I’m sorry to say that Syllabus Week in Germany is not so Silly. In fact, most of the teachers here seem to have no concept of an introduction or laying out expectations for the following semester. Instead, we got a whole lot of lecture; I guess we will find out on our own who our professors are.
My Monday was mostly an errand running day. I was able to establish my residency here in Frankfurt with minimal effort although I can already foresee some problems with how it was completed. In order to establish residency, you have to bring a form from your landlord that says you live at the address listed. The problem is that because I live in a dorm, they just list the generic address of the dorm instead of my physical address. This discrepancy has already given me grief although it has yet to prove detrimental.
Having completed my residency, I now had all of the necessary paperwork to be able to open a bank account. This was very important because Germany (and most of the world at this point) no longer uses checks. My financial aid refund was therefore stuck at my school until I was able to get a German bank account. I also need a bank account to establish Autopay for my German health insurance. Making the account was simple and stress free except for the address discrepancy described above which I was able to adequately explain to the employee.
Before my banking appointment, a few friends and I went to the Frankfurt Zoo. Although it is a bit small, it’s definitely worth seeing. They seem to specialize in endangered species and many of the animals I saw there, I (the zoo connoisseur), had never seen in person before. Below you can see just how close to this beautiful lioness we were able to get with just an inch of glass separating us.
On Wednesday I had my very first class at the Frankfurt School, German B2.1. In case you are unfamiliar with language learning levels, B2 is basically the point where you leave the grammar books behind and start learning more spontaneously. It focuses heavily on speaking and learning independent subjects using the German language. Being that we are in a business school, the majority of our lessons will be spent discussing German business culture and preparing for applications and interviews.
I will not be airing my dirty laundry here but I will summarize my first day of class saying that I had mixed feelings. I know that I am not the strongest speaker in any way, shape or form. That is the weakest part of any language I have tried to learn. Where my strengths lie and what my German education thus far has emphasized is grammar and culture. That said, I still feel like I was speaking with the same relative fluency as my peers and those who were significantly better than I elected to skip to the next level. By the end of my three hour class, I felt pretty confident that I was placed in the correct class. That said (and to put it nicely), my teacher seemed to feel differently about my placement although she didn’t seem to be able to spare the time to adequately discuss it. I will be returning to her class next week but we will see if I end up staying in it.
I had my first finance courses on Thursday. In case anyone was wondering, my courses are as follows:
- Foundations of Finance
- Financial Products & Modeling
- Statistics & Econometrics
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Macro Economics
On Thursday I had Foundations and Products & Modeling. They both seemed OK but very easy. Our class schedules are very confusing. I am in the Thursday Group meaning that I will only ever have classes Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Wednesday is exclusively for German courses). Within any given day, there are three periods: morning 9-12:30, afternoon 1:15-4:30 and evening 4:45-8:00. At maximum I will only have a class on two consecutive periods of the day, many days I will only have one class and some days I don’t have class when I normally should. Similarly, which class I have during a given period is seemingly completely random. In short, I have a good idea approximately when I will be in class but which class and when exactly requires me to check my schedule.
On Friday I had the first class which I even remotely enjoyed, Financial Statement Analysis (AKA basic accounting). Even though, like all the rest of my courses, I already know the material backwards and forwards, this professor is much more engaging and prone to discussion than the others which make the class infinitely more interesting and much less hard to fall asleep during. On the complete contrary, my next course was Statistics and this professor couldn’t be engaging to save his life. Imagine Gru from Despicable Me giving a lecture on probability theories and you have my professor.
I had the same classes I had on Friday again on Saturday and it was much the same. However I was able to speak with an advisor over some important matters which I will try to make simple here. Because I studied finance for my Bachelors degree, I have the ability to apply for a waive on some of the courses this semester. This means that, if my waiver is accepted, I can sit in the class for lecture but I cannot participate in any graded activities, namely, the final test. Most people wouldn’t even bother to come to class though because if the class is waived, you no longer get a grade but rather a Pass which then omits the course from your GPA.
Having now attended four of my five courses, I realized that I already know EVERYTHING and then some for each of the subjects. I think I have the necessary documentation to apply to waive all but my Economics course. What was unclear to me was what happens after getting my courses waived; what am I suppose to do with my newfound time? My student advisors answer was basically, nothing. We are unable to sign up for elective courses because they are intended to be taken at the end of your studies and are, in theory, “too hard.” The entire class moves through the other classes as a group so it impossible to begin taking my concentration or other compulsory courses. Basically she suggested either signing up for intensive German courses (which sounds like hell to me) or getting a job (which is difficult because I am not a citizen of the European Union).
As a non-EU citizen, we are only allowed to work for 120 days out of the year and for a maximum of 20 hours per week (i.e. 2.5 regular working days per week). Basically, yes working would be able to take up some of my time and it would be nice to have income but it is no substitute for the 24 hours of class time per week my fellow students are completing, many of them doing so in addition to their 20 hour work week.
This dilemma is frustrating because if I had applied to waive my classes during the summer, I could have stayed home and saved money my first semester, but I also risked the chance that the courses actually did contain information that I didn’t already know. I think my solution to this problem is to remain in a couple of classes that I am sure to get an A in. That way I have a good GPA to start my next semester with and to balance my future GPA. Since I will only be staying in the easy courses, they shouldn’t require much effort outside of the course so I will be able to work/study/travel as if I wasn’t even taking classes. I still have time to make up my mind though so we shall see what I decide and then what actually gets approved.
Sunday was not a fun-day. We had cleaning inspections so the entire flat spent the whole morning cleaning the extremely dirty kitchen. I ended up being in charge of cleaning the stove and toward the end accidentally breathed in some cleaner which made me feel ill. I spend the remainder of the day in bed and had a truly lazy Sunday.
Sorry this post was extremely late… I started writing it on Monday after feeling sick all day Sunday but didn’t finish it until today (Wednesday). I’ll try and do better from not on.