’m giving it my best, and the company is good. I think I’ll stick around for a while.

Tschüss, Lorraine
(Did you see that? German! And there’s more where that came from, too.)

Lorraine Engleman

<p>Hey! My name&#39;s Lorraine, and I&#39;m a 20-year-old junior at Indiana University Southeast. I&#39;m an Elementary Education major and substitute teacher at North Harrison Community Schools. Check out my blog as I spend eight kid-free weeks in Freiburg, Germany!</p>

2016 Summer 1, 2016 Summer 2
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Indiana University
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