Orientation Week

This past Monday (October 7th) I started my orientation week at the University of Heidelberg. The specific department my program is part of is the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and my orientation was run entirely through that department. Before I recount all my classes (and my first impressions of them), let me start by stating that after the first day of orientation, I rewarded myself with a birthday trip to Lisbon, Portugal in January. After my entire week of orientation, I rewarded myself with a weekend trip to Paris next month! I promise I’ll do some studying while I’m in Germany (at some point).

I’ve been wanting to go to Portugal forever and was totally convinced after being told that the men in Portugal are some of the most attractive men in the world (Thanks Dad!). I’ll be traveling with Alyssa, a girl from Wash U and my sorority, who is completing her master’s program in London.

I’ll be traveling next month to Paris with a girl named Maren from my master’s program. I received an email a week ago that there was a train sale from Frankfurt to Paris during the months of November and December! It was too good to pass on it (80 Euros round-trip)! I’ve been to Paris once before for a class trip and didn’t have a lot of time to explore what interested me. Plus, hopefully by traveling in November, I’ll be avoiding high tourist season!

Orientation Week via Wayfaring With WagnerNow, back to my classes…which is the real reason why I’m in Germany! I’ll be taking 7 classes this semester along with tutorials (subsections) for 4 of these classes. A difference between the American university system and the Germany university system is that university classes in Germany only meet once a week for 2 hours. I have 3 core classes and 4 subject classes. We have to “major” in 2 of the subject classes and minor in the other 2 classes. In a major class I have to go to the tutorial (subsection) every week. At the end of the semester, I have a 30 minutes oral exam along with having to write a term paper. In a minor class, it isn’t required for me to go to the tutorial every week (although it is recommended and I plan on going every week) and I only have to complete a 15 minute oral exam with no term paper. You are supposed to major in classes that do/might pertain to your thesis. Being an overachiever (thanks, Wash U), I decided to major in 3 subjects and minor in one subject!

Classes

Core:

  • Introduction to American Studies (Methodology)
  • Academic Writing
  • Master of Arts in American Studies (MAS) Colloquium

Subjects:

  • U.S. Economic History (major)
  • Government and Politics of the United States (major)
  • The Rising Glory of America: Literature and Culture in the Early Republic (minor)
  • North American Cities (major)

Even though I don’t have to start thinking about my dissertation/thesis for another 6 months, I’m very interested in how the urban planning of cities, combined with the historical and political situations, lead to the rise/decline of them. I’m thinking of focusing specifically on Detroit and how it went from being a major U.S. city to now a bankrupt city. We will see how much my idea(s) change throughout the next 6 months!

Orientation Week via Wayfaring With WagnerA couple funny stories from my classes…

  • In my Academic Writing class, my teacher all-of-the-sudden (and in the middle of class) said, “Who is Jordan?” After acknowledging that I was Jordan, she stated, “Well, I’ve heard a lot about you. All good, I promise.” It seems that she knew the Professor at Wash U who gave me all the information about this program. It was pretty hilarious!
  • My history professor is teaching this year at Heidelberg but is a professor at UNC-Charlotte. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and after exchanging some stories, we realized we both went to Murch Elementary School. Small world!

If you want to find out more about my specific classes, here is the website to my program. Also, they put all of our biographies on the website, so check it out (I’m towards the bottom).

Orientation Week via Wayfaring With WagnerHeidelberg has a really competitive housing system because of being a small town with a large university. The university only has enough housing units for about 10-15% of the student population. The rest of the students have to find housing on their own (including many international students). Luckily the day I was admitted into my M.A. program, I started looking for housing and found my apartment in less than 2 weeks. Heidelberg is considered one of the most expensive cities in all of Germany to live because of the high housing costs. In comparison to the United States, I don’t think the apartments are too expensive here but relative to other German cities, they are quite high!

Orientation Week via Wayfaring With WagnerI initially went to the student cafeteria to look at different job postings. I really wanted to get some sort of low-key babysitting job here just to make some extra cash on the side. I didn’t find anything in the student cafeteria, but a guy in my program had seen a posting for a family wanting a native English speaker for a babysitter. He sent me the information and I sent the family an email. A few hours later I heard back from the mother who was really excited and wanted to meet me. Last night I went over to their house for dinner and met their children: a 6 year old boy and twin 5 year old girls. The mother is American and the father is German. The parents wanted more English spoken around the kids because they go to a German school. The kids are absolutely adorable and I can’t wait to start babysitting this Friday! The family is a 10 minute bike ride from my apartment so it is perfect.

The weather is definitely changing in Heidelberg. It is getting dark earlier and the weather is crisp. Autumn has definitely arrived!

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  • Airbnb is a beautiful thing! Have you heard of the app Skyscanner? It shows you all of the flights leaving from a specific place on any given day. That and Kayak Explore are good for impromptu wanderings, and Airbnb and HotelTonight are good for finding lodgings.

    • Awesome! Thanks for all the wonderful advice. I actually just read about Hotel Tonight in a Travel Magazine a few weeks ago so I’ll definitely have to check that out along with Skyscanner :)

  • Love the orange toilet seat in the Paris flat!! And the Lisbon apartment must get extra points for having a Nespresso coffee machine! Oh, and your courses sound great too!!! Jk, they do sound terrific and Heidelberg looks so amazing! Can’t wait to visit…