Crepes, Concerts and Conferences!

Hi again! So this break was another long one, but in my defence there was the whole Christmas thing. You’d think that this would give me a lot to talk about, but now I come to think of it…

The holidays were lovely; it was so good to be back home and see family and friends. I’d thought that it might be strange speaking English all the time again, but um, no, it wasn’t, and instead I probably forgot a good part of the German I’d managed to learn. The usual home comforts were very welcome of course (oven-cooked food! A choice of winter coat! Marmite!), but thankfully I wasn’t hit by an I Don’t Want To Go panic leading up to my return to Germany.

My office hours are finally in full swing and are shaping up nicely. The rise in popularity may have been due to the presentations being due for one of my classes, and students wanting my two cents on what they’d done, or help with last minute data collection! The presentations were then, um, presented at the Exploring Language Worlds conference (fancy, right?) on Saturday, and from what I could tell, they went well. I was pretty busy behind the scenes with the other teaching assistant setting up tea, coffee and a sadly finite supply of biscuits for the hungry presenters. It was a pretty full-on day, especially since most of my weekends  involve sleeping until noon and then thinking about getting dressed for half an hour, but there were no emergencies either culinary or academic, and we could watch the snow fall while we worked.

We (that is, the choir I’m part of) had our Christmas Concert back in December, and I really enjoyed it. There were two services, both in a beautiful old church in the city centre, and it was lovely hearing the whole thing come together, as well as performances by soloists and small groups. In the break between the two, some friends and I headed over to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market), which I have to say was fairly similar to the ones in the UK, but with more sausages! And an entire stall just for mushrooms, which I definitely can’t complain about. I did however suffer from Uncomfortable Crepe Syndrome (I always love the idea until ten minutes in when I realise that they’re pretty awkward to eat, crepe batter isn’t actually that nice, and maybe consuming half a jar of Nutella isn’t such a great plan after all).

I submitted the proposal (officially an Academic Progress Report) for my language study on Tuesday, after much procrastination and frantic speedreading. I’m going to look at the language of German Learners of English, which I thought appropriate as I am pretty much surrounded by them. I can see now that I’ve got a lot of work to do, but as the semester finishes in a couple of weeks I may have some problems getting myself to do it! This also means that some of my fellow international students are going back to their home countries soon, which is really sad. However, it does give me an excuse to travel to some amazing places to visit them in the future!

Prayer points:

  • That I can make good progress on my language report and seek help if I’m struggling with it
  • That my German tests next week go well
  • That I can continue to help any students that need it (and be on time to meetings!)

Before I go, happy Burns Night to any Scots who might be reading this; haggis doesn’t seem to be a popular option here in Germany, probably because it’s not at least 80% pork. Regardless, I shall try to keep a tartan candle burning over here!

Danke fürs Lesen 🙂

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The Festive (Song) Season!

Well hello! It’s been a while, but monthly updates aren’t too bad in terms of regularity, right? Always leave your audience wanting more, or something. Teaching assisting continues to be fun; now that I’ve got to know the students a bit more they’re more willing to ask me for help or just share their ideas. Unfortunately I’m still not allowed to hold official office hours, but I’m hopefully going to be meeting some of them in the library to go over extracts of The Faerie Queene (I feel like my mum would be proud of me). One of my friends on the German course (sidenote: I got in, yay!) would also like me to help her with her English, and of course I accepted.

My contract has finally been sorted out – however it doesn’t start until the 15th of December, and I’ve been told I’ll need to reapply for the summer term. Hopefully it won’t take quite as long the second time round! Some of the actual, proper teachers here have similar stories though, so I probably shouldn’t hold my breath.

The choir I’ve been going to has been challenging but loads of fun, and great for getting to know people as well. There is a Christmas concert on the 13th of December, and it’s a lot of fun preparing for that, even if some of the songs are unbelievably cheesy (genuine lyrics to one of them: I believe in the miracle of love / because, oh yeah / I believe in Santa Claus). I shouldn’t really complain though, as we mostly sing in English, which makes it a lot easier for me!

The German course is a lot of fun too. There are only around ten of us, which means that there’s nowhere to hide if you don’t understand, which I think is really helping me learn. And the teacher is lovely, she brought us chocolate for passing the Grammatik test and gave me cough sweets for my cold! I’ve even started to be able to understand a few of the jokes in the sermons at church, which is as good a measurement of progress as any. The church itself is pretty great, I’ve met some lovely people there in the past couple of weeks and felt very welcomed, and some of the German worship songs are really lovely.

Prayer points:

  • That I can get started on my Language Study project for Aston and have guidance on what topic to choose and how to collect data
  • That I get over my cold pretty soon!
  • That the concert goes well
  • That I can be a real help to the students as they start their projects

Thanks for reading, tschüss!

Poetry, Pubs and (I hope) Professionalism!

