Archive for May, 2012

My First Two Months in Deutschland…

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Let’s start at the very beginning (from the lyrics of the Sound of Music). The first time I have overslept on my European adventure was when I was suppose to be at the airport for a 6:30am flight. I got to the airport at 6 when boarding normally starts. The employee gave me a lecture on how I was suppose to already be at the gate. The plus side of arriving late was that I got to have an extra carry-on bag. The down side was that I had to run through Heathrow since things would have been too easy if I could have flown from gate one. I had an overpacked duffel bag that and my regular carry-on bag. I was sweating once I got to the gate and realized the plane was not boarding yet so I causally took a seat. I waited another ten minutes to board. I could have leisurely walked to my gate. Oh, well.

view of Erfurt

Once I got into Frankfurt, I had to figure out how to find the train station, which was not bad since someone uploaded a youtube video of the walk, and buy my ticket. During my two hour and half train ride, the culture shock hit in. I have not really felt culture shock before since I normally just go to countries whose first language is not English for a couple of days and as a tourist. I realized I do not really understand what anyone around me is saying or even the announcements that they make. I do have a normally pretty positive attitude and I am pretty active person so this feeling of culture shock made me a bit more depressed. I guess the culture shock lasted for about a week. I could not eat much (not even chips/french fries) the first couple of days because I was very stressed about everything and relied heavily on my tutor. The Universität Erfurt pairs you up with German student or two that shows you around Erfurt. They normally help you with paperwork and all the bureaucratic things which always confuses me in English. Mine was extremely helpful, especially when I was not so internally freaking out about everything. My American roommate who was a study aboard student here last year is now interning here and has helped me immensely. I have also come to the realization that I just do not have a knack for picking up languages, since it mostly involves remembering words, which as always been one of my shortcomings. I have that problem in English as well as mispronouncing words constantly. These are not useful talents to have when living in a country that speaks a language you have been learning for a year or so. I have ran into a couple of problems whether it has been my accent or I am butchering their language very well but there have been quite a few times when the people in Erfurt could not understand what I am saying.

The cathedral in Erfurt. I went to Easter mass there!

I knew the first couple of weeks were rough with my German skills but after the preparatory course and being here for a month, I thought I was getting the hang of things. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I had a problem ordering chips/french fries auf Deutsch: Ich möchte pommes frites. I had to repeat pommes frites several times before the waiter understood. I had problems letting the bank employees know that I want to open a bank account. Many people do speak English, and the international students will use English as their primary language or the language to clarify any confusion. I have always known Europeans (not really including the British on this one) have been excellent with languages, and it is very intimidating meeting people who can speak five languages when I struggle with the English language at times. I also think English speakers can feel (and I will admit at times I do agree this sentiment at times) we do not need to learn other languages since many people are willing and do learn English. This is a depressing thought but it does have an element of truth since many people that I have met will learn their native language and then English. Who knows how long English will last as a connecting language but I do have a feeling that our media and Hollywood definitely have an influence. Everyone knows so much about our celebrities, movies, and  music whereas I sometimes cannot even think of one famous celebrity from some of the international students’ countries. This makes me feel guilty that I do not know much about their culture as well as not speaking German well enough. I did no want to be a typical American study aboard student but I feel at times I am exactly that, and I guess that was why I did not enjoy the beginning of my study aboard experience because I felt guilty about my limited German and a bit sad about how much I am missing back in American: my siblings’ prom, their graduation, my friends, Chipotle, and an actual summer. At the same time, I am loving Europe. Sometimes, I feel that I do not really connect with Germany but I am enjoying the country more than I did the first two months. I surprisingly missed German and Erfurt when I took a weekend trip to Milan so I hope Germany and I are on better terms now!

