Blogs | A year in Germany – the best or Wurst idea ever?

It’s the 22nd September and despite the fact that this is meant to be a blog about my year abroad I am still at home. Yes, at home, in my pyjamas in Putney sipping on a cup of tea. Not ideal for describing this amazing year abroad I am meant to be on. So I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the lead up to going away, rather than fabricating this wondrous story about a mainstream Leeds girl living in a beautiful castle in Heidelberg going out every night as well as ‘really profiting from her course’ and falling in love with a beautiful, German, lederhosen-clad prince charming.

I am still in the process of getting ready to go to Heidelberg and to be honest motivating myself is proving difficult. It feels like the deep haze of the summer is still fogging my mind, except lying on sun loungers under the blistering sun in Portugal has now become slobbing on my unmade bed in dingy England watching One Tree Hill. Not as glamorous as the Algarve I can assure you. My holiday mode is even present in my packing style. I am not the most organised person and so usually when I venture off on holiday I tend to start cramming bikinis and offensively brightly coloured beach wear into my overfilled case a few hours before have to go to the airport whilst my mother is screaming like a possessed banshee ‘never again, Tilly Barbara Kersley, never again!’ (using my horrific middle name for dramatic effect).  So the idea of starting to pack for a whole year in a different country two weeks before I even leave seems utterly ridiculous. I start folding away things and then I think ‘oh I might want to wear that top next week there is not point banishing it to Germany just yet’. I swear it feels like there are more things flying out of my case and onto the floor of my bedroom than there are staying in the case. I guess I could start packing things like pots, pans and dictionaries but surely that is just squandering the weight allowance BA give you for your luggage that could be used on clothes and shoes rather than a casserole dish.

Aside from packing it feels like there are a hundred and one administrative things to do. Having finally mastered the Erasmus grant forms I am now trying to tackle the module catalogue. Despite the fact that Germany is known for its organisational and technological qualities Heidelberg University’s website is like a convoluted maze of confusion. When I first attempted to pick my modules I was honestly petrified that my knowledge of German had deteriorated so much over the summer that I was incapable of navigating the modules catalogue but thankfully I was not alone. The other Heidelbergers from Leeds shared my dreaded plight. To begin with there is no online module enrolment, you can take lectures without having to do seminars, some modules don’t even specify their credit weighting and much to my disappointment an allowance of only 20 credits per semester is not the same as doing 20 credits in England, its around 10-12 hours a week. Clearly this year abroad isn’t as much of a doddle as people make out. If this wasn’t enough there are the looming jobs of opening a German bank account, getting a German phone and registering with the local citizen centre, which is pretty much the police. This genuinely makes me sound like some kind of reformed criminal reintegrating into society having just got out of the clink!

I am sure with time and a lot of Google translate I will manage to sort out all the admin malarkey and finally be registered onto some modules. But to be honest I am feeling mixed emotions about going on my year abroad. On the one hand I am really cannot wait to get kitted out in a Dirndl, get sloshed on German beer and pass out in a bowl of sauerkraut, and of course sample some of the other more civilised and intellectual culture of southern Germany that my family keep telling me about. On the other hand I do have some worries about my year abroad. For a start, what if my German isn’t up to scratch and I can’t explain myself to anyone? Let’s face it, no one wants to be the weirdo foreigner in the class that none of the other students understand or want to befriend. Secondly, what if I don’t come back fluent and I have to say to my parents and friends ‘yeah Germany was cracking the food and beer was great but I ate and drank so much that I never had time to learn the language sorry…’ On top of these qualms I have the task of making friends and getting my bearings all over again. I feel like I have only just sorted out my menagerie of friends in Leeds. I mean is my weird cheese and Chelsea FC obsession going to translate?

Deep down I know I am going to be fine, having just done a term abroad in Dijon aka Mustardland. I know that being a serious keen bean during my time in Germany will definitely pay off. And if I have managed to make a few friends on this side of the channel I am sure there are some cheese and football enthusiasts on the continent. And if wurst comes to wurst (cheeky sausage pun there) I’ll just fritter away my Erasmus grant at the Weihnachtsmarkt in December!

I’ll keep you posted Leeds.

Tilly Kersley

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