Monthly Archives: June 2013

Everything I Know About Oldenburg Right Now

I’ve done a lot of research (as mentioned before) to try and prepare myself for Life In Oldenburg. Although it feels like I’ve been pretty darn thorough, a person can only do so much. Here are the things I’m certain about as of this moment.

1) They Have A Castle

This is a pretty cool thing to know. I’m always pretty pleased with myself when it turns out the place that I’m going to live has it’s very own castle.

Suck it, Medina.

Suck it, Cleveland.

It just makes you FEEL impressive, you know? Well, maybe not. Nowhere in Ohio has a castle. If you live in Florida, you’ve got that one in Disneyland. But don’t you know that’s inspired by a REAL castle? That’s in, guess where, Germany?

One of these things is so-much-better-than the other...

One of these things is so-much-better-than the other…

Anyway, the Schloss in Oldenburg is yellow and beautiful and is the former residence of many dukes, counts, and grand dukes of Oldenburg. There’s also a very large looking park (according to Google Maps) called the Schlossgarten situated around the castle. Who’s up for some long walks through the ferns and the fauna? This lady.

2) It Is Really Very Necessary To Have A Bike

If there’s one thing I’ve heard from OldenburgerInnen, it’s that a bicycle is the most important thing you can own in this niedersächsische Stadt. My mentor teachers have both brought up getting me a bike, every advertisement I read for WGs emphasized the apartment’s distance from landmarks by bike, and even just reading Wikipedia articles will quickly inform you of the city’s bike-friendly streets and paths.

Like, this isn't just some random picture. This is in front of the main train station in Oldenburg.

Like, this isn’t just some random picture. This is in front of the main train station in Oldenburg.

Thankfully, one of my teachers has assured me that she’ll organize a bike for me. I’m very grateful, because if I don’t have one, I don’t know if they’ll let me outside.

3) Something Called Woyton Seems To Be Popular

It looks like it’s some kind of coffee shop, and I’m pretty sure it’s a chain, but whenever I look at the #oldenburg hashtag on Instagram, there’s bound to be at least one picture tagged at a “Woyton” location.

Something's off about this guy.

Something’s off about this guy.

Preliminary research leads me to believe that one can procure caffeinated beverages at these locations, but only time will tell. Maybe I’ll find myself in a Woyton myself in a few months, Instagramming away, pictures of me and my new German friends.

Or maybe it’s a kind of temp agency that finds people to run errands for office professionals. I can see that being a thing in Germany.

4) There Are A Lot Of People That Ride Horses In The Area

Again, this one’s thanks to Instagram.

Check out that #oldenburg hashtag, I swear it’s just pictures of coffee and horses.

Maybe this is a testament to the lack-of-Alps in the area (something I will surely miss about Salzburg).

Google "Oldenburg Pferd" and there's a MILLION horses.

Google “Oldenburg Pferd” and there’s a MILLION horses.

It’s also entirely possible that there’s a kind of horse called “Oldenburg,” and that I’m just an idiot.

5) We Don’t Need To Worry, There’s An App For That

One final discovery that I’ve made in my Oldenburg-research is perhaps the most significant if you live in this smartphone-centric world of ours and never put your phone down for fear of missing an email that tells you you’ve just gotten a new follower on your blog…

Anyway, there are at least TWO apps specifically for Oldenburg. Two! They both have something or other to do with helping to locate good shopping, dining, et. al in the city, and I’ve downloaded both of them.

guteadressen

This one seems to tell you that all businesses NOT included on the list are an absolute waste of your precious time.

Yeah, put me on that plane. I think I’m good to go.

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How to Change the Course of Your Entire Life

My path to learning German has been a long, winding, arduous, frustrating, and unexpected one.

Something kind of like this, without the sheep for comfort.

Something kind of like this, without the sheep for comfort.

And because I’d like a distraction from the things weighing on my mind right now, I’m going to share the story of that impossible journey with you, whoever happens to read this post.

There was a time in my childhood when I became obsessed with learning a foreign language. It’s probably a weird goal for a ten-year-old to have, but I was always a little more “wrap-your-arm-in-a-fake-cast-made-of-masking-tape-and-napkins-for-two-days” than “play-tea-party,” anyway.

My elementary school started us on Spanish in kindergarten, something I’ve learned to appreciate from talking to friends that grew up in different areas or at public schools. Most kids seem to have started a foreign language in middle school– theoretically, I had a good six years on those losers! Unfortunately, the quality of my Spanish language education from kindergarten until fifth grade was, how can I say this… sub-par. I learned nothing. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade: better, but not by much.

