Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lessons in University Freiburg with Joan

This comes at such an awkward time. The Germany national team has just beaten Poland, and everyone's still in a high mood, and here I am going to talk about school. The guys outside are singing "Hallo, Straßenbahn~", the cars outside are all honking the victory tune, and here Joan is typing to you guys about her lessons in Germany. bah~ But I've been meaning to do this post for the longest time already, should stop procrastinating. I'll talk about football maybe later or tomorrow. It's a public holiday tomorrow~

I don't know if I've mentioned this before or not, but here I go describing my school lessons in full details here.

I'm registered under the Geschichte faculty in University of Freiburg, which is History department. When I consulted the Professor counsellor in charge of freshies, or ersties, as they call them here, and told him that I needed to earn credits for my term here, he advised me to do one Proseminar, one Übung, and two Vorlesungen. And that's what I did.

For the Proseminars, we had to sign up before the start of the lessons, fill in three choices, and on the first day of school, we'd find out which we were posted to. I was advised to do "Victorian Great Britain" because "the lecturer speaks excellent English" and most of our texts are in English. The professor commented by the side of my sign up sheet to give me priority so in the end I only filled up two choices, the other being a module called "Mao's China" which I have absolutely no interest in but was advised to do because "there are many texts in English".

The other modules are show up and sign up. I showed up and signed up for an übung "Internet for Historians" because it has no readings, and two vorlesungen "Europe in the Late Middle Ages" and "Globalisation, Mentality, Politic and Sport in the 20th Century". An übung is a more hands on session, when things are done in small groups, and we do practices as the teacher teaches. A vorlesung is a lecture. A big lecture theatre lecture, no tutorial, no nothing, just every week go into a big lecture theatre and listen. A proseminar is a seminar, mine also has a compulsory tutorial, but it's very different from the NUS kind of lectures and seminars and tutorials we have.

My four lessons are spread out on four different days. On Monday 2-4pm I have the "Globalisation, Mentality, Politics and Sport in the 20th Century" vorlesung. It's in a not that big lecture theatre, about the size of perhaps LT 10 (erm... I've only been to lecture theatres in Arts Fac, so my references are all Arts references). Basically the lecture is about sports and it's relevance in politics and history in the 20th century. Lectures are peppered with lots of photographs and pictures from the past, and a favourite topic for sports in football, especially with Germany hosting the current World Cup, we get to talk a lot about that too.

But one thing I don't quite like about the lecture is that every week, the lecturer would repeat stuff from the previous lecture. It might be a recap, but I don't really understand much and i think it's a waste of time. And with our lessons now cut short by one hour, well, we learn lesser stuff. Yes, because of the World Cup, our lecturer decided to end lessons at 3pm so that we can all go back and watch the earlier matches.

Speaking of the end of lectures, in Germany, instead of clapping, we knock on the table with our knuckles. Although I've watched a video on the Wannsee Conference, and shows the German officials all knocking on the table, I didn't know that it's a social norm that is still practised throughout Germany. To my biggest surprise in my first talk I attended when everyone knocked on the table. I followed them, and slowly got used to it.

Another interesting thing I've noted about the students here is the notebooks they use. All of them use A4 sized notebooks. In Singapore, we are exposed to notebooks of different sizes, and personally I'm more used to B5 sized notebooks, the Japanese sized ones because I carry small bags, and B5 sized notebooks fit nicely inside my bag. Over here, I bought myself an A5 sized notebook because I still find that A4 is too big for my bag. Another thing about their notebooks is that they are squared, not lined. Little boxes... To fit in with the student population here, I bought one of those boxed notebooks. My German housemate says she prefers them because they can help her keep her handwriting neat. For me, I think it's good because I can do indentation with it.

In my lectures, although I listen in German, my notes are all done in English, only certain phrases and words do I copy them in German. I still can't write in German well. And I've a problem with past tense.

Tuesday is my free day. Usually I stay at home and sleep and slack and watch television or youtube. Sometimes I go down to the library to photocopy my readings for my Friday's proseminar.

Photocopying in Germany is damn expensive. Each sheet of paper costs 5.3 cents (euro cents) as compared to our 2.5 Singapore cents back in NUS. Also the photocopying machines here much less fewer in quantity. There are always long queues to photocopy stuff. In the department library, there are three machines. In the main library, the machines are spread out, with 3-4 machines in each location. Unlike in NUS where there is one main photocopying room with so many so many machines and I never needed to queue, although I did need to queue when I go to the Malaya and Singapore collection to photocopy stuff.

