I woke up bright and early Monday morning to head over to the university, ready to start class at 10:15. There was just one slight problem with my plan: I had misread the course catalog, and my first class wasn't until 12:15! So, I waited around the university for two hours before finally going to my first class, Das umstrittene Gedächtnis und Erinnerungen an den Zweiten Weltkrieg nach 1945 in Europa im Vergleich (Memories of WWII in Europe after 1945), which is arguably my most interesting class the entire year here. Not only did the topic intrigue me, but the seminar was split almost exactly in half into two age groups: university students, like myself, and elderly people who lived through the war (most as kids, a couple as teenagers). What better way is there to learn about what really happened than to directly ask the people who experienced it? Also, I was one of three non-German students in the class, so I was getting excited to meet some real German students. This class would also be the most amount of work of any of my classes (long weekly reading assignments, a presentation with a partner that lasted 30 minutes and a 15 page essay in German- more than I've ever written in English!), so it was hard to say after just the first class whether I would continue.
I didn't have any time to waste once that seminar was over. I had half an hour to get to my next class, which is two train stations away, meaning I needed 20-25 minutes just to get there. The class was International Management, which is a lecture taught in English. In running there, I was grateful I knew my friend Alex was also taking the class, so I told him to save me a seat that I could slide into in case I got there late. As I think I want to have a career in business management, I was most excited for this class, and it didn't disappoint. Is the professor spectacular? No. But she lectures well and the class is something I would not have the opportunity to take back at Davis, so even though my original plan was to not take any classes in English this semester, I really couldn't turn this down. So, after two very interesting classes, I went home, excited for the new semester.
Tuesday, I didn't have to go the university, since I hadn't found any classes on Tuesday that interested me. Wednesday, I headed out at 7:30 to go to Internationale Wirtschaftsbedingungen (International Economic Conditions) at the Technical University with Jeffrey, one of the other Californians, who wanted to take an economics class, but wanted an economics major to take it with him so he would have somebody to study with. On the course catalog, the class appeared to be taught at two different times: 8:15-9:45 or 10:15-11:45, and since the second class would conflict with the tutorial section for International Management, I would only be able to go to the first section. The professor walked into the room, stood at the podium, and started talking. Fast. Here was the German professor I was warned about before I left: no PowerPoint, no use of the blackboard, no stopping to ask if there are any questions, not even any notes to read off of! And I was LOST. I had almost no idea what he was talking about. This took place for about ten minutes, before he turned around and drew a supply-and-demand graph on the blackboard and started using the German terminology (which I immediately wrote down on my own graph) to describe what was going on. This happened for about 5 more minutes, of which I understood probably 60-70%. Finally, he stops to pass around the syllabus to the class, at which point we find out it's a master's-level lecture. "If you're a bachelor student or international student, I have no problem with you taking the class. You know your ability better than I do." He went back to lecturing for the next hour, drawing a couple more diagrams on the board, but mostly just standing there and talking more. Thanks to the visual cues, I was able to decently follow along, but it was becoming more and more obvious that I couldn't take the class. I probably could have managed a master's class, I probably could have taken a bachelor's economics class in German, but I couldn't do both. Finally, the time was up, and he said, "Okay, now we have a half-hour break, and I'll meet you upstairs for the second half of the lecture." That was the last bit of information I needed to decide I wasn't going to take it, because of a time conflict.
Jeffrey wanted to check out another class at 10:15. Since the my tutorial didn't start the first week of the semester, and his class would be in English, I tagged along. It wasn't until we got to the class that he told me it was Internet Security. Needless to say, it's not really a topic I have great interest in, but the first half of the class was interesting, as it was a basic overview of the course and included a video explaining the four steps to preventing viruses and worms. (Unfortunately, they forgot Step 0: Buy a Mac.) The second half started talking about specifics and terminology I wasn't familiar with, so I just zoned out.
