I have been since August 28th and I think that I am almost settled in. For the first 4 weeks I was here, there as nobody living on my floor except for my roommate Carl and I; the reason for this was because the regular German students had not yet arrived for the beginning of the semester. This was alright with us because during this time it made it easier for us to get to know all the exchange students, thus giving us a ready made network for when classes started. On my particular floor, I am the only American living here and the only other native English speaker is my roommate. The other exchange students and Americans are grouped together, which is not such a bad thing except that it makes it harder for you to go out and meet new people and practice your German. Our floor has 18 rooms and we all share a common kitchen and TV rooms as well as 4 Bathrooms. On my floor there are only 4 guys and the rest are girls and it makes for some interesting television watching. For example last night my self and two of the other girls were all curled up on the couch wearing our pajamas, drinking tea and watching some Kate Hudson chic flick. I am pretty sure that when my roommate walked into the kitchen he had a “what the hell are you watching” look on his face. It was great!
In America we have the milk man, and here they have the beer man, seriously, I actually saw the beer man driving his truck around filled with cases of beer and delivering them to residences. (Note to self, figure out how to get beer delivery in the dorms) Just a quick note about the getrünk markt, or as we have taken to calling it, the get drunk markt. It is like a super store for beer, wine, water, and liquor. The cases there are filled with 20 half liter bottles, now you must pay a pfand (deposit) on the bottles but when you bring them back you get the price of the pfand deducted from your next case. So if it is a 16 euro case of beer, then the price of the pfand is already in (3 euro) so if you get the same case of beer next time, it only cost you 13 euro, so theoretically depending on what you drink, you could only pay 4 euro per case. Shopping for groceries is another experience all together. We have a little place called the Penny Markt about 50 meters from the University and they sell the most random stuff. There you can buy waffles but not syrup. Jelly and sometimes peanut butter, 2 euro bottles of Chianti, clothes baskets, and pop tarts (but I have only seen them there once). It is interesting when reading the labels (or should I say attempting to read the labels) to see that food that is GMO or has GMO components is labeled as “Bio nach GMO” or “Bio with GMO” and foods that are organic are labeled as only “Bio” so you have to be careful to what you are buying. Incidently, the American students seem to be the only students that pay attention to different “Bio” labels. We have a market in the towns center on Tuesdays and Saturdays where you can buy farm fresh produce and fruit as well as cheeses, and sometimes meat, although the town center is littered with butcher shops and bakeries. It has also been difficult for me to buy only what I need on that day and not stock pile for the coming weeks. It just seems to me that it is a waste of time to go shopping for food every day or two days. Finding food that we like is not too diffucult, although beef in the form of steaks is rather expensive so I have a steady diet of pork. We even had taco night a few nights ago, where the Americans got together and made tacos and drank sangaria and an assortment of other thing. The highlight of the evening was when I got to teach the Irish kids how to roll a burrito properly. Speaking of Mexican food, we ate at the Mexican food place here in town a few weeks ago and although it was a bit expensive it was decent. What I wouldn’t give for a fish taco or a California Burrito from Roberto’s right now.
Classes started for us last week and I must say that it has been quite a week. It took me almost two weeks to coordinate with SDSU and figure out what classes I am allowed to take and what is not authorized. It was such a hassle, it just seemed like there was an enormous lack of communication between the coordinators here in Germany, the Registrars at State and the Coordinators. They send hundreds of students out each your you think they would have it figured out by now. I don’t understand why because as far as I know, they all speak English. Anyways, I have all my classes and they all are in German, the early morning classes usually take me about 30 minutes to get my brain in fine working order before I start to understand what the heck is going on. I would say that I understand about 75% of what I am hearing, the only thing that sucks is that if they ask a question, I can answer it in English but it takes me a few minutes to figure out how to do it in German and by that time they are already asking another question. The classes here are all lecture style and they don’t require a text book, although there are some text books in the library for reference, and generally they give out handouts. You can also go to the bookstore and buy random text books that are suggested to have. I think the next purchase is going to be an unabridged dictionary. This Friday I am going to Schloss Lichtenstein which is built to resemble the castle in Wilhelm Hauff’s novel and while we are up there we will also be doing a ropes course. This Sunday is going to be part two of the Bad-Cannstatt Volksfest, it is also known as the Stuttgart Oktoberfest. The university has been sponsored by 1000 seats in one of the tents and along with the garuantee of a seat, we also get two free masse ( 2 free liters) .