Speaking of libraries, the system here is that we have one main library, the UB, or university bibliothek, but also department libraries. This history library is called the KGIV library because it's in KGIV. Books in the department library cannot be loaned out. Even in the UB, only those on certain floors can be loaned out, those in the LS, Lesaales, cannot be loaned out. The libraries, don't have an RBR system. I think the libraries here work on a trust system. The books aren't even tagged, those books which cannot be loaned out are all not tagged, but then again, the students here are not allowed to bring bags or coats into the library and have to leave them in the Garderobe, locker room, which is actually not a locker at all but a place for people to put their stuff unguarded. It's all about honesty and trust.

What is KGIV? The university buildings are called KGI, KGII, KGIII, and KGIV. There are only four buildings in the university campus. It's sort of like our AS1, AS2, AS3, AS4, AS5, AS6 and AS7 like that, only that KG stands for Kollegien Gebäude, and if you don't know, I, II, III, IV are roman numerals. The classrooms are numbered just as how ours are numbered. Lecture theatres are HS (Hösaal), the rooms are all 4digits, the first is the KG number, the second is the floor level, the third and fourth are the room numbers. 1231, would be in KGI, 2nd floor and 2004 would be in KGII, ground floor.

Wednesday I have my "Internet for Historians" class. Actually it's alternate Wednesdays, 3-5pm. Another piece of evidence to show that the Germans are slack. I went for class on the first day and the lecturer said that other than the next week, the following lessons are fortnightly.

Classes are not held in the university grounds because we get to use computers, and the university building doesn't have computer labs, so we go to external grounds but still university campus to use the computer labs. My first class was quite bad because I've got the wrong address for the computer lab, but lucky I didn't go to the wrong place.

The lecturer speaks in fast German, and with it being hands on, I often have trouble keeping up with the class. Luckily I've got a helpful neighbour. Mostly I sit beside this guy called Sebestian, although sometimes I don't, and everytime I can't catch up, I'd ask him what to do. Lessons are mostly teaching us how to use the internet to search for historical materials. For this module, we do not have exams, neither do we need to do a term paper, just do our homework is enough. Lessons are tough for me to keep up, but other than that, the amount of work needed for this class is pretty slack.

On Thursdays 11-1pm I have "Europe in the Late Middle Ages". It's a big LT lecture, like a lecture in our LT11. The lecturer is a young woman. I'm quite skeptical of female lecturers, especially young ones, and this lecturer seems to be somewhat of my stereotypical female lecturer. She prepares a script and read from it as she gives her lecture, no jokes about other things, and not much spontanity from her. maybe because of the topic, lectures sometimes can be rather boring. And it's bad for me since my German is not good, and when it gets boring, it's more difficult for me to absorb much.

Luckily this lecture is one with powerpoint slides, so at least when I'm lost I can always refer back to this powerpoint slides. This module also is one with online learning facility, sort of like an early IVLE thingie. We call it campus-online. Our IVLE is still more advanced than their campus-online, but it's interesting to see them also having something somewhat similiar although I don't really use it much.

Speaking of other oddities. I remember a senior, Terrence, telling me that I should go early to classes and sign up for them on the first class. But it seems like the university culture in Freiburg and Heidelberg is somewhat different. Taking that advice, I went for classes very early and found that everyone went to classes late. There was no such thing as a rush for places in the class. After a couple of weeks of lessons, then I finally realised that although officially in time tables classes start from x-y time, the classes de facto starts 15min after the stated time. For all the classes, they start 15min late, and end 15min early, so in fact our classes are only one and a half hours.

But there are usually no pauses in between. Although my "Globalisation, Mentality, Politic and Sport in the 20th Century" has a 5min break in between when we still ended classes at 4pm. I don't really like that because I have short attention span and can get bored easily. Back in NUS, I'd always use the break in between to buy food so that I can stay awake. But then again, here, all my classes start late, so I still don't have problems in keeping myself awake.

