Thursday, November 4, 2010

school life &c,

What a long time it has been. I have now dashed through two weeks of school and an AFS weekend, and have hardly had time to cut my fingernails. I guess I'll start from the beginning. Wow, the really beginning.

Two days after I posted my last post, was the Frankfurt Nacht der Clubs. This is how it works: twenty of Frankfurts clubs were open to anybody with a green Nacht Der Clubs bracelet, which meant that you had payed the 10€ ticket. I went with my host sister and some of her friends, first into a salsa club, where I drank a coffee with milk and sat. Then we went to a different club, which was much hotter, louder, and more crouded. It took a long time just pay to stash our bags and coats in the coatroom. Having never been clubbing before, I was pretty impressed. Lights, and music, and people all dressed up, and just a very intense atmosphere. We drank a bit and danced a lot, and met up with more friends. Then, after a few hours we went to different club, which was by far worse. Upstairs it was too crouded, loud, and the lights were too bright and changed too fast. Downstairs it was not crouded enough, too loud, and too smoky. Mother, you would have hated it. And so did I. We did not stay long. Around four or five am we went to McDonalds, ate and drank, and went back home. I finally crashed into bed at around six, and slept until ten.

That was Friday. Monday was the first day of school, which turned out to be awfully uneventful. I trailed my sister until we had a meeting with the school director and got my schedule worked out. Here is my schedule. At first I thought it was awful, but in fact I like it.

Just a quick note about school in Germany- there are three different kinds of schools: a) Hauptschule, which goes until the 10th grade, and focuses on more hands on work than on college academics, b) Realschule, which is a bit more academicy, and which ends also in the 10th grade, from where people can either start work or they can move to c) Gymnasium, the university-bound track at the end of which (12th or 13th year) all students must make their Abitur. My impression is that it is a bit like France's Baccalauréat. Every student must pass this test in order to go to University, so the last year is a stressful one, since nobody wants to take it twice. There is no third chance.

In Gymnasium, starting in the upper grades (11th, 12th and 13th I believe) people can choose up to three main subjects, which they will study more intensely and more often than the other subjects. These are called Leistungs courses. My Leistungs courses are French and History. One of your Leistungs courses is first, and the other is second. Your normal courses (Grund courses) are taken with the other people in your number one Leistungs course. Originally I wanted French and Art as my Leistungs courses, but now I am so glad that I have History, because everybody is nicer than I ever could have imagined. I was nervous to come to school, because I had heard so much that German teenagers are closed, and though not necessarily UNfriendly, they certainly don't need you, and you'll have to work your butt off to find friends. Maybe that's true, but I sure haven't seen it. I have been able to talk and laugh with anyone, and everyone was always willing to talk with me and help me. People think coming from America is cool, which I think is kind of funny.

Before I start talking about each class, I just want to preface it with this: there is another American exchange student in my class, so when I say we without saying who, I mean her and me. My English teacher is very, very, very nice. We try to be helpful in class. Sometimes people make little English mistakes and we can't help but laugh. We're not laughing at them, of course, it's just that what they say is very cute. My teacher for Art and Biology are the same, but when I went to my first biology class I didn't realize it (having seen so many new faces, and all) and I went up and introduced myself again! She gave me this funny smile, and said she knew, and I went back to my seat feeling confused. Only when she took off her coat and I saw she was wearing Exaclty The Same Things as the day before did I realize my mistake. Oops! But art is fun, and what we are doing in Biology I learned two years ago and have since just about forgotten. My Politics and Economy teacher seems nice, but I have only met her once, and we had to do a test. It was a little ridiculous, and we spent most of the two hours huddled over the dictionary trying to figure out what the passages meant. My German teacher confuses me. Partly because I can't understand what he says in class, and partly because he looks like an American, and partly because I never know what he thinks or feels, and partly because he is just a bit strange. We spend most of our time in German class writing notes and silly drawings, and laughing too much about stupid things, and looking words up in the Dictionary. Somtimes we try to pay attention too, but since what's going on is often so far out of our grasp we just end up zoning out and daydreaming instead. My Ethik class seems like it will be alright. I sit next to people I don't normally see, and that is good. They are all, as usual, very very nice. The teacher is a bit strict and looks like of like this. Not really, just kidding. Maybe more like a fish. He is nice. We watched a video on Freud, which was interesting. My Spanish teacher is younger than all my other teachers, and also really nice. Spanish is not that hard, but since I missed the beginning of the year I have to catch up on the basics. My History teacher is really nice too, and funny, but I can't understand most of what goes on in class. That's okay. The only class I have not had yet is Sport.

Now. French deserves its whole own paragraph, because let me tell you. It has put me through quite some stuff. First of all, my school does not offer French, so I have to take the metro a few stops to this other school. The first day a boy in my class who also has French took me there. Everybody went around the room and introduced themselves to me, in French. Of course I understood everything, but when it came my turn to speak I couldn't! I had to concentrate so hard just to figure out how to say 'My name is, I am an exchange student, I am seventeen years old', and every other word popped out in German. It was so embarassing! But also sort of funny too. I said a lot in German and apologized for being so bad at French right now, but really it's all German in my head. Everybody was, again, so, so nice, and I was able to contribute just fine to the making of a dialogue, and reading sentences aloud with grammar points and so on. So I left thinking 'I'm going to listen to French music and read French books, and at least the first big hump day is over and everything will be good from now on!'.

