December 30, 2006

Christmas time

Follow-up to Church from ERASMUS year

Christmas Markets – In the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas, every town, village and city unveils its Christkindlesmarkt. Nut-cracker-soldiers, nativity scenes, decorations, sweet stalls, sausage stands and mulled wine booths always feature prominently. In fact, as far as I could see, these were the only types of merchandise on offer. From stand to stand and city to city, everything for sale was identical! Nurnberg, Munich, Salzburg, Passau and Augsburg markets were all sampled, though food and drink were my only purchases (most notably mulled beer!). All these visits went hand in hand with city explorations, which included a trip to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Salzburg fortress and the point where 3 rivers meet in Passau. The museum was far too big, but very fun and interactive and certainly merits a revisit.
On 6th December, Sankt Nikolaus comes and fills your shoe with sweets (if you’ve been good!). He also put in an appearance at a local Bierstube, where our wind band performed its first ‘concert’ – Christmas carols, accompanied by drunken student singers!


Church

Follow-up to Some random escapades! from ERASMUS year

Whether you’re a Christian or not, going to church is a great way of meeting Germans, getting the odd meal invitation and it might just change your life. Unless you’re very confident, it’s probably a good idea to go with a friend (be it from the church or not), the first time. Due to my many other weekend trips, I haven’t been very often, but I’ve still had time to go caving, have a barbeque and make traditional German Christmas biscuits with some of the young people!


Some random escapades!

Follow-up to Top 10 Things to do in Augsburg (Chronological!) from ERASMUS year

  • Got locked out! – Always fun to leave your keys in the lock on the inside, so your spare key won’t work from the outside (especially on Sunday, when there’s no one around to help)! Good job I had my pen knife handy!
  • Police – In Germany it’s a legal requirement to carry identification at all times, as three of us discovered when walking home late one evening. We walked straight into a police trap and were questioned for 10 minutes about where we’d been and if we’d been taking drugs! (We hadn’t.)
  • The Mighty Boosh – Wearing my homemade Mighty Boosh T-shirt proved a bit of a hit, as another fan spotted it. We just had to organise a Boosh-watching-sesh.
  • Chemistry lecture – As a Christmas treat some slightly wacky chemists put on an hour-and-a-half display of very visual experiments. Looked at in another way, it was a free comedy open to all science students!
  • Muse – 6 of us took the short trip to Munich to see Muse, live at the Zenith. After a fantastic, yet sweaty and painful concert, we duely missed our train home and had to wait 2 1/2 hours in Burger King, eventually arriving home at 5 am!
  • Fuggerei – As the oldest social settlement in the world, the Fuggerei exists as a city (more like a village really) within a city and a trip to it should definitely not be missed.

December 29, 2006

Top 10 Things to do in Augsburg (Chronological!)

Follow-up to Some important definitions from ERASMUS year

  1. Football – The resident tutors are only too happy to organise a game of footie, until it gets too cold outside!
  2. Cinema – Great for watching the latest films dubbed into German! There’s even a choice of cinemas in this small city.
  3. Pubs, restaurants and Bierstubes – These are all ongoing forms of entertainment. One pub in particular is so ‘German’ that I’m sure some of my German friends learnt something about German culture when they stepped inside! Monthly faculty parties in the canteen are also great fun. The economics disco and law ball were definitely value for money nights out.
  4. Tram party – A tram is privately hired to tour the city, whilst it’s occupants have a party!! It may sound like a good idea, but it was so packed no one could move and the windows were so steamed up that we could have been anywhere. A must, nonetheless!
  5. Flea market – Fridays and Saturdays (10am-4pm) are good days to try buying anything second hand. I picked up a good used bike in roadworthy condition for exactly 40 euros!
  6. Orchestra/Band – I’ve joined 2 musical ensembles, both discovered by word of mouth. I found out about the orchestra, because one of my lecturers (who plays cello there) saw me wearing my UWSO (University of Warwick Symphony Orchestra) hoodie!
  7. Table tennis – Three of us have become a bit obsessed by it. We play at least 3 times a week in the ‘free time room’. One of them was particularly chuffed when I bought him a decent bat for his secret santa Christmas present!!
  8. Bowling – Always good fun – especially late night neon bowling. Despite improving my score by 50 in the second game, I came second to the same guy twice; both times by 2 pts!
  9. Honky Tonk – This Augsburg music festival was a superb night out. With live music in 22 bars around the city, there was literally something for everyone.
  10. Ice skating – The hire-skates are much more comfortable than in England and the fun is very affordable! The local team ‘The Augsburg Panthers’ are probably worth watching, especially when they offer deals like “if we don’t win you get your money back”. They lost!