Familiar Faces ;p

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Good morning!
It's been quite the week! I balanced out getting two finals (Portuguese & Geopolitque) out of the way with a visit from two of my dearest friends: Karen and Shay <3
When Tuesday morning came I was like a kid on Christmas morning - I could not wait to spring out of bed and get to CDG and start showing the girls around Paris!!!

they felt inspired ;p
reunited &  it feels so good!
It was kind of surreal having my best friends here in Paris with me because so often I feel as though my  the life I've created for myself ere in Paris is suspended in time from my life back home - if that makes sense. what I mean is that for the past 4 and a half months I've been in a separate world altogether that is hard for me to explain to my loved ones back home because things in Paris are so very different you have to experience them for yourself. So while I'm going busy occupying myself in Paris, things back home seem through the window of skype and facebook to be the same. I felt as though having the girls here, was bringing my life from home into my life in Paris and that somehow made my presence here feel more concrete or real and not just as if I'm off in some imaginary land far from home. I'm not sure that makes sense but I know its just how I feel.
My friends from home also got to meet my friends from Paris, it was interesting seeing the two getting to know each other and I'm glad we all had a great time! 
I'm glad the girls could see for themselves just what living in Paris as a student on exchange is like...
My everyday hike home via Karen's iPhone---oh how I am dreading moving out :/

Exploring Paris with the girls...

after visiting a vintage store near Montmartre 

Mouline Rouge! 
my fav! Notre Dame
you can always find wedding pics being snapped by Alexandre III bridge - so cute! 


Besides the usual sightseeing Karen and I got to relax and indulge in one of our favorite things to do together--go to the movies!! We decided to go see The Avengers after Karen was shocked that I had not heard of the immense success it has been in the states----I've been gone too long haha! I'm glad we went though -- it was so good!!! I can't wait to check out more of the summer blockbusters back home ;p
I'm grateful to have had the girls here for the week and share Paris with them. They're both on their way home but it wasn't a sad goodbye because I will be home in just 1 month and 2 weeks and I know it's gonna be hard to say bye to Paris. 

Saturday during the day I met up with my friend Danielle to go see the Catacombs! Except when we got there the wait was 2 1/2 hrs - yeah that was not happening. So instead we made plans to come early in the morning this week since Danielle is going home Thursday. Some students are already heading back home and it's kind of weird seeing some people already picking up their lives here and heading back home. In any case, we decided to do some wondering and came across the Montsouris parc ...

It was an absolutely adorable parc and I love come across new findings like this in Paris. Wandering is the best way to get to know the city. 

I'm lucky though to soon have another really good friend here with me soon enough. My lovely friend Nicole will be arriving from London by train today and I plan on meeting her this evening. Nicole will be here for about a week and we're both so excited! 

last fall - we're kind of inseparable ;p
It's also a very exciting week because I will have my very last 3 finals Thursday. I do not have classes for the rest of the week so until Thursday rolls around I will be preparing for those last exams in my spare time.
Hoping you have a great week,
Liz :)

P.S.

Here's something I realized the other day while editing a literature paper: in English we use the word consume both figuratively and literally yet, in French consommer is used in the literal sense whereas consumer is used to mean more figuratively to consume or burn up. I had never realized there was such a difference and thought it interesting that in French they have created two different words entirely to distinguish the poetic employment of the word from normal use. (french major nerd moment ;p haha! ) 















Lessons from my Internship (Two Months later)

Friday, May 18th, 2012

My internship was an awesome experience that kept me busy and put me into contact with   some people. Through my internship, I met one of the organizers of Balkans Peace Park Project (http://www.balkanspeacepark.org/) and will be volunteering with them in August which means I will be going to Albania! I am a bit terrified since everyone keeps joking about “don’t get taken” so hopefully that will not happen. This program has been operating for a couple of years so I have no doubt that everything will run smoothly. While making contacts, I also learned much about myself through my internship. One of my tasks was to transcribe the interviews for one the research projects that my employers were organizing.  I realized I was not as great of a listener as I should be. I would always get the gist of what the people were saying but not their exact wording so I would always have to go back and listen a couple of times to make sure I got everything correct. In addition to transcribing, I sat in on lectures about Responsible Tourism, and I understand most of the varying perspectives on tourism and its effects (negative and positive) on the local community. I was surprised that I actually enjoyed learning about this area since I have been mostly focusing on politics and international relations so this subject material was a nice change. I am not quite sure if I will have a future in the tourism sector but I think this is one of the upcoming fields to study. I also helped research for a chapter in a book that will be published, and I might get recognized! If that happens, this will be the second time I have been published! Lastly, I helped organized a day seminar, which was very successful! I would like to thank my employers and coworkers for their support, patience, and knowledge. I had a fabulous time working with you guys!

