Book Report: The Once and Future King

Most recently, I finished T.H White’s medieval epic, The Once and Future King. TOFK (1958) is based on Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, and is actually a compilation of several shorter novels, of which the most famous is The Sword in the Stone, which tells the story of a young King Arthur. These novels were originally published from 1938 to 1941, but were edited before being placed in TOFK by White to be more relevant for a post World War II world. As Arthur struggles to comprehend his new kingdom, we are put in the uncomfortable position of comprehending our own world, much like how readers in the forties would have been experiencing a new, war torn society. Other than The Sword in the Stone, I have not read the unedited novels. I am sure they are meaningful and compelling, but bound together in TOFK, they are breathtaking.

 

White manages to achieve quite a particular feat: he winds a complex tale which is at the same time fantastical and painfully human. White’s characters—Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, even Merlyn—are not perfect and nor are they “perfectly imperfect,” as is the trend today. No: these are flawed characters who, despite being centuries removed from us, are totally modern. I read a review that described White as being terrified of what he considered inner sadistic urges (what he felt were “unnatural attractions”). Lancelot can be read as an example of what happens when those terrible urges come to fruition; in a deeper sense, Lance may be read as an extension of White himself. Lancelot wanted to be holy and to be holy, he had to be pure. Because his purity was taken from him, and because he loved Guinevere, he felt that he could no longer be considered holy in the eyes of God. So we then must ask ourselves: when we commit an act that is so untrue to who we are, are we still capable of being a good and just person? May we still consider ourselves worthy? “It is difficult to write about a real person,” White mentions. Indeed, it is. Lancelot is ugly in appearance because he feels ugly inside; as readers we know that he wants to be all that is good and pure and holy, and despite so frequently being glorified, he is, as most of us are, imperfect.

 

The books progress from the lighthearted education of Arthur to him brooding over his impending death and the total war which has consumed his once prosperous kingdom. As a boy, Arthur spent time learning about the world from the perspectives of a variety of creatures—two of his most important encounters however, with the communist, warlike ants and the pacifist swans who lacked nationality, were only added in the revision period for TOFK. These encounters maintain presence in Arthur’s mind as he sorts out the proper way to rule. Arthur is obsessed initially with using might to create right; later he becomes more meditative on the subject of right. There is a whole lot of wrong all around him, coming from Lance and Guinevere, his knights, and even himself. It is difficult to tell when someone is bad and when they have done a bad thing. And “right” becomes more difficult to decide upon, because sometimes the bad thing is the only really human response. Sometimes war is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that killing is good, does it? Considering the influence World War II had on White, we can assume that this is not some abstract philosophy that White wanted to explore. Rather, it was a direct response to human behavior.

 

TOFK is a tragedy. Arthur is going to die, and he is going to lose Guinevere and Lancelot, and a great many others too. Even Merlyn is snatched away from him. We don’t always like to commit ourselves to reading tragedies. This is one that ought to be read. It took me three months to make it through this epic—TOFK is not a book to knock out in a week. Every passage holds meaning, and White is constantly challenging not only the characters but the readers as well, to think about what it means to be human. It doesn’t matter the TOFK is a technically a fantasy novel; White uses enough anachronisms that it becomes a thoroughly modern novel thereby exemplifying how history tends to run in circles. Even after all this time.

 

“If it takes a million years for a fish to become a reptile, has Man, in our few hundred, altered out of recognition?” T.H White, The Once and Future King

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Puzzles (Draft)

The cars in the parking lot below Louisa were playing puzzles. They had tied themselves in a knot, with cars moving in three different directions. One of the cars, a little white one, was backing out of the tiny spot it had earlier slid into, while all around it, other cars of varying shapes and colors drove back and forth and rolled around the lot. Just for the white car to be able to leave, the red car to the left of the spot had to back up and the blue van behind the spot had to back up, causing the red car to pull forward again so as to avoid collision, and then the silver SUV, a goliath of a car, was gently inching forward with the intent of taking the little white car’s spot. Meanwhile, a black car had come into the lot from the opposite entrance and headed a slowly forming line of new cars from this new direction. As the blue car backed up a little more, a cyclist sprung out behind it, and for a second, Louisa held her breath, fearing a crash. The cyclist slipped by, however, seemingly unscathed, and continued on out of the dreadful lot.

