Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Blog Post #1: Getting Started in Germany
This is my first blog – ever! I was asked by our Dean, Joanne MacLean, to write a blog about my adventures in Germany while I’m working at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. The university is in beautiful Tübingen, the central point of the Baden-Württemberg region (southwest region of Germany)! Let’s start with a little information about the city of Tübingen and the university. Tübingen is quite small – with a population of nearly 88,000, it is much smaller than St. Catharines but the university is bit larger with a student population of over 20,000. For the city of Tübingen, the university is extremely important. One could say that Tübingen is a university town. Since its creation in 1477, the university has always been a central element of the city. Indeed, the university is 533 years old!
My first week at work was focused mostly on getting organized and oriented to the city. My colleagues arranged for a senior undergraduate student, Nora, to assist me with a number of necessary steps – for example, applying for a residency permit at the local government office, a required step in Germany and figuring out the bus system from my apartment to the Sport Institute (Institut für Sportwissenschaft) and to the city centre. The rest of the week was spent meeting faculty members of the institute and getting acquainted with the system regarding teaching expectations, student evaluation, expected hours of work for students, and program requirements.
On Friday, a social outing was organized for all faculty members and staff of the institute for the start of the term. I was introduced to the sport/game of boßeln. I cannot really explain it but it is a game played in the northern region of Germany (as it was explained to me) where teams must throw their ball further than the other team's ball. Team members just keep walking ahead on a path scoring when their adversary’s ball does not exceed the distance of the ball from their team. The ball must stay on the path – when it leaves the path, the location is marked and that is how far the other team must at least throw (well it is really more like a bowling motion) their ball. So, in playing this game, you end up walking for several kilometres. If you don’t understand the game of boßeln, don’t worry, it took me a few hours and about 4 kilometres to figure it out. While playing each game, I was convinced we were winning but as it turns out, our team lost all four games and we self-declared ourselves the best losers! The afternoon was capped with a great meal at a farm where there is a traditional German restaurant. Of course, I had to try spaetzle with lentil and sausage – a typical meal for the region.
Today (Sunday), I hiked from the Hohentübingen Castle to the Wurmlingen Chapel – a total of 12 kilometres with picturesque views of vineyards, fruit orchards, farmlands, punctuated by villages! It was a great way to spend a spectacular sunny Fall day!
To end my first blog, let me say that I am speaking more French than English AND I should point out that I really should have learned some German before coming here. Given the size of Tübingen and the fact that it is a little off the beaten track for tourists, there is really not a whole lot of French or English around! The young people typically speak some English and/or French but basic activities like buying a bus ticket from the machine or operating the washing machine are challenging! Luckily with French and English, I can manage to get assistance when required!
To end my first blog, I am really grateful to my peers at Brock University who allowed me to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and to my new colleagues at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, particularly Ansgar Thiel, Verena Burk, Marcel Fahrner, Jochen Mayer, and Monika Raetz. They have been most welcoming! Stay tuned for my next blog.