During this time period (ages 10-14), I’d decided on several different occasions to take the reigns from my less-than-capable Spanish teachers and start guiding my foreign-language-pony in a different direction… say, due west, over to Japan. Or across the Atlantic, France or Bust! My freshman year of high school I was reallytrulyhonestly almost serious about learning Gaelic, something I’d figured was probably in my veins, anyway.

Pretend that's a picture of me, and pretend I'm actively trying to learn three of those different languages. GO!

Pretend that’s a picture of me, and pretend I’m actively trying to learn three of those different languages. GO!

Do I even really need to tell you how well that turned out? No? Okay. Fast forward to the second half of my freshman year. Gaelic’s out, I’m taking Spanish I to get my language credit, but it’s sticking about as well as my “Spanish class name” of Graciela (I was later known as Violeta, Alegra, and Violeta again).

Cue life-changing moment: Traditionally, my school hosted German exchange students every year. We didn’t offer German classes, hadn’t since the 80s (we are a very small institution), but the exchange students had stayed around. Luckily for my parents, along with always dreaming of learning a foreign language, since age 10 I’d also dreamt of a foreign sister, flying in from far-away-and-abroad to impart me with cultural knowledge and understanding. Mom and Dad couldn’t say no. Opportunity? A-risen.

Maike entered our home in 2006 and very literally changed everything about the course that my life was on. Becoming so close with someone from another country made the idea of learning THAT language a permanent sticky-note in my brain. I wanted to learn German, and I wanted to learn it NOW.

Sadly, as previously mentioned, there was no German class offered at my school. In the meantime, Maike returned the following year to stay with our family again, and that summer before my junior year of high school, I lived with her family in Germany for a month. It was then that I became an addict. I’d gotten a taste of Europe and was jonesing for it for the next four years.

Before my senior year and after returning from Germany, my obsession had reached a peak. I was no longer content with taking Spanish, a language I’d been studying for, what, twelve years, and could still barely hold the simplest of conversations in. German was a part of my life now, and I was determined to make it mine. I petitioned my school administration and convinced them to offer a German I class as an elective for seniors the following year.

That's me, upon entering my first German class.

That’s me, upon entering my first German class.

Hooray! I’ve succeeded in learning barely anything about the German language in a total of three years. Moving on to college…

I decided to forgo taking a language my freshman year in college and planned on taking German as a sophomore. I could have never guessed that taking that year off would be the best decision I could ever make.

The first day of German 111 in the fall of 2010, I learned about a program that my university’s German department offered, where you could earn credit for two years of German in a single quarter studying abroad. I’d need to take 111 that fall, 112 in the winter, and would take 113, 211, 212, and 213 in the spring in Salzburg, Austria.

At the time, my goal was to graduate in three years, which I was on the path to do, easily. I figured getting my language requirement out of the way in only one year would only help me to fulfill my goal that much quicker. So, I signed up for the program (rather last-minute, now that I think about it), and it helped that I also had a weird, deeply-seeded love of German and Germany driving my actions.

My 10 weeks in Austria changed everything about college for me. The following fall, junior year, I had more friends than ever before, I’d become ridiculously close with the people on my program, I’d learned so much about myself, Austria, and German, and, oh yeah, I’d added German as a second major.

I'm kind of like, way too into this stuff.

I’m kind of like, way too into this stuff.

Continuing on, I decided to apply for a Fulbright in Germany. A few of my friends had done it successfully and I figured, you know what? Why not me, too? I became Vice President of both the German Club and Delta Phi Alpha, the German major honor society, alongside my best friend, fellow Fulbright Grantee, and Salzburg roommate, Ashley, the Präsidentin herself.

Everything I’d thought I knew about myself, my goals, and my ambitions was flipped on it’s head from just a year before. How exciting was that!? And, lo and behold, another surprise comes rolling in: I’ve been picked to be the teaching assistant on the 2013 Salzburg program. I was selected to do it ALL. OVER. AGAIN.

I got back to the USA what seems like just a few weeks ago, at the end of April, from this second trip to Salzburg. While there, I learned that I’d received the Fulbright Grant, as well as a teaching assistant position in Austria. I’m still rather shocked about the things that have happened these past few years in my life. I stayed in college all four years in order to double major in German, I became friends with people I’d never have met any other way, I will be living abroad for the next year in the lovely-looking Oldenburg, surrounded by things and places that I love an unhealthy amount… I could never have asked for anything more.

Except for maybe the Dirndl. That might actually be the best part.

Me and Ashley. Super cute, I know.

Me and Ashley. Super cute, I know.