Well, of course that was not the case. The next day of French class, I lost track of the boy who also goes to my school for French, and instead walked with some other friends who have Physics as a Leistungs course there. They said 'Do you know where you have to go?' I said 'Yes!' ...But my French class wasn't there! I knocked on like every door on the second floor hallway, and found either empty rooms, or other classes. I thought: OH NO. So I sidled up to some people talking in the hallway, and said I had French here but I didn't know where it was, and did they? They said, look on your schedule. I said, I can't, because I am normally at the Max-Beckmann Schule and it doesn't say a room number on my schedule. They said, well go downstairs and look on the yellow doors, and there it says all that information. So I thanked them and went back downstairs. I found the yellow doors, and I found the paper, and I found the period, and I found the little F1, standing for Französisch Leistungs Kurs. It was on the first floor this time, go figure. So I knocked, and there was my French teacher, and the whole class looking at me. I apologized for being late, and said I had no idea it was in this other room, and I had to ask these people upstairs, and nobody told me that the rooms changed from day to day! I hope that nobody thought any the worse of me, but again, it was awkward. After that things went fine, and I was able to contribute just fine again. At least my grammar and conjugation are still solid, I'm discovering that. Next time, French class will be held in my school, on the third floor. This time I won't mess up! :)

I find that it is useful to be good at stuff, in order to win friends. I think of it as rather a process, and you win or you lose. My exchange student friend and I are winning. She is a whizz at math, we are both whizzes at English, and I can help people with art. These skills have already lead to new connections. As for the rest of my life, outside of school, most of it has been spent reading. I am almost done with The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. Excellent, as always. I am hoping to start playing some casual soccer, and on Wednesday school gets out early and I am invited to go bake things with some people from school. There could possibly be some light English tutoring on weekends, which would also be fun. There is a giant Fleamarket in Frankfurt every Saturday, which I am hoping to go to this weekend with my exchange student friends.

Also-- I have to take back something I said in an earlier post, about German movie theaters being small. I went with my lovely liason to a positively gigantic theater, near the shopping street. It was quiet impressive. The movie is called The Kids are Alright, and I thought it was very, very good.

So, that was the monster post to get everything up to date. I will try in the future to post smaller posts more frequently. Bye!


  1. Hey Sorrel,

    This is a great story about adapting to daily life in a place where the primary language is your third or second language at best. If you get a chance, in one of your next entries could talk about how students are placed in one of three education tracks?

    Keep on learning and having fun!

  2. Hey Sorrel,

    I hope you have enjoyed your clubbing here in Frankfurt. Don't forget, Frankfurt is one of the best clubbing spots in Germany *Representing Frankfurt =)*.

    I think your prejudice about the german students haven't been confirmed since you know us - I mean your first Leistungskurs Geschichte! ;)

    "Sometimes people make little English mistakes and we can't help but laugh." - That's funny yeah, I can understand you well. ^^ Because I think, no, I KNOW that there are mistakes in this comment. =D

    "My German teacher confuses me." - You are not the only one, the whole class is confused but he is a funny one, sometimes strange but OK. =D

    And take care of the politic and economics teacher, she had practiced teaching in english speaking countries and she is also an english teacher. But she is a nice person too. =D

    "My History teacher is really nice too, and funny, but I can't understand most of what goes on in class." - He is the best, there's nothing else to say. This man is so funny, did you notice, that he speaks very slowly when he speaks with you or Mai? I guess he thinks that you can't understand him speaking normal, he also speaks slowly in general, so sometimes I think of daydreaming! =D

    At least I want to add that you are on the right way, you and Mai. I think everybody in the history is very nice and funny. They are good peoples. Don't be shy like in the first days I saw you, germans are open minded and you can talk with them about any topic. Sure, there are people you shouldn't better don't know but this is not general.
    I hope you will enjoy your staying here and have made enough experiences and won a lot of expressions until you have to go back to tell them to your friends at home. ;)

    And please apologize my mistakes, I do not write comments like this every day! =D

    Sincerely, Erhan Ceylan =D

  3. Ok Erhan haha I reread your post and did catch a couple of mistakes, if you still want me to correct them:

    did you mean 'take care of the powi teacher' or 'be careful of the powi teacher' because they mean very different things :

    'they are good peoples' should be 'they are good people'. the word 'people' is already as plural as you need it in this case. 'Peoples' could imply 'tribes', which of course is not the case. and yes, they are good people :D I couldnt be happier :D

    'i hope you enjoy your stay here' or 'i hope you enjoy staying here' thank you! ..and the rest of that sentence doesn't totally make sense but I know exactly what you mean.

    then the last thing we already talked about of course, which is in english you say 'please correct my mistakes'.

    all in all very very very good! and thanks for commenting and being so cool :D