 

The lot was shaped like a U, with two little tails, one at either end of the U. It was surrounded by lovely little businesses, and Louisa lived above the Chinese restaurant in a cozy red apartment. From the balcony, and her kitchen windows as well, she had a clear view of the puzzle below. Being a peculiarly warm day in late March, Louisa was riddling the puzzle from her porch. The trees were still bare, and the grass still a sickly brown. She would soon need to buy flowers for the porch, although in due time the bareness around and below her would dissipate. That was a little while away though, as spring tended to hesitate until the end of April to appear. In the meantime, Louisa was puzzling out the knot below. It was not unlike a game she had as a small girl; a little plastic square, and the object was to move around the little plastic cars until a particular red one could get out. But that, Louisa decided, was oversimplifying the matter, for the game had no cyclists or goliaths, or dead trees for that matter, and really, who could ever decide which color car was going to be the lucky one?

 

Beyond the lot were houses, and a park, and a town hall, and a church. A dark alley connected the lot to the main street. People were strolling all about the park, though they left the church alone, it being Saturday and all. What Louisa really found fascinating though were the faces of the people within the cars. They were unlike the people strolling because those people were already free from the constraints of the lot. They would have to go back, of course, to retrieve their cars and return to their own houses and apartments, but unlike the stream of drivers and passengers, they were able to continue with the pleasantries and un-pleasantries of the day. The faces of the people in the cars all told Louisa the same story, and that was what she was really fascinated by.

 

While some of the stuck faces looked a little happier and some a little sadder, they all had the look of apprehension as they peered around for parking spots. Oh, all individuals, undoubtedly, but nevertheless, individuals with a common goal, whose different lives had all decided to converge here, in this lot, on this warm day in late March. Despite all the differences that existed between them, it seemed as though the lot was the world’s greatest equalizer—no small feat, Louisa guessed.

 

She herself was no stranger to difference though.

 

Louisa thought of her life as a whirl, a wonderful spinning pinwheel of days. She was young, of course, in her last year of that exciting institution known as university. Her life, at this moment, was finishing papers and starting papers, waiting for dates, and attending a never-ending array of glittering, drunken parties. Her life was perhaps a pinwheel, but Louisa was, in that case, most certainly the air which set the wheel in motion. She was intelligent and witty and spoke with a gentle, clear voice. And she was beautiful.

 

So Louisa was no stranger to difference. But she was no stranger to sameness, either. It was her second year in that cozy red apartment, the second year living with the same roommates (who had stepped out into the town below), her twenty-first year living in Massachusetts, and her fourth year of peddling about in that small town, walking back and forth to classes. Not unlike the cars in the lot, puzzling about, and not unlike the drivers with those hungry, aching looks, Louisa was searching for something in the familiarity of it all. Where, or what it was, she could not quite say.

 

High above the lot, a hawk flew. Louisa saw it fly. If it were searching for food, she thought somewhat irritably, he had better try the park next door. This lot held no sustenance. A car door slammed below, bringing her back to Earth. From the newly parked white car emerged a family. A father, a tired mother, a boy of perhaps twelve, and a little girl of about seven. The girl was wearing a blue dress and had gold ribbons in her dusty brown hair. She was holding her mother’s hand and looking mournful. Her brother and father were walking some strides ahead when the brother turned and yelled something indistinguishable to the girl, prompting her to turn her little head into her mother’s leg. The mother looked reproachfully at her son who grinned gleefully and skipped backed to his oblivious father. It was a moderately interesting scene, Louisa decided, but of no real concern for within a minute, the family had disappeared into the darkened alley which cut through the pizza place and the art studio and led onto the main street and, with their figures, left their conflict from the lot.

 

Louisa was just about to direct her attention to a green van pulling into the lot when she noticed a glint of gold coming from just before the alley. She squinted. It looked to be a hair ribbon, presumably from the girl who had just left. She was oddly moved, for this was a new puzzle piece which she had not counted on. The cars and spaces were the game pieces and the people the players, but this abandoned ribbon was unplanned for. Even a silly thing like a hair ribbon, Louisa thought, could mean an awful lot to a small girl, and it would be a shame for the child to have lost her pretty belonging. It would be easy, Louisa thought, to descend her red staircase and return the ribbon to the car.

 

But then again.