My desk

Black 기분

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Ugh.

This week. This week.

My 기분 has been weird all week, and throughout the day as my thoughts continue to brew in my head, they just get darker and darker, and more bitter. Nothing tremendously bad happened, but it’s a black 기분 day, and it doesn’t take a lot on these types of days to make me upset.

The day started with an uneasy feeling, and I accidentally prepared the wrong lesson for one of my classes. I managed to realize and correct my mistake before the students noticed, but it still threw me off balance. I then went to teach my favorite class (2.5) and at the end of class I heard that for Sports Day they had given the German teacher a class jersey to wear. Now. The German teacher and I have a strange relationship, one I’ve been meaning to blog about, but suffice to say I’m not pleased. They then asked me which class’s jersey I was going to wear. No one’s, that’s who. They then looked kind of guilty, and told me that next year they’d give me a jersey, and I told them that next year I wouldn’t be their teacher. I didn’t mean to guilt trip them, that wasn’t my intention at all – I was just stating a fact. However, it’s always been a dream of mine to get a Sports Day jersey, and I’m 0 for 2. It doesn’t help that the German teacher’s been at CP for half the time I have.

Then I went onto 2.10 who after a week full of teaching never really stick out in my mind. They’re one of the classes that if you ask me to describe them, I just can’t really think of anything to say. Terrible, I know, but when you teach 24 individual classes sometimes the details blur. They were just the icing on my terrible cake-of-a-week. Not super bad in and of themselves, but fidgety, consistently talking, and sleeping. There was a quartet in the back that were especially bad – while what they were doing was perhaps no worse than any of the other students’ actions, they weren’t attempting to hide their actions.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all third Spiderman movie on you (see, I can still make jokes. The true tragedy in that movie is that Peter Parker takes himself too seriously), plenty of good has happened today as well. I just need to accept this black 기분 for a little longer, and then let it disperse.

The eagle has landed.

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Last night at around 9 o’clock at night I landed at Dulles International Airport, officially marking the end of my study abroad adventure. My last weekend in Prague was uneventful in a good way. I walked to all of the sites I cared to see and did some shopping too. I’m glad I waited until the very end of my trip to see the sites because I could appreciate everything with “experienced” eyes and laugh at all the Russian Matryoshka dolls (will post picture if you have no idea what I mean) inside the souvenir shops. Fyi, they have nothing to do with Prague or the Czech Republic. A wave of nostalgia hit me hard the night before leaving as I packed and cleaned up in the room, I had to pack all the gifts I bought for friends and family and in doing so I relived the memories of my trips, nights out, and too much drinking. This trip became more than I could imagine, without a doubt, I know I learned more outside of the classroom than in it, I got used to making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, and having to navigate cities without any knowledge of the language. After close to five months in Prague, I left with an understanding of basic phrases “hello” “yes/no” “thank you” and the most frequently used word in my vocabulary “sorry”. I can read and understand the menu (usually) and I can count (sort of). Since I only took two weeks of intensive Czech at the beginning of the program all of the “useless” stuff has been forgotten now. I made it by with just the essential knowledge necessary for my everyday needs, for everything else Google translator would have to do. I will surely miss that crazy language though.

By the time I got home yesterday I was running on about 4 hours of sleep and was going on 24 hours of being awake. I was tired and homesick for Prague…and I just keep thinking about how I will deal with the reverse culture shock. I’m a mega worrywart and even though I’ve been home less than 24 hours  “real life” has really started to sink in and I’m in a panic! Does UMW have a “post study abroad” self help group? I think I might need to start one.