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Internet Overdose

So far this summer, most of my time has been spent on the internet. Looking for apartments, researching Oldenburg/Cloppenburg, trying to figure out the best options for train travel, looking at pictures of my school, obsessing over the Germany ETA Fulbright Facebook group (both a life-saver and a time-waster), mapping distances between me and Ashley, me and Salzburg, me and Berlin, me and everywhere…

Basically I’ve been on the computer for a straight month now.

Did I mention "eating and breathing" the computer, as well?

Did I mention “eating and breathing” the computer, as well?

And ever since I found out where I’d be living for the next ten months, I’ve been getting emails from my mentor teachers, as well (which is really not helping with the computer-attached-to-the-hip-thing, as you might imagine).

Both of them have been so helpful thus far, and I really cannot wait to meet them in person. One has offered to arrange getting a bike for me, the other asked colleagues and friends about the best train options for me. I’m constantly being floored by the willingness of complete strangers to help me set up a life, solely because I’m a little baby American girl moving to a foreign country in under two months.

Sup, guys. Can I get a diaper change up in here?

Sup, guys. Can I get a diaper change up in here?

And yet, I still have MORE questions, MORE concerns, MORE worries. I’m hoping I don’t overload these kind people with my neuroses bred by too much internet access. I need to take a step back, I think, and accept that everything will WORK OUT, and just because I have all this spare time, doesn’t mean that every single loose end of my new life needs to be tied up eight weeks prior to it beginning.

There’s something fun about walking into situations a little unprepared, anyway, isn’t there? Not utterly unprepared, of course. I’m glad I’ve got a place to live, at least. That’s one thing I can thank this obsession for. But it’s kind of exciting to think about all that I will still have to arrange upon arrival. Scary, yeah. Daunting, for sure. Did I just say it was exciting…? Yes, okay, I did. It will be.

I’ll just keep telling myself that.

(And keep all these wonderful, helpful people in my back pocket for the next few weeks, like a tailored-to-me version of Google for everything and anything I may want to know about my upcoming German life.)

Thanks, everyone else!

Thanks, everyone else!

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Problem gelöst!

BREAKING NEWS: I think I’ve solved my transportation problem.

I’ve been having minor panic attacks these past few weeks about the cost of transportation between Oldenburg and Cloppenburg. I’ll have to go back and forth, at least four times a week, I’m thinking, and a one-way ticket costs around $10.

Now, I’m going to buy a BahnCard, something that gives at least 50% discounts on tickets whenever you buy them. That sounds great, but that still brings the weekly cost of my commute to like $40. Not ideal.

My life, ohne SemesterTicket.

My life, ohne SemesterTicket.

If I was in almost any OTHER Bundesland in Germany besides Niedersachsen, this whole problem could have been fixed by enrolling in a university and therefore getting a SemesterTicket. Price: About $200 for six months of unlimited transportation in the region.

HOWEVER, lucky lucky me can’t get that through the University in Oldenburg, because in Niedersachsen, students pay tuition, and cost of enrolling skyrockets up to about $900.

CUE SOLUTION!

I realized: I can enroll at the University in Bremen, an hour from Oldenburg! Bremen is it’s own Bundesland, and there’s no tuition in Bremen!

I can have a SemesterTicket! And just LOOK where it’ll get me.

ALL AROUND THE BUNDESLAND IN 180 DAYS!

ALL AROUND THE BUNDESLAND IN 180 DAYS!

I can stop emailing German train companies, bothering the Fulbright people, and pestering my mentor teachers with unending questions about ticket prices.

I AM A FREE WOMAN. Bremen, you are my saving grace.

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Pre-Travel

The worst kind of limbo.

I’m not sure what more I can do to prepare for this trip. I’ve gotten my Bundesland placement (Niedersachsen), my school placement (in Cloppenburg), and an apartment in my city (Oldenburg). I’m trying to keep up on my German, listening to German music in my car, watching German TV shows (specifically Türkisch für Anfänger— fantastic), reading German books (Die Welt von Gestern is still goin’ strong), having German conversations aloud with myself… I’ve also purchased a German grammar review workbook. Oh hey summer 2013!

There’s also the two books I’ve read about living in Germany… god, I’m a little neurotic lately.

Since finding out I’d received a spot as a Fulbright ETA in Germany for 2013-2014, all I can think about is German. It’s not much of a change, really, when I think about it. I’ve spent the past three years thinking of almost nothing but German, so, why should post-college be any different?

It never ends, kid.

It never ends, kid.

I spent 25 weeks total of those past three years living and learning in Salzburg, Austria. The first 10 of those encouraged me to pursue a double major (adding German to my first major, creative writing). I’ve taken class upon class upon class about grammar, literature, conversation, history…

And it’s never ending! But I wouldn’t want that, anyway.

This pre-travel life of mine is leading up to the most learning I will ever do. Here’s to the next 12 months!

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