As someone who has lived in Germany before I was unsure of what to expect this time around. The first time I was here was in 2017, which was pre-Corona and I was living with a host family. Now, being here in a time of corona and mostly on my own, there are plenty of differences I have noticed. From the general response to the pandemic to high school vs. university education to living in the city vs. living in a rural area, my experience in Germany continues to be an eye-opener.
Starting off with my first impressions of Marburg, I was in love with the city as soon as I arrived. The magic of this city is shown through all the old buildings, the typical half-timbered houses, as well as through all the fairy tale statues and histories that lead up to the castle. While many would stereotype Germany as an unfriendly country, Marburg has been extremely friendly to my surprise.
With basically half the population being students, there are numerous people to talk to and become friends with. While I have yet to really meet any Germans, those in my dorm are from all over. With my neighbors being from South Korea, Egypt, Tajikistan, Yemen and so many other countries, it has been a blast to get to know so many cultures. Many people spoke at least some English and even more were basically fluent in English, which makes the language barrier easier to navigate.
After the initial awe of the city, I realized that there were definite changes since I was last in Germany, mainly revolving around Corona. Medical masks were something I had to buy because I only came over with my normal masks that are allowed to be worn almost everywhere in the States. I find myself still wearing my normal masks underneath the medical masks simply because of the irritation they cause to my skin, but find it completely reasonable.
On top of that, getting used to the “3 Gs” (Geimpft, Genesen, Getestet) by actually proving that you are vaccinated, recovered or have been (recently) tested is required here. I believe this is a wonderful way to keep others safe and push more of the population to get vaccinated. If they are not, then they have to pay for a test, which can be pricey for students who have in-person classes basically daily. Upwards of 20 euros each time you want to go out or just simply go into a classroom can add up fast if you are not vaccinated. While this should not have been a shock to me, it was still interesting to see how well the country was handling the pandemic and how well the citizens responded to keep others safe. Simply just seeing that tests are bought was a shock to me knowing that the German insurance system is better than ours.
Another realization I had was in relation to the class load. Now, taking part in a college program I realized that I arrived about a month and a half before the winter classes began. Through my program, I am taking a six-week language class and a four-week culture class that have helped me adjust to the German university system. Knowing that there is a difference between homework here and in the States has allowed me to focus my studying on what I really need to learn rather than just doing homework to complete homework.
By slowly beginning to understand the university system, I feel that it is interesting. A few thoughts that I have considered include what families do when they want to go on vacation but have a child in university and a child in gymnasium who have different breaks and study schedules. Another thought was just how cheap studying here really is! Everyone mentions how cheap it is to study in other countries. It makes America look bad. Money is being taken for no reason, in my opinion, and having to take pointless classes that do not revolve around my major is another waste of money. University systems are confusing in the fact that you should go to school to study your intended major or job requirements, not to take as many classes as possible that, most of the time, are not needed.
Lastly, thoughts on transportation. I knew coming into Germany that transportation was mainly going to be by bus, train or by foot for many things. Having been integrated into the German train system already, I knew the stereotype of punctuality did not apply to buses or trains. This time around I am having to rely more on the bus system than before, especially since I live right outside of the city. It is not as terrible as the trains can be, but when buses are full or run late, it is hard to get where you need to be on time or prepare yourself to be somewhere else. I am so used to taking my car everywhere whenever I need to. Now, relying on other modes of transportation, it feels vulnerable in a way. Early on in September, there were also the train strikes that had to be worked around, which posed other problems. Not a huge deal but it was completely against the stereotype and just caused problems for those who needed to travel.
Before arriving in Marburg, I really was not sure what to expect and honestly, I am sure that once the regular semester begins in October, there will be a few new things that I find myself catching. The pandemic has definitely allowed a new light to be shed on how different countries handle things. Now, after about a month of being here, it has been interesting reflecting back on the States and seeing how they continue to progress in this time, as well as other big news topics. In the end, there are many similarities and differences between the countries and cultures. Time will allow more to be shown, but for now, I am just glad to be comfortable with the schedule I have now!