Here at the University of Bremen, classes are finally winding down to the final weeks, which can only mean one thing: work, work, and more work. After the glow and charm of the wondrous Christmas markets died down, and people began settling in to cold winter winds and broken resolutions, the previously far away shadow of papers and tests began creeping steadily closer until finally we students could no longer ignore the clutters of unfinished work staring up at us from our desks. The time for holiday procrastination was over, and it was now time to face the facts – everything we had not done for the past semester now needed to be finished within the next three weeks.
But first, an explanation: the university system in Germany is quite different. Not better or worse, just different than Dickinson. Instead of having several short tests and papers throughout the semester, all the work we have to complete (save a few presentations here and there) is due, ironically enough, after classes end. Then, we have about a week to focus solely on putting the final touches on everything so that we can turn it in. In theory, this is a very organized, practical system based on trust: the trust that professors place onto students that they will begin their essays early on, so that no cramming at all is necessary.
Granted, I should have understood the reality of this – I had heard that the German education system is more independent as a whole, and that fundamental trust is placed on students to do whatever they need to do. I appreciate this value system immensely; however, I also (like any college student) appreciate the delightful procrastination which is so readily available on the Internet. Though, admittedly, part of my writer’s block came from my fear of writing my first 12 page paper entirely in German.
Slowly but surely, though, everything is coming together. I am becoming more confident in my speaking and writing skills, and making lots of daily lists to stay on track with the goals I need to complete. But what is the X that marks the spot, you ask? A three-month-long break before our next semester (a.k.a. I attempt to live some serious travel dreams-come-true and experience as many cities as possible). So, at the end of the day, all of the work I am doing now is not only interesting (though sometimes it seems tedious), but also completely worth it.
Most importantly, every time I begin to feel fed up and stressed out with work, I take a step back to clear my mind and recognize my privilege in being here. Poor me, I have to finish work which I procrastinated so that I can go travel the world – what a tough life. I am so happy to have (finally) made some really incredible, genuine German friends who have been such a huge help not only to my language-speaking skills, but also to my general adjustment and sense of well-being here in Bremen.
And pretty soon, all the readings, outlines, and rough drafts that have piled up on my desk this past semester will be replaced by new documents – maps for all of my travel plans. Get ready, cities of Europe, Turkey and wherever else the road may take me – this Pittsburgher is ready to take you on by storm.