Housing, courses, and all the little things

Here’s all the things I’ve been up to to prepare for my semester abroad in Berlin.

Housing Assignment in Berlin

I received my housing information from IES a couple of weeks ago. I will be sharing an apartment with a 59-year-old grandmother!

She works as a freelance journalist for a TV station, which is really neat because I’m interested in journalism, although my experience has only been with print journalism so far. I will be living near Schönhauser Allee, one of the “most sizzling streets in the hip neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg” according to the email I received. So that will be exciting, living in a community of starving artists and vegan shoestores and hip coffeeshops. They described the apartment as “very spacious,” which I’m looking forward to.

My courses with IES Abroad

Since the German academic winter semester goes from October through mid-February, and I need to be back by the beginning of February for spring semester at my home university, I won’t be enrolling directly in a German university. Instead, I’ll be taking classes at the IES center in Berlin with other international students. I know one student from my home university who’s enrolled in the same program as I am so we might have classes together, but other than that they might be American students or they might be other international students.

I pre-registered for classes online at the end of July, and of course am just now (a week before I leave) trying to get credit for them. I won’t officially register until I am on-site, but here are the classes I am hoping to take:

Popular Culture in Berlin – The course will discuss differences and commonalities between East and West German popular culture, as well as the defining characteristics of German culture after unification. Students will also visit popular culture events in Berlin. (3 credits)

Germans and Jews – By the end of the course, students are able to understand that there is a 2000 year-old German-Jewish history, which cannot simply be reduced to the Holocaust. In fact, there are many periods in history where Germans and Jews lived in peace together, as well as times where religious and cultural differences existed.

Women, Literature, and Transitions from the Early 20th Century to the Present: Gender Relations in Modern German Literature – The feminist discourse of the 20th century is primarily concerned with subject construction and gender identity as central topics. The thesis that gender identity is not an anthropologically defined constant but a culturally determined category which faces historic development and change in literature, too, is the starting point of this reading oriented seminar. (3 credits)

I will also be taking a German language class, which I won’t know much about until I arrive on-site and take a placement exam.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m also a music student. Although IES doesn’t offer private lessons, I intend to take lessons with a private organ instructor in Berlin, and am in the process of arranging so I can get credit with my home university for them. I’m really excited about that! I will be taking lessons in the Osterkirche but need to find a different instrument to practice on, hopefully one that’s nearby. There are dozens of churches nearby so it shouldn’t be too hard, particularly if I bribe the administrators with baked goods. Haha.


I’m in a frenzy trying to take care of all the last-minute details before I leave. Electric outlet adapters, check. Passport, check. Call the bank to tell them not to block my card if exorbitant withdrawals from ATM’s in Germany suddenly appear on my account, check. I set up an account with Bank of America specifically for this trip, since they have a partnership with Deutsche Bank, the largest bank in Germany, and don’t charge any fees for conversion to euro (minus the exchange rate of course). My old bank charged me a $2.50 fee for using a non-US Bank ATM, plus a 3% conversion fee, PLUS whatever fee the ATM itself charged… Yeah, no bueno.

I’m leaning against taking my guitar on this trip, despite how much I want to. I don’t have a hard shell case for it so I don’t want to fly it as checked baggage, and I’m also bringing my laptop and camera as carry-ons so it’d be too much of a hassle.

Oh, and I registered to vote absentee in the next election… Awesome, since I’ve voted in one election in my life so far, and that was in 2010. Haha.


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