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Classes will start full swing this week, so I’m actually looking forward to having a little more routine! I’m taking my placement exam for my German language course on Monday, so it’ll be interesting to see which class I’m in. I’ve been a little sick the past couple days with a cold, so Friday I got some medicine from the Apotheke today (that’s pharmacy–here you have to buy any over-the-counter medication at a pharmacy, not just at a grocery store), so hopefully that helps. I explained my symptoms to the pharmacist (yes, auf Deutsch!) and she gave me this powdered Bayer aspirin stuff to mix in water and drink. Fun fact: Bayer is manufactured here in Wuppertal!
This past week was actually pretty busy! There is a club here called International Students Team (IST), and, as its name suggests, it is made up of international students here at Wuppertal along with German students who show us around and help us get acquainted with our surroundings. There are students from all over the world: several from Slovakia, several from France, Brazil, Italy, Cuba, Turkey, Romania, Poland, Russia, Singapore, and China. We had a campus tour and pub tour throughout the city on Monday, a city tour and billiard games on Tuesday, a trip to Dusseldorf (a neighboring city) Wednesday evening, and then Thursday evening we all sat at one big table at the Kneipe, the university’s pub, for drinks and conversation.
One interesting thing about hanging out with all of these students is that for the most part, we all speak German with each other, even though it’s not our native language. There are some students that came without knowing hardly any German, so they speak English. Though these students are from all different cultures, I honestly feel like besides the language barrier, we are not that much different. All of us are in the same boat with trying to find our place in another country and culture and trying to organize our lives here. And really, college students are college students wherever you go!
Language continues to be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes I feel really good about my German–I’ve actually had several people tell my German is good, which I’m always surprised to hear, but on the inside, I’m like “Yay!” . But then there are other times when I completely freeze and feel rather incompetent, both in speaking and understanding. Talking with the other international students is always easier, though. First of all, since most of them are still learning, they speak slower, and most also don’t have the wide range of vocabulary that a native speaker has. And I’m not as worried about making a mistake when speaking to a non-native speaker because I know they probably won’t notice as much, if at all. When talking to a native speaker, it’s always clear: they laugh and say, “Du bist süß!” ("You are sweet!” i.e., “You said something wrong and it was funny!"). Of course, I expect such faux pas to occur when learning a language, so all I can do is smile and laugh along with them .
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