Some important definitions

Follow-up to Doing maths from ERASMUS year

What’s a Bierstube?
Bierstube: “A pokey, noisey, smoke filled establishment, preferably attached to a student halls of residence and situated underground, the purpose of which is to bring friends together and sell alcohol (very cheap).”
And a Tandem partner?
Tandem: “When two people of different nationality meet and speak first in one of their mother-tongues and then in the other.” eg half an hour in German followed by half an hour English.


Doing maths

Follow-up to Orientation from ERASMUS year

The German system is very different to that at Warwick. The modules actually on offer, may well vary from the ones decided upon in your original Learning Agreement. (Many lecture courses are not finalised until a few weeks before the start of the semester). This actually worked in my favour, as the courses available on arrival were of a more appropriate level of difficulty. Seminar courses are not offered much in England. The chance to take one in Germany should not be missed, as it provides an accessible route into higher level mathematics and can only help improve presentation skills. Lectures are very similar in style to those at home, but do last for a full hour and a half! Be prepared to knock on your desk in approval at the end of a good lecture too. It’s the German way!


December 28, 2006

Orientation

Follow-up to Friends and family from ERASMUS year

Shortly before the start of term, there was an introduction day for all foreign students. This included talks from ERASMUS coordinators, the student’s union (equivalent) and various representatives of religious bodies. Later we met our tutors in groups and discussed choosing modules with the ERASMUS coordinator for mathemtics. A short campus tour with our tutor took in the key locations (maths library!) and provided an opportunity to ask our burning questions. For example:
Q: Where can I buy a cheap second hand bike?
A: There’s a flea market 2 minutes walk from Brunntal tram stop!


December 27, 2006

Friends and family

Follow-up to Sprachkurs from ERASMUS year

The language course provided me with many of my closest friends in Augsburg. Eating together in the MENSA (canteen), as well as parties and excursions really helped to cement new bonds. Friends experiencing the same problems as you can be really invaluable. On our first Saturday, we went as a group of 20+ to Lake Constance and the following Saturday we visited Schloss Neuschwanstein. Two ‘must sees’ for any Augsburg student!
Without internet in my room, contact with my family was becoming exorbitant! Getting a good phone deal was a must.


Sprachkurs

Follow-up to Feiertag from ERASMUS year

The next week-and-a-half (4th-13th Oct) was largely dominated by the pre-term language course. Registration with the city authorities, opening a bank account, buying a phone, getting a radio licence, registering for doctor and dentist and immatriculation at the university was all seen as necessary bureaucracy during this time! The discovery of Woolworths aided my dining situation immeasurabley – providing me with all possible cutlery and crockery!
I found a good deal on bike lights and despite not having a bike in Augsburg, thought “why not?”


Feiertag

Follow-up to Moving in from ERASMUS year

On my third day, I learnt the importance of rubbish separation. Being seen putting my waste in the wrong bin was actually a big help! I was scolded, but informed that there was a recycling centre round the corner. (Soon separating paper, compost, ‘recyclables’ and ‘other’ would become second nature!). I took a trip into town, but my plans were thwarted by it being a national holiday – everything was shut! I had to make do with a wander round and the purchase of some stamps!
Unable to find a shop selling bowls or spoons, I had to eat my cereal from a cup with a knife.


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