 

But then again, Louisa thought, the family would be returning from the same alley in only a few hours. This, after all, was not Louisa’s puzzle, and she was not god, no matter how high above the lot she sat.

 

But then again.

 

But then again, here was a chance to muddle with fate. That ribbon was supposed to slip from the girl’s hair. What made the puzzle below so entertaining to Louisa was that it was entirely not hers to sort; the game was watching the cars struggle to park and the dreadful conformity of it all. Still, she couldn’t help but feel a strange desire to involve herself by returning the gold ribbon. Louisa did not like being overly-involved. But she did not like thinking that the girl would cry upon losing her ribbon. Once people left their cars they were supposed to be free again and how horrible it would be, to be free and without happiness. Still, Louisa reasoned, many of those people are free and unhappy. Still, she acknowledged, this was a happiness she could ensure.

 

The green van slipped into a spot next to a yellow car.

 

For a brief moment, Louisa tried to direct her attention to the green van, but it was too late. She had missed a move somewhere, and the puzzle was nearing completion, and a glint of gold from the alley tempted her eyes back towards the ribbon. The glare being unyielding, Louisa made her choice. She descended her red staircase with light and airy steps. She walked calmly past the gray faces inside the cars and crossed the churning lot. The gold of the ribbon shone brightly on the concrete, and Louisa picked it up and returned it to the spotless dashboard of the white car.

 

Satisfied, Louisa drifted back to her apartment stairs and dutifully returned to her porch. The warmth in the air was dissipating now, and the first hint of evening was emerging in the sky. It was time to return inside and attend to her own puzzles. But as her hand grasped the cold metal of the doorknob, Louisa turned to admire her interference in the game below.

 

Her admiration was short-lived. For just as she turned, the street lights below flickered on, casting a light upon the golden ribbon. How brightly it shone from its place upon the dashboard! And then, without warning, a sudden breeze blew past and Louisa heard a noise, not unlike the cutting of a string. When her focus returned to the dashboard, the ribbon was gone, and a hawk was flying overhead with something long and gold and wonderful dangling from its wretched talons.

 

The comings and goings came and went and Louisa watched them all. If anyone in the lot had ever looked up at the red balcony above the Chinese restaurant, they would have seen a bright and beautiful face watching them with glazed and hazy eyes. They didn’t often, but if they did, that’s what they would have seen.

July II: Palma, and the Elegance of the Floppy Hat

“Who clipped the lion’s wings

And flea’d his rump and pared his claws?

Thought Burbank, meditating on time’s ruins and the seven laws.

-Burbank with a Baedeker, Bleistein with a Cigar

 

So writes T.S Elliot in his 1920 poem, “Burbank with a Baedeker, Bleistein with a Cigar.” For those unfamiliar with the poem,  a Baedeker is a kind of tour book. Elliot’s Burbank is a typical tourist, bumbling around Venice with his nose buried in his Baedeker, which he regards as the bible of the city. Safe to say, Elliot does not speak favorably upon Burbank, or, we can assume, other tourists. To Elliot, tourists —especially tourists who content themselves with only common knowledge of the city—ruin the elegance of ancient cities such as Venice. I agree with Elliot to an extent. I firmly believe that spending a whole trip with one’s nose in a guidebook, only going where tourists go and only seeing what is popular to see, is a terrible way to travel. I remember showing my roommates from home Stolpersteine in München and explaining their purpose as holocaust memorials, only for my roommates to respond with, “Wow! I’m surprised our tour guide didn’t tell us that!” There is so much more to any city than the free walking tour, and as tourists, we ought to seek out the little-known corners and restaurants and museums and parks. We should do our best to be respectful visitors with a mission to learn, if not only for ourselves but for a better understanding of the world we live in.

But that being said, I must admit, I do disagree with Mr. Elliot. I believe that being a tourist is a wonderful thing, and when we, as tourists, are anthropologists rather than consumers, we can have a positive impact on the ancient city we are visiting. This weekend I went to Palma,  in Mallorca, Spain. You don’t get much more touristy than that. Specifically, you don’t get much more touristy than me: I came, tote bag in hand, sunscreen slathered from head to toe, complete with a floppy beach hat. The floppy beach hat is a thing of beauty. I packed light when I came to Tübingen, but the floppy hat is a necessity. The perfect floppy hat works in many ways: it shields from the sun, it creates a cute outfit, and it undoubtedly marks you as a tourist. And why not? If you’re going to a beach town like Palma, you are a tourist. I say embrace it. Wear your floppy beach hat. Carry your tote bag. Be the best tourist you can be and get lost and fumble your way through your first Spanish sentence. But remember, that as soon as you put that hat on, everyone will know you are a tourist. So be polite and curious, and put down your Baedeker.

