Everything still feels like a dream to me. I dreamt today that I was back in class, nodding and note-taking my way through socio and psycholinguistics. I floated through a castle full of students, all eager, anxious, animated.
Then I got home, ate a pizza, chilled out to The Office and realised it wasn’t a dream. Did my first day at a foreign university just pass without me knowing? There was very little fan fair but at least the dream was pleasant. And informative, I should add. I don’t often get that in dreams, because my sleepy-time-brain-director is more from the Michael-Bay-explosion-horror-action school of dream-theatre. He’s not that great at creating coherent narratives.
Today was my first day at the University of Mannheim. I’ve wrangled it quite cleverly so my timetable covers only one day (with a bit of spill-over here and there), giving me plenty of time to study, while also keeping up a healthy travelling lifestyle.
It feels really, really strange going back to uni again after such a long break. It really seems like the last time I was doing a full semester of study was a year and half ago (which, if you don’t count internships and media work, isn’t actually far from the truth). Getting back into the general swing of things will take some time, but I can already see my study-primed brain getting fired up and ready to go. I’ve already made twenty or so pages of feverish notes about sociolinguistics and have a lot more to right yet on the topic of eyetracking.
Aaah, I missed study! I’m definitely someone who thrives under academic pressures. I have no idea why, I just like the challenge of collecting, sorting, storing and using information in my noggin’. It feels like constant improvement, a daily challenge that I have set myself but can easily overcome.
With that comes confidence. I can proudly say I don’t get too bad-a grade sheet; something I hope I can keep up while doing the whole “pretentious Aussie tourist in Europe” thang.
So what is up with the University of Mannheim?
Although I have just been taking advanced seminars so far (basically the equivalent of third or fourht year undergrad or first year Masters courses), I think I can say that German courses seem a lot more in-depth and respectful of student intelligence than in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I value greatly Australian education, but here you are shot out of a cannon, expected to right yourself with your own strength and keep on going ’til you explode in a mess at the finish line (read: exam time). It’s good. It’s tough. It’s interesting.
So far the teachers have all been experts in their specific field, which is also a nice change from the understaffed and strained system in Australia, where the rare teacher may not have the greatest grasp of a subject as they could. They all seem friendly and encouraging, but I’m yet to test their patience and understanding… maybe I won’t have to. At least here, where there is a massive exchange student population, they give concessions for all the English speakers and non-natives who aren’t used to the customs.
Speaking of customs, what’s up with the whole thing with drumming the desk with your fists after every class? I mean, I like it (it’s kinda cool and “exotic” to me) but it definitely is strange coming from an Australian perspective. I’ll have to get used to it though. Gotta toughen up my knuckles and be the loudest in the room. GRR. DESK DRUMMING.
The small class sizes are also great, allowing for intimate conversation and special attention to problems, questions and conversations. I doubt the Business school classes (the biggest school in the Uni) would be as small though. After coming from Adelaide, where there is a big Arts focus, to suddenly arrive in a place where there is very little interest in the humanities (comparatively) is another shock. I thought I was definitely going to have trouble getting into some classes but, nope, there aren’t that many of us artsy-fartsy Humanities types.
Another plus about Mannheim is the Mensa. A fucking awesome Vegetarian meal (a WHOLE meal, mind you) for about €2.50? Sounds good to me. Maybe I’ll just go and eat there everyday and finally put some weight back on. (Speaking of which, I’m actually eating much better here than I thought I would, but I’ll get to that in my next part about living in student accommodation!)
The uni itself is, of course, super impressive. Being a castle and all you just can’t help but being a bit dramatic. It’s not quite like studying in Hogwarts, but it’s closer than I’ve ever been. Mix in some really modern and stylish areas, like the Bibliothek at the very top of the castle, and you’ve got yourself a damn nice looking uni.
However, there are ridiculous things, like the chip-card activated lockers which don’t seem to work properly and just seem ridiculously overpriced. €2 for the privilege of putting away your bag and walking through the library to your class? No thanks. Looks like I’m going to have to budget for breathing soon.
Another stinker is the bus. Even during the earliest period of the day the bus from the outskirts is PACKED. Wall to wall, ass to ass. It’s like a can of sard… no, a packet of people stuck inside a sardine sized can. I guess I’ll be riding my bike from now on, at least until the weather decides to turn on me.
Got some homework to do… finally!
Yep. I can’t say I’m proud of it, but I’m happy to finally have some sort of structure in my week again. I think I’ve struck a good balance between life, work and study so far, so I’d like to see if I can keep it up for a good time yet!
This post is getting much too long, much too out-of-control, so I’ll leave it here for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the German/Mannheimer school system once I delve further into it, but tschüss for now! Look after Spaceship Earth while I sleep, friends.