Greetings! Oops, did not mean to leave quite such a gap between blog posts but I’m here now. The Teaching Assistant gig is turning out to be a pretty sweet one; it looks like I’ll be helping out with 2-3 lessons a week, as well as having office hours and going to the ‘Stammtisch’ pub nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The lessons are shaping up well after a rather embarrassing first class where I ended up arriving later than the students (in my defence the class starts at 7:30am. Just let the horror sink in for a minute). However the content has been really interesting and next week I’ll be making my first presentation to the class (on British variations of English), which I’m excited about. Also next week I am due to present something on Renaissance Poetry, definitely more daunting as I haven’t studied poetry since GCSE!

The Stammtisch nights have so far been really fun; they are technically events for the German students to come and practice their English, but in reality they tend to be mostly international students who don’t want to speak German. Either way, they’ve been a great way to get to know people, and as they count as part of my working hours, I can’t really complain! I have yet to start my office hours, but as I understand them they’ll be a time for students to come and discuss their projects, practice presentations or just ask any general questions about English they may have. They also make me feel very professional, I just hope they live up to the hype and I can actually help the students out.

In terms of extra-curriculars, I have gone along to a choir and a Zumba group which have both been a lot of fun. Both are all auf Deutsch though, which meant I had to ask my more German-proficient friends for translations more than once. But music and dance are universal languages, right?

I’m also taking a TEFL course to get some more academic background knowledge as well as practical stuff. I should also be starting an afternoon German course on Monday; however I didn’t manage to pay for it until after the deadline and might not get a place after all. It would be such a shame to not be able to work on the language while I’m here. Everyone around me speaks such good English that’s it’s hard to practice my extremely broken Deutsch!

Prayer points:

  • That I get in to the German course!
  • That my presentations next week go well and I can learn from them
  • That I can make the most of my time here and organise some trips to other cities
  • That I can get more involved in the church I’ve started going to

Thanks for reading!

Bis Später!

Deutsch-Abenteuer!

Sooo, now that I am two weeks in to my German adventure, I thought I’d have a go at documenting some of it for your linguistic viewing pleasure. If you just clicked the link as a vague gesture of friendship and are now regretting your decision faced with the prospect of reading my unstructured ramblings, here’s a summary: I’m settling in well and looking forward to assisting in some teaching and being totally befuddled by the German language. Yay! You have done your friend-y duty and normal life-service can resume.

As for the rest of you, danke schön for sticking with me, I’m definitely feeling the love right now. My application to Universität Paderborn was a bit rushed, to say the least, so I ended up flying out without confirmation of a room to stay in, or very much info about what the Teaching Assistant position would actually involve. Thus I of course brought my mum along for moral support. Upon my arrival, however, I found out that a small bedsit was available, and so the weight of accommodational uncertainty was lifted from my shoulders. The room itself is adorable, not so much retro as just old, but clean and with an insanely comfy armchair. Challenges include a lack of microwave and no running water outside the bathroom, but I’m hoping the former will teach me to cook properly, and the latter to not let my dishes pile up, as I will need to in order to be able to brush my teeth unobstructed.

The room is a ten-minute walk from both campus and the town centre (in opposite directions) so I seem to have done pretty well! Paderborn is nice, again almost disconcertingly clean and with some rather beautiful old buildings. And yes, there is a H&M! I have started the Deutschkurs on weekday mornings, which is hard work and comes complete with the nagging sensation that I’m missing something, but is a real help when it comes to tackling the behemoth that is German grammar. I have also managed to do some social interacting – always a plus – and it’s been really interesting chatting to other international students. As the teaching will only be about 9 hours per week, I am free to study as many of the courses offered as I please, and so far they look pretty great (there’s one about comics. COMICS!!). A lot of them are even taught in English, which is obviously a big help.

Prayer points (if you’re so inclined):

  • That I don’t get hit too hard by culture shock/homesickness
  • That I solidify the friendships I’ve started and share Jesus with them
  • That the admin stuff (health insurance, bank account, student card) gets sorted soon
  • That I find out more about the teaching assistant role and can be an asset to the department

Thanks for reading! I still don’t have a German mobile number yet but if you’d like my address or skype name then message me on the social media platform of your choice. Tschüss!

Ch-ch-changes

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Hello! So I’m a bit ill, and still pretty tired from our CU events week last week, and I should probably get off the internet and go to bed, but instead I’m here. Why? Because God is good, and I’m realising the idea I had in my head for my blog doesn’t necessarily have to match up with what I post. I can just say what I’m thinking about, and hope it ends up at least mostly coherent.

I was reading over my last post, and the last line from it, about rolling up my sleeves and getting on with it, really hit me. Because last Sunday, while reading my bible and trying to prepare for events week, I came across this verse:

“Do you realise what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it.” Hebrews 12:1 (The Message)

At the time, the verse really encouraged me to look at the bigger picture of the church as a whole, and also challenged me to really go for it over the course of the week. And now looking back at my old blog post, I can really see how God has moved in my life, even over such a short amount of time.

