Attending University in Germany

Marta Misiulaityte
June 6, 2013

I thought that this week I would talk about the German higher education system because I find it utterly fascinating to be in such a different academic environment this semester.

One of the classes I’m taking at Humboldt is a Vorlesung, which is basically a lecture course that meets once a week for 1.5 hours. There must be some 300 people in that class because the lecture hall is so full that if you come late you end up sitting on the window sills. There is a reading list but no formal assignments. At the end of the semester I will have to take a Klausur, a written exam on…everything.

Another type of class is called a Seminar, and the requirements are usually that you hold a presentation on the readings once a semester in addition to writing a 10-15 page research paper. What’s interesting is that the research paper, or the Hausarbeit, can be submitted almost up until the beginning of the following semester! This is of course different for exchange students who have to have all the coursework done by the end of the semester, July 12.

“The academic quarter” is also an interesting tradition in the German higher education system. It basically means that every class starts 15 minutes later and ends 15 minutes later than the “official” stated time. This helps students adhere to the expectation of punctuality.

I am also continuing my study of Arabic at Humboldt University. While I still have four hours of Arabic a week (by comparison, my sophomore year at Bowdoin I had 5 hours a week), it is all done in one class meeting. This set-up is similar to my required German as a foreign language course, which also meets only once a week for 4 hours. This structure definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it’s been difficult for me to focus on Arabic partly because I only actively speak it once a week. On the other hand, because it takes a little bit of time to warm up for each session, having four continuous hours of intensive work with grammar, texts, and conversation helps to advance pretty quickly.

One last thing: at the end of every class, students here knock on their desks feverishly as a thank you to the professor and the fellow students. Very cool!

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Marta Misiulaityte

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Marta is a Sociology and German double major at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, but has a hard time staying within the boundaries of these two disciplines just the way she cannot stay in any one place for a long time. The thirst for knowledge and adventures is her biggest drive; over the course of her college career she has taken classes ranging from film studies to psychology, and she just spent a semester studying Arabic in Jordan. Originally from Lithuania, Marta has been fortunate enough to call many places her home. When she is not devouring books, she coordinates and leads campus tours, serves as a proctor in a first-year student dorm, works at the Admissions office as well as helping out at the Registrar&rsquo;s office at Bowdoin. In her free time, she can be found either taking photographs or swing dancing. She can&rsquo;t wait to check out the Berlin lindy hop scene!</span></p>

2013 Spring
Home University:
Bowdoin College
German Language
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