Saturday, 18 June 2016

Year Abroad Series: The What and The Where

Since I announced that the Year Abroad Series is a thing now, I figured I should probably write some stuff for it, and where better to start than telling you about my year abroad?

My year abroad has been spent studying in a city called Erfurt, which is the capital of the state of Thuringia in the east of Germany. Don't worry if you haven't heard of it, no Germans outside the state have either. Erfurt is slap-bang in the middle of Germany and is home to 200,000 people. Its university is simultaneously the oldest and youngest in Germany; it was originally opened in the 15th century but was closed down in the 19th century, not to be reopened until 1994.

So, how did I end up here?

My university offers 3 options when it comes to year abroads: studying, teaching, or working. Originally I wanted to find my own work placement, but a lot of jobs being offered were translating jobs and I wasn't sure that this was something I wanted to be doing. I'd heard that working in a translating job didn't necessarily help you learn your target language, and also did I really want to be coming home from a 40 hour week only to have to work on my essays for my UK university? No I did not, so I ruled working out. (Also, if I'm being completely honest, there was a lot more admin involved in getting a work placement sorted out and I was lazy). By this point, I had already ruled out teaching completely. I kept telling myself that I wanted to be a teacher, but not until I could say I had something interesting with my life, and so I didn't even consider applying for a British Council assistantship - not all too surprisingly, my views on this changed, but I'll leave that for another time. In the end, university was the clear choice - I would be able to take classes that interest me without fearing failure, I would be an exchange student and so would automatically have a group of people I could interact with, and I would be fully immersed in the German language or, more specifically, the casual German language.

Once I'd decided to go to university, I had to choose which one to go to. My university had partnerships with Graz (Austria) and Braunschweig a.k.a. Brunswick in English, Regensburg, and Erfurt (Germany). Austria was out of the question - we all laugh about how different the Austrian variety of German is, but having to then learn new genders and new words for things I thought I already knew the word for?? Nein, danke. I wanted a different university experience to the one I was getting in the UK, so rejected Regensburg for looking exactly the same as York. Braunschweig just didn't appeal to me, so I plonked for Erfurt. Little did I know, in avoiding going to a university that looked exactly like York, I ended up in a city that looked exactly like York. Both cities revolve around a massive church, most streets are unhelpfully cobbled, most buildings look wonky. Erfurt even has its own answer to The Shambles.

Erfurt is beautiful and it is cheap. It is also kind of small. But, it's been a home for me for the last 9 months, so I guess it wins a place somewhere in my heart.
If you guys have any questions about year abroads/my experiences/Germany, tweet me @readabilitea!

Have a wonderful rest of the week all, until the next post!
Zoe