 

 

 

 

 

July I: Heimweh, Fernweh, and a Visit from the Family

The Germans have two words that will resonate with all travelers: Heimweh and Fernweh. Both words stem from the root “Weh,” meaning grief or a soreness. Heimweh tacks on the addition of Heim, meaning home, while Fernweh adds Fern, meaning far or distant. In English, we might say we are homesick, or perhaps that we have wanderlust. These are essentially the meanings of Heimweh and Fernweh but, despite meaning quite literally “home soreness” and “distance soreness,” I find them to be beautiful and more substantial than homesickness and wanderlust. Soreness suggests something deep and profound and internal, something deeply innate to each of us.

Anyways, I was lucky enough that my parents and brother came to visit me this past week! It was my birthday a few days ago, so it was especially nice having them here as it alleviated some Heimweh. My dad isn’t too much of a traveler, so we stayed mostly in and around Tübingen. If you’re wondering what to do with parents and friends that come, here is what we did:

Day 1: Picked up family at the Frankfurt airport. They were pretty jetlagged, so once they checked into the air bnb, we just got dinner at a close-by restaurant (Gaststätte Hirsch in Derendingen, AMAZING) and then they went to bed.

Day 2: Lunch at Ranitzkys in Marktplatz. We mostly walked around the Alt Stadt and went to the Schloss.

Day 3: Schloss Hohenzollern. This castle was breathtaking. I found it so much cooler than Neuschwanstein. To get there: take a train to Hechingen and then a bus runs to the castle twice a day (either the 300 or 305). The bus times are annoying but doable, and super worth it. Also, the Naldo ticket gets you there for free! Castle admission, with no tour, was 7 euros.

Day 4: Bebenhausen! Just as pretty as before! Ratskeller for dinner, also v good!

Day 5: I had class 😦 So my family entertained themselves mostly, and scouted out a museum to see later in the week. Dinner at Neckarmüller.

Day 6: MY BIRTHDAY YAY! After my class, we went to the Ritter Sport Museum and store. The museum was kind of funky modern art, but there was a cool exhibit about chocolate and the store was dope. Vegi for dinner!

Day 7: After my class, we went to the Boxenstop museum. It is a toy and car museum right behind the Uni, on Brunsstraße. I think it’s definitely worth stopping in. The cars aren’t my thing but the toys and miniature dioramas were pretty cool! oh ALSO i ex-matriculated today. It was way easier than I thought- you just print the form, get it stamped at the library, and then head over to the Secretariat. We had dinner at Gaststätte Hirsch again!

I’ll definitely be missing my parents, but I’m off to Palma tomorrow and then home in two and a half weeks! I think I have both Heimweh and Fernweh at the moment!

 

 

June II: Eating

 

I just finished the saddest dinner of sauerkraut, a veggie burger, and hummus. Let me tell you, cooking is not one of the joys of study abroad. I cooked a decent amount this past fall, back at Umass, because I lived off campus, so I thought that cooking while here would be the same. Right? WRONG.

Let’s begin with the fridge. Fridges in Europe are tiny. I share basically a mini fridge with two roommates. We each get a shelf. One shelf. In a mini fridge. That really limits your options, as it turns out. Even though it’s common here to leave juices and eggs outside the fridge, I haven’t been able to bring myself to do that, leaving my shelf a crowded mess. Fortunately, I do have significant non-fridge storage for anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I’ve found that foods tend to be fresher here, but also seem to go bad faster. I try to buy fresh veggies, like zucchinis, broccoli, and spinach, as much as I can, but this does mean more trips to the grocery store. A lot of my friends buy frozen vegetables instead, to try and limit trips. I think though, that smaller but more frequent trips to the grocery store are pretty typical in Germany.