On Fridays I have my proseminar, "Victorian Great Britain". From 12-2pm I've the tutorial, and 2-4pm the seminar. The tutorial is not like our tutorial, where we talk about the topic, the tutorial is a more general kind of tutorial where we are exposed to the working of the school and of the department. We talk about finding materials in the library and the different sort of materials we can get, and more general history stuff. The tutor, like in NUS, is a student tutor. And my tutor is damn shuai. wahaha~

Seminars are more like NUS tutorials, where we read a reading before class and come to class discussing the readings with a group of student leading the discussion and every week a different group leads, and we are graded for the discussion too. My lecturer for this module is a young male teacher who studied in England and hence his ability to speak "excellent English". But although the prerequisite of this class is to be able to understand English due to the texts we have to read, not everybody in the class is good in English.

I just had a project group meeting with two classmate, for the leading of the discussion for one session, and both of them said that they English isn't that good. I didn't really have much time and ability to communicate with them both, but one of them, interestingly enough, is a Sinology student. He said that this proseminar was actually his third choice, so I guess that explains. Oh, by the way, I think it's cool for him to study Sinology. I once saw one of his readings and it was one of Sima Guang and the pot of water, in Chinese. I don't know how many of you remember but we had a similar reading back in primary school.

The story goes like this, a group of kids were playing and one of hem fell into a huge pot of water and was drowning. The clever young Sima Guang, probably only 5-6 years old at that time, in bid to save his friend, threw stones and broke that pot allowing the water to flow out and his friend not to drown and also to escape. Sima Guang was praise for his cleverness and quick thinking. I used to get mixed up between Sima Guang and Sima Qian, the former is that clever little boy who grew up to be a young minister, one of the youngest ministers at that time while the latter is an historian, an old one, also very famous, think he was the one who complied the History of China from the early ages to the Han time. I don't think they are related.

Learning a new language is difficult. Me learning German proves just it. But learning a new script altogether is more than just difficult, it's crazy. Really admire Lorenz. I know at this age I can never master writing a new script altogether.

I have an average of 9 hours of lessons a week. Considering, I'm very slack. My housemates have about 16 hours of lessons a week because they study two subjects while I'm studying only one. Even Lorenz, he said that he does 14 hours a week, with his language studies while compare to me back in NUS with my 17 hour weeks with languages. Although the other Arts students have 15 hour weeks without languages, so for the Arts students, it's about the same. Though the other fac students do more hours, but who cares about them anyway. wahaha~

I was just having this online jibe with this Engin student though his blog.

xxoos: eh, which year are you in now?
siu hang: I'm 20 plus. (alright year one point five, if round up to one significant figure then it's two)
tstar: Er if you want to be really accurate, it's actually year 1.75 (I calculated it), but round up also same lah..
siu hang: how did you get that number....
nakazawa: Simple, 1 year have 4 sems - 2 proper 2 special. We should be finishing 1st special sem, so it is 1.75... 3rd out of 4 sems.
xxoos: diaoz... i asked which year are u in not how old are u... bah~ typical engin student, don't understand english~ wahaha~
xxoos: bah~ all the engin students, can't talk in english, must try and do maths talk... diaoz~
siu hang: lol! arts students always ignore words in bracket huh? oopz I forgot proper endnote and citation...
xxoos: words in brackets are meant for citations, since i don't read citations, i just plainly ignored the words in the brackets.

Full exchange can be found here. Or you can visit his blog to see how typical Engin students are like. His own tag line is already "You think engineers can't write? I'll prove you right." yea... -_-"

I think I'll die next semester when I get back to NUS and will need to start on my cross facs and sci GEMs. I will die. Just as how Siu Hang died-ed when he did his SS, but that's course he went to do a Farrell module, so it's still his fault, who asked him to go choose Farrell's module. In Germany, the students don't need to do stupid stuff like cross facs and GEMs and SS modules. Lucky them~

That's all I can think of at the moment, any questions about SEP or Germany or school here can email me and ask me. I think after my this stint I can go back NUS and advise those students preparing for SEP liao~ wahahaha~


Anonymous said...

wah joan!! looks lk ur realli having a very interesting time in germany. heehee.. tk loadsa care k! -sheena =)

Siu Hang said...

arlo! please, I got S for Superb for Farrell mod lor.....

don't want to argue with arts liao, still got to do GEM at arts.... maybe I should ask you what arts GEM is good to take, then don't need to die so many times.