Na shledanou Praha. (Goodbye Prague)

 

The eagle has landed.

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Last night at around 9 o’clock at night I landed at Dulles International Airport, officially marking the end of my study abroad adventure. My last weekend in Prague was uneventful in a good way. I walked to all of the sites I cared to see and did some shopping too. I’m glad I waited until the very end of my trip to see the sites because I could appreciate everything with “experienced” eyes and laugh at all the Russian Matryoshka dolls (will post picture if you have no idea what I mean) inside the souvenir shops. Fyi, they have nothing to do with Prague or the Czech Republic. A wave of nostalgia hit me hard the night before leaving as I packed and cleaned up in the room, I had to pack all the gifts I bought for friends and family and in doing so I relived the memories of my trips, nights out, and too much drinking. This trip became more than I could imagine, without a doubt, I know I learned more outside of the classroom than in it, I got used to making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, and having to navigate cities without any knowledge of the language. After close to five months in Prague, I left with an understanding of basic phrases “hello” “yes/no” “thank you” and the most frequently used word in my vocabulary “sorry”. I can read and understand the menu (usually) and I can count (sort of). Since I only took two weeks of intensive Czech at the beginning of the program all of the “useless” stuff has been forgotten now. I made it by with just the essential knowledge necessary for my everyday needs, for everything else Google translator would have to do. I will surely miss that crazy language though.

By the time I got home yesterday I was running on about 4 hours of sleep and was going on 24 hours of being awake. I was tired and homesick for Prague…and I just keep thinking about how I will deal with the reverse culture shock. I’m a mega worrywart and even though I’ve been home less than 24 hours  “real life” has really started to sink in and I’m in a panic! Does UMW have a “post study abroad” self help group? I think I might need to start one.

Na shledanou Praha. (Goodbye Prague)

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I belong!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Well, on the school’s computer network at least.

In most (I hesitate to say “all” because though I’ve never heard of a school without it, who really knows) Korean schools there is something called “Cool Messenger.” It’s on every computer, and works as an inter-school messaging system. Random cancellation? Send out a cool message. 4th and 6th period classes are being switched? Send out a cool message. Need to talk to the 2.7 homeroom teacher about one of your problem students? Send out a cool message. It’s a great tool for spreading information quickly – but it sucks if you can’t understand Korean, or if your computer isn’t hooked up to Cool Messenger.

About a month ago when the computer teacher installed printer software onto my computer he noticed I didn’t have Cool Messenger, and checked up on why. Apparently the foreign-teacher computer has never been hooked up to Cool Messenger because since I’m F*bright and not EPIK, I’m not on the Board of Education’s “Teacher at CP” list and while there’s nothing illegal about me being here, they still don’t want to get into a strange bureaucratic tangle. I accepted that I’d never be cool enough to join Cool Messenger, shed a silent tear, and moved on.

Well, cry no more, foreign teacher! Today after my 2nd period class I came back to my desk and my co-teacher told me that the computer teacher had spent awhile looking into the regulations, and how Cool Messenger works, and because it’s just a inter-school system, there shouldn’t be a problem with putting me on it. So now there’s a little icon that says “Emily” on it that people can message at will! I still haven’t gotten a message, but, it’s nice to know that I could. Potentially. Possibly. Perhaps. Probably not though.

Tuesday

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Interesting news today.  My friends and I have been nervously joking about it. (“Do you want to grab food, oh wait, can’t really afford to be seen with any other foreigners right now.”) We’ll see how it plays out. I’ll keep you updated if CENSORED. Just kidding ha ha ha?

Not a whole lot is new with me. I’ve been constantly coming up with new games to play with my students. My latest is to bring in my alarm clock, and set the alarm one minute ahead. Then we play hot potato while saying the days of the week, months of the year, seasons, etc. The game was up when they figured out how to disable the alarm really subtly, without me noticing. (I’m telling you! They’re clever! Not that my classroom is anything like Jurassic Park.)