Moving on to the grocery store, while I am lucky that there are two stores in WHO, they are both pretty small. They have all the necessities but can be…lacking in diversity. For example, the “international section” really just has salsa, tortillas, and chili sauce. I literally just found hummus in the WHO edeka after four months of searching. Unfortunately, there were no pitas to be found. Thankfully, there is peanut butter! Also thankfully, the groceries are pretty cheap. For 20-30 Euros, you can be set on food for a week. For a while, I was scared of buying the chicken, because most locals go to a Meztgerei for their meat, but after months of only eating meat at restaurants, I gave up. Most groceries will have a small bakery in the front where you can buy fresh bread, and I would also recommend buying the Bauern Brot or Mampfred das Pause Brot in the store. Wine is also (happily) quite cheap.

Anyways, if you find yourself eating the same meals every day, here is what I usually eat/buy:

Breakfast:

  1. Toast, hard cheese, hard-boiled or fried eggs, fruit
  2. Muesli, milk, and strawberries

Lunch:

  1. Peanut Butter and jelly
  2. fruit
  3. yogurt
  4. some weeks when I’m feeling fancy I buy some cured ham

Dinner:

  1. Pasta with tomato sauce or pesto
    1. I do my best to throw something healthy in there, like chickpeas, zucchinis, spinach, broccoli, or tomatoes
    2. get the gnocchi it takes like two seconds to make
  2. Chicken and rice with broccoli
    1. tzatziki and hummus are great additions
    2. I got lazy and started buying minute rice
    3. couscous is also good
    4. sweet potatoes, also nice

Snacks n Desserts:

  1. The American style cookies, though embarrassing to buy, are literally just chips ahoy aka GREAT
  2. Nutella and rice cakes (or like, just straight from the jar)

 

ALSO here are some German foods I’ve tried and LOVED:

  1. Kaiserschmarrn: thick pancake w cinnamon and sugar and applesauce
  2. Bratwurst: a wurst, common in Biergartens
  3. Knödeln: doughy, steamed potato things? Great w sauerkraut
  4. Sauerkraut: surprisingly good especially with meats and also really, really, healthy
  5. Schnitzel
  6. Kartoffelsalat
  7. Käsespätzle

June I: Baden Baden, Berlin, and Donataul

Hello again! It’s currently the end of the third weekend in June, which means that I have been traveling for four weekends straight! The first week was the week of break, then the weekend after was Baden Baden, then Berlin, then this past weekend I did a Studit trip to Donataul. I am VeRy tired and glad to be done with trips until July. That being said though, Berlin, despite being a last minute trip, was amazing. Definitely, definitely, definitely go. I felt like it was a super important trip to go on. I was only there for two and a half days, but even in that time, I was able to see so much history. It’s really incredible how Berlin has recovered from the War and the Wall while still providing space to reflect and remember those time periods. I recommend doing a free walking tour, the Jewish Museum, and the DDR Museum!

Also, the Studit Trip was pretty cool! They offer different trips throughout the semester and my friends, and I decided to go on the three-day excursion to Donataul! Since the trips are subsidized through the university, they’re fairly cheap. Ours was only 75 euros for three days! The first day was a four-hour hike, the second day was a 21-kilometer canoe trip, and then today was a tour of the Sigmaringen castle! It was great to meet other exchange students and was a good chance to practice some German!

Even though I’ve been so busy, I’ve been feeling pretty homesick. I still love Germany and am so happy to be here and cannot believe how fast time is passing, but to be quite honest, I find myself thinking of home all the time. I think you can be happy to be abroad while being homesick—I don’t exactly feel sad, but I feel ready to go home. I’ve realized I really like the US, which is interesting. I came to Germany with all these negative aspects of life in the US (ex the current political state, monolingualism…) and while my opinions haven’t changed, I’ve started to see all the parts of the states that I love. While I miss my family, I miss the little parts of my life the most, like being able to drive and eat my favorite foods and smell the smells I’m used to. I miss hard ice cream and iced coffee and new music and diners and suburbs. I miss my friends a lot, especially since everyone is finally turning 21 and having parties. I miss being able to work. I REALLY miss my new apartment! My roommates are all moved in!!! Most of all, I miss UMass. As it turns out, I really like American universities. It’s great having all this free time here, but I miss school spirit! I miss Amherst and the red sox and the common bond of being UMass students we all have. I think that while American students are not necessarily friendlier than German students, we just all have things in common that bring us together.

