Michael Vick ’10 – Looking back at past Rudolph bloggers for guidance has left me with one question: how, amid the jet lag, culture shock, and sheer amazement of actually being in a foreign country, were those men able to write so clearly about their experiences? For me, the experiences of the past few days are still overwhelming. This marks my fifth attempt at writing this blog entry; each time before, I’ve become completely lost in my thoughts.
From the uncertainty I felt when I stepped out of the airport and onto the busy sidewalk of Frankfurt, to the joy of hearing the German language all around me and learning the history of Goettingen, the past few days have been left me with a head full of thoughts and hardly any time to consider them.
Now that I think back to conversations with Wabash students who spent time studying abroad, I realize that I can’t remember a single one talking about how interesting his classes were. Although I can’t complain about the classroom instruction here, I am finding, as others no doubt did, that the experiences that have been most amazing thus far have come outside of class. Whether through conversations with other students, some of whom I must speak with in German since we share no other common language, or while hearing about the city while being showed around by the student workers,
I have encountered cultures and individuals that I never even thought about at home. For example, on the first day of class, I got to know a Libyan doctor who is improving her language skills at the Goethe Institute so that she can work in Germany; a Japanese student, who has been preparing for a test that will allow him to study at a German university, has struck up a conversation with almost every time we’ve seen each other.
Yesterday, during a break in the middle of class, the students shared stories of life in their homelands, their experiences here and elsewhere in Europe, and their hopes for the future. Perhaps the atmosphere here encourages not only conversation to improve one’s ability to speak German, but the sharing of life stories, too.
Although I miss home, I hope that the next seven weeks don’t pass too fast. I’ve walked around Goettingen a little bit each day, but tomorrow will be devoted to visiting the history museum and churches in the city, and if time permits, exploring the monuments scattered through the pedestrian zones and city gardens. This is assuming that I can get around the city, as tomorrow marks the beginning of Mission Olympic, where residents will try to prove that Goettingen is the most sports-oriented city in Germany by participating in a myriad of athletic events ranging from bicycle races to bed jumping.
The Institute offers a day trip to Eisenach, the home city of Bach and place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German; my class will also travel to Goslar, a city whose buildings survived World War II intact and that offers a glimpse of authentic medieval German life. I also plan to visit Paris and Normandy, Berlin, Weimar, and Braunschweig before I have to return home. But for now, it’s time to take another walk around the city and try to digest the experiences of the past few days.
In photos: Top right, This is a glimpse of the front of the "old house" of the Goethe Institute, so named because it occupies the former residence of a textile magnate who sold the estate to the city after the depression in the early 1930s. Most students attend classes in the rooms opening into the Great Hall on the first and second floors, and some students live in the remaining rooms on the second and third floors and in the lower levels of the tower.
Lower Left: Behind the Althaus lies a garden, volleyball court, and shaded pavilions where students can grill out and relax after class.