One thing I lamented in my post was the lack of acting I got to do at uni. Well, on Wednesday night, for our Big Event, I played the main part in a beautiful drama/dance called the Everything skit. I received so many congratulations on my performance, and on the drama as a whole, that it was frankly a bit overwhelming (does that count as a humblebrag? I can never really tell). And over the week as a whole, I really had to rely on God, as there wasn’t really anywhere else I could get energy from some days!

This week has really helped me get some idea of how far I’ve come with Him, by bringing back memories of how I felt this time last year. I remember mostly being really scared that someone was going to ask me an impossible question, or that I’d run out of things to say, or just that people would judge me for my faith. This year I worried about that at first, but as the week grew closer I ended up just really excited for what God was going to do, so much so that it took me ages to get to sleep on Sunday night (something I deeply regretted at the 8am Monday prayer meeting). It’s been so reassuring seeing how much I’ve changed over this year, and (I hope) how much I’ve matured as a Christian, because the idea of people changing, and how to recognise that change, is something I’ve been struggling a bit with lately.

I’ve probably been infuriatingly vague in this post, and if you would like a more detailed account of how events week went, then please message me. Til next time, guys!

Work is hard but worth it

Hi again! It’s more than a little embarrassing to come back to this blog after roughly a year. In my defence, I did have a whole post on ethical fashion drafted a few months back, only to lose it when I accidentally clicked off the page. Catch me doing that again, she says, as she hurriedly switches to microsoft word.

I’ve been wanting to update this blog for a while now, partly because I want to have a good backlog of posts before I link anyone to it, but mostly because I feel like I haven’t been doing much in the way of creating lately. I had a lot of ideas about what university would be like, and so far it’s very good – but also drastically different to what I expected. One major difference is that I thought I would be involved in either a drama or creative writing society – but as neither of those exist at Aston, it being a small, science and business-based uni, I feel like I haven’t had many opportunities to express myself creatively.

This is, of course, ridiculous. I am realising that one of the things that is so great about the arts is that you don’t need a formal, structured environment in order to write, or sketch, or sing. This gives me two options: either I can sit around bemoaning my wasted potential, or I can roll up my sleeves and get on with it.

Authenticity over originality

Hey internet! I know, I suck at running a blog, it’s been over a month blah blah blah. Anyway, my latest musing was about creativity, and what it means to create something. I’ve started thinking that being creative isn’t necessarily the same as being original. I think some messages are worth repeating, although little updates or tweaks can of course improve great stories over the years. And I should make clear that I’m talking about inspiration as opposed to downright plagiarism. But as I think John Green pointed out, in the technological age copyright is sort of a grey area anyway.

But what I am trying to say is that I really like how people’s creations are inspired and influenced by others. Think about any great work of art, literature, or anything else you admire as a creation – I don’t think you can fully appreciate them without considering the context in which they were created. Maybe the context is fairly vague, or changes as the works are updated, but it’s still needed. Shakespeare’s plays would make very little sense if you had never heard of love, or marriage, or food! (can you tell from the vagueness I haven’t read any in a while?)

Some people might view this as a bad thing – that hardly any ideas could be said to be truly original any more, that everything seems to have been done before (I think I’m paraphrasing Arthur Conan Doyle; forgive me). But I see it like this: we all wander around the world, living life, trying to find meaning in it. And creators take the ridiculous hodge-podge of human experience and act as filters. They absorb car adverts, family crises, books and small talk like the rest of us, and they give out a very specific response to that, distilled and edited and wrapped up, shiny and new.

What’s your story?

So it’s occurred to me that because my life is really boring (seriously. today I submitted my coursework and watched youtube videos, that is actually it) this blog might as well contain my random musings about life, the universe and everything. So last night, as I was trying and failing to get to sleep due to a party somewhere close by and roadworks in the street below (roadworks? at 1am?! I don’t understaaand), I got thinking about people’s intentions and whether they matter as much as their actions. If someone does a kind thing out of spite or self-preservation, surely it means less than the same action done for the sake of love? But that raises the question if we can ever know people’s true motivations outside of fiction. Because everyone has their own point of view and everyone lies at one point or another.

As a Christian, I believe that the only one who can really understand why we do what we do is God. And as his opinion should be the most important to me anyway, I guess I’m ok with that.

Very First Blog Post

So I’ve decided to start a blog, as you can obviously tell. I know it’s not quite as glamorous as starting a vlog or web series, but in addition to being far too lazy and easily distracted to complete something like that, I do really think words are the best medium for me to get what I want to say across. It’s because I can say what I think, rather than what I can face saying to a camera. It’s because I think ‘0 Comments’ would be less disappointing than ‘0 views’. And it’s because I don’t need to involve other people in it if I don’t want to. It can be just for me. And you, of course.