Anyways, I’m working on the homesickness by trying to stay busy, which isn’t too hard, because all of a sudden we have real homework again!!!!

May II: Stocherkahn, München, Salzburg

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Heute war Stocherkahn Rennen tag! Every year, on Corpus Christi (the last of the holidays in the first half of the spring semester) 60 boats filled with students race around the Neckar. Since there’s no school or work, it’s a pretty popular event. The Insel was packed with students and families and beer vendors. There were two events: first, a costume parade, where themed boats paraded around the Insel. The second was the actual race! It was pretty amazing to watch all the boats. This was definitely my favorite event that I’ve come across in Tübingen. It made me miss home in some ways—it reminded me of tailgates at Umass and of the Boston Marathon. We had perfect weather too. My friends and I had brunch together before, which was nice too. Break just ended so it was good to catch up with each other!

For the break, two friends from home came and traveled to Munich and Salzburg with me. Luckily, we had a friend in Munich so our stay there was free. It is a pricey city. I liked Munich, but to be honest, three days was plenty of time to spend there. I’d recommend the Deutsches Museum, the Olympic Stadium, and Marien Platz. The Olympic Stadium at sundown was beautiful and the day we went, there was a free concert! Also while we were there, FC Bayern was celebrating the end of their season or something, and the amount of support the city showed for them was incredible. If you happen to go on a Sunday, I think a bunch of museums (like the Pinakotheks) are only a euro! We also did some day trips; my friend went to Dachau, and I went to Neuschwanstein. Neuschwanstein was so cool! I’d recommend taking the train and buying a Bayern ticket, especially if you’re with friends. There were five of us, and a round-trip ticket to Füssen was only like 10 euros each! Be warned though: if you’re scared of heights, getting that perfect picture of the castle won’t be easy!

We spent four days in Salzburg. I LOVED Salzburg. The sound of music was filmed there and I loved getting to see all of the filming locations. It feels like the city hasn’t changed since the sixties. It was small and quiet and pretty. Our hostel (YoHo Salzburg) screened The Sound of Music every night; it was super fun to watch with like twenty other kids. In the city, I’d recommend the Alt Stadt, the castle, and the Mirabell Gardens. Also, for food, Cafe Fingerlos and The Heart of Joy were perfect brunch spots. Outside of the city, we took two different day trips. My favorite was to Königsee/Berchtesgaden. You can take the 841 bus from Salzburg, it’s about a 45-minute ride. The lake is gorgeous, and it’s also worth the 18 euro boat ride to the other side. Once there, there’s a short hike to another small lake (also STUNNING) and if you keep going, you can get to a waterfall and a place to swim. The other trip was to Mondsee. It was also about a 50-minute bus ride (bus 140). We went to see the church that was used in the sound of Music and ended up also finding AlpenBad—a lakefront area with lots of fun things to climb on in the water. It was only two euros for students and it was lowkey amazing to swim surrounded by the alps. Another note—when you go to Salzburg, be sure to eat some Mozart Kugeln and Sacher Torte 🙂

April II/May I: Heidelberg and Frühlingsfest

31934077_1880292842003890_4811500897903312896_nThree months in, and I am so happy to be here! Each day proves to me that Tübingen was absolutely the right place for me to go. I’m well into classes at this point, although it doesn’t feel like that. It seems like every other week in May has a holiday and out of the four weeks of class we’ve had, only half were full weeks. The lack of homework has also been an adjustment. An easy one, but an adjustment none the less. Because I’m taking three Deutsch als Fremdsprache classes and one English seminar, I do have a consistent amount of homework. Luckily, since each class only meets once a week, I’ve got plenty of time to complete it. My one Vorlesung (lecture) has no homework. If you take a Vorlesung, know that just taking the written exam will only grant you three ECTS. If you have a scholarship, Umass expects you to take 20-30 ECTS, so if you’re only taking five classes and most of them are Vorlesungs, talk to your professor about how to get more ECTS. Usually, they will be pretty understanding. For example, my professor offered me six ECTS if, in addition to the written exam, I write a paper.

