Spring is finally here! This weekend, the temperature has risen, the sun has come out, and the birds are chirping. Here in Germany, we had our time change this morning (the EU is currently working on doing away with daylight savings time). It's been nearly two weeks since I arrived in Germany and I have been quite busy getting settled and getting stuff done for the university before classes begin April 1st.
This past week was Welcome Week for international students so we had several orientations, meetings, tours, hangouts, etc. It was a great way to meet new people and learn more about the university and the city before classes begin. I also got to meet and hang out with other students from my program and faculty. Just during Welcome Week alone, I have already met people from 24 countries (Canada, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, England, Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, and Germany of course).
I will be quite busy this semester with six classes: Business Planning, Multicultural and Interactive Marketing Communication, Marketing Methods & Analysis, Consumer Behavior, Population and Family Economics, and International Technology, Innovation, and Marketing Management. My master's program is a full-time program so they said to expect to put in 40 hours per week. The German education system is quite different than in the USA. Some examples of this are:
- 1.0 is the highest score (4.0 and above is passing)
- They don't "baby" you as much in the USA. They expect you to be resourceful and figure things out on your own
- For the most part, the final exam (or final project or paper) is what determines if you fail or pass the class. There isn't a ton of assignments, quizzes, and tests throughout the semester
- Typically you don't have to register for regular lectures. You just go to the classes you want or need and then at some point there is an exam registration period and you sign up for the exams of the classes you're going to take. If you don't pass or show up for the final exam, you fail that class
- Tuition costs (if any) are much cheaper (higher taxes though)
Since my program is entirely in English, learning German isn't critical. However, it definitely helps if you speak German and I am here so, why not? While it's true almost the entire younger generations of Germany (and many in the older generations too) are fluent in English, German is what they use on a daily basis. In Berlin, I found that they would switch to English when they realized you were a foreigner, but here so far, I haven't had anyone switch to English.
The six months prior to coming to Germany, I started to study German on my own. Some of the programs and tools I used were:
- Rosetta Stone: It's the big name in the language-learning world and it definitely helps you learn the basics, but you definitely won't get anywhere near fluent just from Rosetta Stone.
- Duolingo: With over 300 million global users, Duolingo is very popular for mobile users. It is completely free and has courses in over 24 languages. The app is very user-friendly and there are a variety of topics and themes. (Google Play | App Store)
- Drops: While I used the two previous programs to also learn Spanish and Portuguese, I discovered Drops while learning German. It's a free mobile app that you can download and it helps with learning vocabulary. You get between 5 and 10 minutes free a day and it's a fun, quick way to learn new vocabulary. (Google Play | App Store)
- Netflix: Watching movies and shows in the language you're trying to learn is a great way to learn. It's best if you listen to it in the foreign language. As far as subtitles go, it's really a personal preference. If you know the movie good enough, you can watch without subtitles and know what they're saying. I also recently found a Google Chrome Extension that I really like! Language Learning with Netflix allows you to have two sets of subtitles display at the same time. It also has other optional features such as "Auto-pause" which automatically pauses the movie after each subtitle so that you have more time to look at the subtitles.
- Friends: Since I had several German friends prior to coming, I was able to speak with them and ask them questions. Now that I am living in Germany, I have a ton of German-speakers that can help me.
Thus far, German has been the hardest language for me to learn. From 2007 to 2015 I learned Spanish in high school and college and then from 2016 to 2018, I switched to Portuguese. Going from Spanish to Portuguese was an easy transition due to the many similarities. German, however, is completely different. While it is more similar to English than Spanish and Portuguese are, my brain and mouth are having a hard time. Portuguese is still my strongest foreign language so currently I default to speaking Portuguese and am speaking a mixture of German and Portuguese.