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End of Term Thoughts

It’s been three hours since I have been sitting inside the Philological library of my university (we lovingly call it “the brain” because of its shape) and I can’t believe that I have another two hours until my French seminar, which I actually can’t afford not to attend and therefore don’t have time to go back home in between.

Looking at the bright side of things, my desperation may have been bigger had my next class been Arabic and not French. Never mix hobbies and (university) work. Just make sure that if you still put vowels where there are not supposed to be any and if you can’t read your own handwriting after five minutes, do it without the worry of having to pass that class for those 10 credits. Yes, French was a good idea after all. There are vowels all over the place so I have nothing to worry about.

Surprisingly enough, I just realized that this term is nearly over. I have another four weeks of class before it is time for finals and it seems as if it were only yesterday that I was trying to figure out how the lockers at this place work.

So I am thinking about what conclusions I can make after this first term and maybe when I have finished typing this, I will be closer to my last seminar and my way home.

Maybe the first thing I can think of is the fact that the idea of being lonely in a crowd (a massive crowd in my case) has never been so true.

I could say that after almost four months at university I don’t actually really know a soul and not a soul knows me, even though I am regularly surrounded by hundreds of people in a lecture hall. Of course there were various “introduce yourself” rounds at the beginning but where did these people go afterwards? Like when you changed your schedule after one week and suddenly found yourself in a new group when the introductory rounds are over?

There is always a way to exchange a few nice words with someone and the more people there are, the greater the variety but at the end of the day, chances are that this girl who asked you how to get to the film and drama department on a rainy Tuesday afternoon will never cross ways with you again. Instead, you could be approached by a student from the student parliament the next day who will try to convince you with all this strength to vote for the Young Communists Party during elections next week.

In a place as big as this one, people always come and go and if you want to hold on to any of them, you better like them quickly so you still have enough time to exchange phone numbers or something.

Yet, my humble social skills put aside, the anonymity here is not too bad after all. Being “just a number” has its practical sides, too. No one can actually tell whether I chose to sleep in one day or not. No one can point out exactly that I sometimes spend my time in a lecture doing crochet under my desk and if I ever get into a political argument with my professor or ask a stupid question in general, I don’t have to worry about that awkwardness following me for the rest of my time here. Let’s be honest, not even the people in my small seminars know what my name is. The next day they won’t even be able to tell that it was me who spoke.

I noticed that the days go by quicker than they used to when I was in school. I go to class, I listen and doodle on the side and then I go home. I can let my mind wander if I want to and I don’t have to speak when I don’t want to. All I do is listen which in a way, is easier than listening and answering questions because no one else will, put together. All in all, I am my own master when it comes to learning so I have less reasons to be nervous like I used to be in school. In fact, the system here is so flexible, some students live in one town of Germany but are enrolled in university in a different state. They show up for exams only and still get their degrees in the end.

I do however, greatly miss the possibility to know my professors. It was very easy to find a common ground with a teacher in school. The classes were small and the teacher was always part of the faculty. You could ask them for help or you could drop by during break or lunch to discuss stuff that interests you both.

In university that does not seem so much doable to me. The professors that I have this semester are somewhat “very important people”. Lecturing is not even the main part of their work as researchers and political scientists. They drop by here occasionally to give their educated speeches. Some even come here from other states in Germany. So if you think about it, they don’t have the time to chat with their students about anything and everything. It is only a matter of clarifying things you did not understand when reading along on their PowerPoint. They do however, encourage us to come to them with questions about exams or our term papers for which we need an appointment.

It is difficult to think that it would be possible to look up to our professors as givers of advice, people we can turn to when we can’t move forward intellectually. We are simply on a too professional level now but who knows whom I will have the pleasure of dealing with next semester?  Besides, German teachers and professors generally prefer to keep a distance to their students, compared to my experience with Americans and Canadians.

In curiosity of what the next semester will bring, I notice that indeed I am closer to today’s last seminar than I was before. J




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