Right now, I’m procrastinating on doing some writing homework. Our teacher emailed us a PDF and we have to describe the pictures in Chinese. Unfortunately, they’re cartoons, and I have no idea what the jokes are. Take a look. I’ll be accepting assistance in the comments section below, thanks.

Sad to say my 父母 have left Beijing. I hope their trip wasn’t too overwhelming! I had a lot of fun showing them around, and I was reminded that traveling and living in China sometimes isn’t the most convenient, but is always an adventure. Also, I learned that I literally have no table manners left. It’s not really a thing here to NOT reach all the way across the table. (Not to mention slurping noodles!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “common courtesy” and how it relates to Chinese culture. My Chinese American friend was telling me how frustrated she gets sometimes with Chinese people here who, she feels, don’t express any courtesy. And I can see what she means. Shoving, reaching, spitting, smoking, talking loudly…. they’re all common and nobody bats an eye. If you say hi to a stranger, even in a situation like an elevator, they’re going to think “crap, am I supposed to know that person!?” (And that’s the best case; usually they’ll just think you’re bonkers). I was reading a blog post where the writer was complaining about how in China, people think you’re stupid for showing what we would call politeness. Even the language itself can be harsh sounding, and brutally blunt. In America, in situations where I would normally say “oh, no thanks, I’d rather not,” in China I would say “不要” which is simply, “don’t want.”

I think there’s a much more subtle force at work than our version of common courtesy. I think overall, people are much more open to others (umm, not talking politics here). I once helped a grandfather carry a baby carriage up some stairs while grandma carried the baby. They thanked me and I cooed at the baby for a minute. Maybe not the best example, but the whole situation struck me as so routine for them, like they thought it was really unremarkable. To them, it was so natural that I would offer help and smile at their grandson. I think a similar situation in the U.S. while of course it could happen, would be regarded with much more… suspicion? In the U.S. accepting help like that would be seen as a sign of weakness much more than it does here.  And instead of getting huffy or angry at others, everyone accepts that the public space is for everyone, and so anyone can bump into you, spit on the ground, play a loud game of cards, and it’s okay. In the U.S., someone bumping into you the wrong way can start a fight.

Anyway, obviously not fully developed in these ideas and I’m just kind of running a rambling comparison. Just something to think about.

Em in Asia! 2012-05-15 01:32:36

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I think the students are enjoying Teacher’s Day more than the teachers are! I just saw some of my favorite second grade male students get into a cake fight in the hallway. That’s right. A cake fight. Messy and delicious however you slice it.

Teacher’s Day

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Today is Teacher’s Day, which means that unlike childrens’ day (where children don’t have to go to school) we go to school and do our thing as per usual. However, since I arrived this morning there have been random bursts of song coming from various classrooms, cakes produced out of thin air, and flowers arriving in the teacher’s office. Probably the cutest thing I’ve seen today was when a bunch of male third grade students came back into the second grade building to give their old homeroom teacher a present.

First period I taught 2.2, and they were very sad because they had bought their homeroom teacher a cake, but though he was very flattered he wanted them to eat and enjoy it and so wouldn’t touch any of it. They then asked me if I wanted some, and I tried to give them the same reasoning that their homeroom teacher gave them, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we finished class 10 minutes early and ate cake. Then fourth period I taught 2.4 who told me it was Teacher’s Day (but didn’t wish me a happy Teacher’s Day) and when I asked if they got something for their homeroom teacher they responded “no,” so it’s not all cuteness and cake over here.

Neither American nor  Korean education is perfect, but in my opinion if there’s one thing that Korea does unequivocally better it’s acknowledging and respecting teachers. From my experience this is shown internally (how students and teachers interact, how the administration deals with teachers) and on a broader scale (in terms of salary and prestige being a teacher is a highly sought-after job).

So, to all my fellow teachers out there, happy Teachers Day!