Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chapter 1, In which I arrived and began my studies

Some people say that endings are difficult, but I tend to believe that that isn’t quite accurate. For me, beginnings are definitely the hardest. At the start of anything, you have no idea what’s going on: you don’t know the rules of engagement, as it were. And this, of course, applies to my time here in Germany. So, let’s begin at the beginning (for that is a very good place to start (for any reader who enjoys The Sound of Music)).

My arrival date in Germany was set for 7 May 2012, so I naturally booked my travel from Pittsburgh to Düsseldorf on the 6th – I was to travel from Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and then finally to Düsseldorf (DUS). Of course, the key word here is ‘supposed.’ I set out on Sunday at about 12:30pm, to catch a 3:30pm flight – plenty of time, or so I thought. After waiting at the corner for an hour for the 28x bus to take me to the airport, I aborted my plan, and called a taxi to bring me to the airport. The taxi picked me up at about 2, and brought me to the airport around 2:45pm. I figured I was set (it might be tight, but I’d make it). After clearing security and the like, I found that my plane had been delayed (at the time, only 15 minutes) on account of some bad weather in Chicago. So I sat and waited…and the plan finally boarded (an hour late). We made it to Chicago just fine, but while in the air I realized I’d be arriving in Chicago a meager 20 minutes before my flight for Germany was to depart. That’s not a lot.

And when we landed…? Turns out the plane in our gate was taking a bit of extra time to depart. To make a long story short, I missed my flight to Düsseldorf, was rebooked to Frankfurt, and then to Düsseldorf, and ended up arriving at around 2pm, rather than 9am. *whew*

In Düsseldorf, I took a taxi directly to the Goethe-Institute, and began my testing (you read that correctly, no break, no sleep, no food, just TESTING – and I thought my finals were over!) I was placed into the B1.1 level (here at Goethe, the levels are divided as follows: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, from A to C. Each level has 2 parts (hence B1.1), and each part takes 4 intensive weeks to complete – studying about 4 solid hours per day).
After that, I was finally given my place of residence, and set loose (this makes the Goethe Institute sound a bit cold, and I admit I am dramatizing a bit. The people were SUPER nice, the test wasn’t TOO bad, and I was actually fairly happy by the end). I’m living with a host family here in Germany, in the vicinity of Düsseldorf (about 10 minutes out, by train). So here I came, and as it turns out, the host family is wonderful – I’m really looking forward to the up and coming couple of months.

Some quick information: my host family consists of the mother and father, and their two sons (9 and 12, respectively). My class at the Institute has 7 people in it (which is really super), my teacher’s name is Frau Föllmer, and I think I’m going to love it here.