And So it Begins

“Jennifir, Maddi,” I hear, as a loud knock sounds on my door as Beate woke us in a loud, stern voice. I was already awake due to my nervousness of the first day of class in a foreign country. Today would be simple, since it was orientation and final placement into our German language class. Struggling to find a comfortable presentable outfit, fighting the coughing fit, I readied myself. Breakfast was a huge spread of meats, breads, cheeses, and jams. Beate motioned me to sit as she said warmly, “Good morning, Jennifir.” I loved the way she said my name with an emphasis on each letter. As Maddi sat, Beate asked us in German how we slept. 

We smiled and I replied in my elementary German, “sehr gut” (very good). I tried to listen, grasping words I recognized as Heinrich and Beate spoke to Maddi in German. I ate silently, trying not to get frustrated at my own inadequacies. I was still a beginner at that point. Heinrich spoke fast and he had a lot of interesting things to say that I know I missed. It was nice eating breakfast with them. Heinrich is a planner, so he went over our schedule with us as well as the public transportation maps. Today, he planned to take us all the way to the university. 

The drive there was beautiful. I couldn’t help but notice how Obervellmar, this suburb of Kassel, was so clean. The streets had a shimmering, newly scrubbed look to them with their dark asphalt. The town had a village feel to it. Heinrich dropped us off as close to the Gasthaus as possible. Maddi and I made our way into the circular, hot building. We would come to learn that air conditioning is an uncommon luxury in Kassel. Other students were already gathered. We found a place to sit with some of the other students from Wisconsin, Michiga,n and one girl from Canada.

I watched as the coordinators, some I had not met yet, readied their presentation and thus it began. Jurgen, the director of ISU (International Summer University) began to introduce himself, the coordinators, and German language instructors. Over the previous weeks, they had us send a candid picture of ourselves so that he could introduce each of us to one another. We learned of the program, what we would be doing, and a little about those who would be helping us during the summer. I stuck close to Maddi, and a group of friends began to form that day. 

We were taken on a tour of the university, highlighting the most important parts of campus we would need to know, such as the building our classes would be in and where we could get food. It was then we were taken inside the classroom building and given oral and written tests for placement into our German language class. This would be the only class we would have today. Tuesday or “Dienstag” would be our first full day of classes. 

Classes were broken up into modules. Mine was the cultural module with German language, Grimm’s Fairytales, and German History and Politics. In the first week, those in this module would only have a language class. This gave us an opportunity to explore beyond the campus into Königsplatz, where there was shopping and food. 

I loved the underground tunnels that were crosswalks with a lot of artistic graffiti. I found this fascinating. I found the post office so I could send off postcards. The malls, which are called “gallerias” in that part of Germany, were the best place to find a restroom. It was here that I learned that I had to pay to the use the bathroom. They were much cleaner, so I didn’t complain too much. I even kept a couple of the bathroom tickets as souvenirs. I also learned a couple of tricks to not have to pay for a bathroom. One was simply to wait until I was going to eat or drink somewhere. I also memorized the code for the bathroom in the large bookstore.

The first day was long, yet easy. We found our way to our tram and rode to the closest station to our home for the summer. The walk was nice. There were some hills that had me out of breath, but I soon got used to them. I really enjoyed all the walking around Germany. I also loved the way Germans would not cross the street until the light turned green, whether there are cars coming or not. They seem to be rule followers, shaking their heads as the loud Americans explore their country.

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