My classes started around the time students back at Temple were taking midterms. It felt strange to still be going through a more relaxed “syllabus week” while my friends at home were stressing out over papers and tests. I’m coming to an end with my fourth week of classes here at Tübingen Universität. It’s not as if I am in a storm of projects and papers, but I am still starting to feel the stress. I feel I have to study very hard in order to stay caught up with everything. I think it takes me longer to digest everything said in a lecture being that I am studying in a foreign language, but I think I’m also just getting adjusting to the German style of education.
I am taking 6 classes altogether, but only 3 of them I think would be considered “real” German classes. The “real” ones are general university lectures taught in German and attended by anyone from the university. Being that they are lectures, there is of course no emphasis on in-class participation, but I was really surprised that we have absolutely no side work (essays, group presentations). Our grade comes all down to attendance and one big test at the end of the semester. It truly makes me a bit anxious to think I will be expected to completely understand and remember all the course material so that I can bring it together in a test come February. What also surprised me was that professor-student relationships don’t really exist, at least not in the lecture settings that I have experienced. The professors have the job of delivering and analyzing course material and to give suggested reading, but it is expected that you can go forward on your own from there. Where problems arise, you should first seek the answer on your own or ask a classmate. Emailing the professor should be the last resort. Universities are places to learn so to go straight for the answer without doing your own research first would be denying yourself that education. This way you can form your own opinion from your own experience.
The other half of my time, I am in Deutsche als Fremdsprach (or German as a second language) courses. In theses classes, there are about 20 students and most of them I already know from having our earlier 3-week German course together. This makes it so much easier to feel comfortable expressing opinions and asking questions because we recognize that German is a foreign language for all of us. These classes are just like any Temple seminar course. We have weekly homework assignments, we have to write papers, and we have to give presentations. Everything is completed in German, but there is nothing daunting about it. Not only do I feel confident in my Germans skills at this point, but there is also comfort in knowing that all of the other students in class are still learning the language. If I were asked how confident I would feel in a real university seminar, I think I would give a different answer. It also helps that all of my professors are so patient and helpful. They take time for our questions on the material and enjoy explaining German culture to us.
When I talk to my German floor mates, they don’t seem as stressed out as I feel at times. They have plenty of work as well and some are even here to get their master’s or PhD. But it appears that they are more used to finding a balance between classes, homework, and actually living a life with friends. German students are taught self-dependency and organization from a pretty young age. Here at college, my classes meet only once in the week for about two hours. There rest of the week is ours to understand whatever material the professor went over in class and to prepare for the next week. Time management is key for keeping up with everything. I am not trying to get too comfortable thinking about how there are six days between each class to complete my work.
I think the goals of students at all universities are to get a true education, to become an individual with opinions and to be able to handles our responsibilities, but I really feel the pressure here in Germany. I suppose I never realized how helpful weekly assignments and quizzes are to make me familiarize myself with the course content and put it in practice. I think my experiences in Tübingen are weaning me off this dependency and helping me truly take charge of my education.
And below are photos of things I have been doing besides studying! Including two pictures from my recent trip to Croatia.