Two weekends ago, my friends and I went to Heidelberg! It was lovely, and a super cheap flix bus ride away from Tübingen. Should you go, I’d recommend the Schloss and the Philosophen Weg. The Philosophen Weg is a path that meanders along over the river and has excellent views of the castle and Alt Stadt. It’s also free! The Schloss is also quite cheap with a student ID- only four euros for admission and the ride up! The alt stadt is also worth walking around, and personally, I really liked the zoo. It was 8.50 admission for students. Heidelberg was a perfect weekend trip, but I’m still glad I chose Tübingen– Heidelberg felt much bigger and more spread out. Yesterday, my friends and I went to Frühlingsfest Stuttgart! If you go, I’d recommend buying a group ticket at the train station. It was much cheaper- I think it came out to only 15 euros per person, for a round trip! Take the train to Bad Cannstatt and not HbF. Frühlingsfest was so fun, even without a dirndl! But be warned- it is very expensive. Entry is free, but food, rides, and bier add up fast. We went early in the afternoon, so tents were free and most tables didn’t have reservations until the evening but we still ended up spending a lot more than we planned. If you do go in the evening, make sure you reserve a table (I think it’s like thirty per person?). Even if you go earlier in the day though, there will still be lots of people!

One thing I’ve been struggling with here is the pressure to travel. It seems so easy on social media. I feel like all my friends on other programs have been everywhere, and I’ve barely gone anywhere. It definitely is harder to plan trips on this program, as opposed to others; because we are here into the summer, tourist season has inflated prices. I’m working on reminding myself that it’s ok not to go everywhere. Just being here is an adventure in itself, and there’s nothing wrong with saving money and only going where you really want to go.

 

April I: Start Kurs and Ireland

30688696_1857530440946797_4417369577082512285_nToday is April 19th, which means I’ve been here almost two months! I cannot believe how fast time is passing here. Start Kurs ended about three weeks ago. Classes, however, didn’t start until this week. And even so, only one of my classes actually started this week. That’s one thing that I dislike about the German Uni system- classes here are not all blocked at the same time, and some classes run for only a month with more frequent meetings. I am taking three Deutsch Als Fremdsprache classes, all of which start next week. For my English major, I’m taking a seminar and a Vorlesung. My seminar started this week, and it felt like any other class I’ve taken at Umass. My teacher is a PhD student from New York. The syllabus seems fairly straightforward, with one notable difference. In Germany, different students take classes for different tracks of study. So, not everyone is required to do the same amount, or type, of work. For example, all students in this class must give a presentation, but bachelor students choose whether they write a term paper or give an oral exam. The syllabus explains requirements for all different kinds of students. That being said though, it said nothing about taking the class for a Schein. I had assumed all professors had a standard as to what qualifies as a Schein, but after talking to my teacher, he said I had to tell him what I needed for a Schein. I’m planning on writing a paper because Umass needs something written to review. If you choose an oral exam, be prepared to ask for minutes so that Umass has something tangible to review.

 

Anyways, because you’ll have about two weeks off between Start Kurs and classes, you’ll probably want to travel! My friends and I traveled to Ireland and spent the first week in Tübingen, getting more familiar with the city. Ireland was beautiful and fun- I’d recommend booking a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, but it was quite cold and I’m glad we had that week in Tübingen– I feel as though it really solidified for me that this is where I want to be. The city is absolutely lovely. It’s been warm, about 70 every day. Alles ist grün and there are Blumen everywhere! Coming back from Ireland was so nice; we got off our bus and all we could smell were flowers. One thing I’ve noticed is that the Germans haven’t started wearing shorts yet. At Umass, everyone would be in shorts at the first sign of spring, but not so here. Still, all the students are back now, and everywhere you go is covered with students. My buddy invited me to a picnic in the Alte Botanische Garten, a park on Wilhelmstraße. Tübingen has so many parks and trails, it’s impossible to stay inside!

 

A note about traveling– if you are flying with RyanAir, your ticket might ask for a visa check. When I was coming back from Ireland, my ticket said I needed one, but I didn’t notice until I was boarding. The flight attendant almost turned me away but thankfully let me go on. I was reading about this “visa check” though, and it’s not exactly…legit. Like, it’s not a customs thing. It’s very confusing. And I don’t know what they would have checked, because I didn’t have my residence permit yet (got that today!! When you go back, bring either your leporello or your student ID!!) Anyways, just remember to read your boarding pass. ALSO if you’re flying out of Stuttgart, you can take the 828 from Hauptbahnhof. It’s 5.30 euros I think with your student bus pass. And it goes straight to the airport!