After grabbing lunch at the Mensa at TU, I headed back to Free University for my last class of the day, Preußens Außenpolitik (Prussian Foreign Policy). This was another history seminar, on a period of time in the region's history that I admittedly know very little about. I know one other person in the class, and there's a total of four exchange students in the class, everyone else is German. Although, on the first day of class, we had to introduce ourselves and say why we were interested in taking the class, and most people said it was because they hadn't learned very much about the time period, so I was glad I wouldn't be too far behind everybody else in the class. I knew pretty quickly that this was a class I was going to take.
Thursday I had my last day of class for the first week, with two of the exchange student classes, similar to most of the classes I took last semester. The first was Frauen, die Geschichte schrieben (Women Who Wrote History), an overview of women who made great contributions to Berlin's history, starting with Queen Luise of Prussia. The professor was quick to point out that this was a history class, not a women's studies class, and yet there is a total of two guys in the class of 35. I knew several people who had had this professor last semester, who all raved about her and how easy and comfortable she makes the atmosphere so that students actually want to speak up. We also have a total of four excursions as part of the class. In addition, it appears to be a rather straight-forward class without a ton of reading. While I wouldn't call it an "Easy-A," it definitely looks like it will be the least amount of work of any of my classes.
Finally, I went to Berlin als Ort der Gegenwartsliteratur (Berlin in Contemporary Literature). Mostly, I decided to go to this class because I knew I need a couple of literature classes for the German major, and was hoping this would count as one of those literature classes. Also, I figured taking a literature class in one of these exchange student classes would be the appropriate level for me, rather than taking a literature class with German students (who could understand the readings a lot more than I could) or taking it at Davis (where I would probably understand the readings more than most of the others). To be honest, the class was nothing too exciting, but it didn't seem like a bad class either, so I didn't dismiss it right away.
By the end of the first week, I found three definite keepers, but still had to decide between the class about World War Two and the literature class. The first one was way more interesting, no question about that, but also a lot more work. The second class would be a lot easier and possibly fulfill a specific requirement for the German major, rather than just be an elective class. It really was a tough decision, and I decided that I would go to both classes for another week or two before making the decision. That ended up being a very smart move, as it quickly gave me my answer. The second week, the professor for the WWII class ran the class 10 minutes late, meaning I barely had enough time to get to International Management. One of the other UC students had the same professor last semester and, although he loved the professor, he said the professor kept the class late more often than not. And so, even though I loved the class, I had to let it go.
And so, my schedule for Summer Semester 2011 is:
Mondays: International Management lecture 14:15-15:45
Tuesdays: No class
Wednesdays: International Management tutorial 10:30-11:30, Prussian Foreign Policy 16:15-17:45
Thursdays: Women Who Wrote History 10:15-11:45, Berlin in Contemporary Literature 12:15-13:45
Fridays: No class
Overall, I'm pleased with my schedule and my classes. But, as always, there's more to life than just classes. I have also taken up squash on Tuesdays, playing with my friend Sara, another exchange student from Italy. And I think I have finally found a sport I'm worse at than bowling! It's fun, though, a great workout, and a good way for me to get up and moving on Tuesdays so I can be productive on my day off.
Another thing to note with my classes this semester, specifically with my International Management class: I'm actually meeting German students, and two of them have told me that I speak German well! One girl sat in front of me during the lecture one week and started asking me a bunch of questions, all in German, about what the professor was saying. Honestly, she was getting on my nerves a bit, but I answered her questions. Then, at the end of the class, I turned to Alex to ask him something in English, and this girl turned around when she heard us talking and said, "Wait, how do you two speak English so well?" When we told her we were exchange students from the US, she told me she thought I was German, because I look German and speak so well! I was grinning like an idiot for the rest of the day. The other time, I went up and introduced myself to somebody in the tutorial and started talking to him in German. When I mentioned I was an exchange student, he said, "Wow, you speak really well! How long did you learn German before coming here?...Two years? Are you crazy?"
Since I started the semester four weeks ago, I quickly realized that my classes this time around will require a lot more work outside of class. And I was complaining about the amount I had to read last semester! But I'm hoping that this will mean less studying at the end of the semester like I did in January.