Jackson Andersen '16

So, since I’m finally back from Christmas vacation, all my presentations are behind me (and all my tests and papers are in front of me), I’m going to write about the weird/strange/unlucky things that happened while school was out.

1. My family and I took a bus to Prague… and the bathroom broke.

Not sure what the problem was, but we were 4.5 hours on a bus bound straight for Prague, without rest stops, and bathroom needed to be locked about an hour in. At least there was Wifi (a precious and coveted resource in Germany)

2. I took proposal photos for an American couple near Linderhof Palace.

So the story goes like this: he had asked her to marry him a few days before, but they forgot to take photos (understandable) and I had just happened to be walking to the palace for a tour when they had come back in order to acquire photographic evidence of their now-engagement. So I used his phone to take pictures of this Lake Tahoe couple at the edge of small pond on the palace grounds of the Bavarian king with the Bavarian Alps in the background. Funny how life works.

3. I went barhopping with my parents.

This might not be so weird for some people, but it was the first time I actually drank with my parents, and since it was hard to navigate in Prague, we would take a taxi to one (maybe two) landmarks and then barhop back to the hotel, and all the while my sister, who freely admitted to drinking at her college (it’s her first year) flat out refused to drink with us, where it is completely normal and expected for someone of her age to do so. Also, they can smoke inside in Prague, so be warned if you have breathing problems and plan on visiting.


Potsdam. For those who might only remember hearing of this name from their high school history classes, it’s the meeting place of the Allied leaders, Churchill, Stalin, and Truman, when they were deciding the fate of Europe after the Second World War. But that’s not important.


What’s important is the long history that Potsdam has as the city where the Prussian kings lived and built their palaces when they weren’t busy doing political king-stuff in Berlin. And the most important of these kings? Well, in my opinion it’s Frederick the Great, who built the palace named Sanssouci (without worries) in Potsdam in the 18th century. The thing with this particular palace is that it’s more than just a building, it is also a grape growing terrace, since the King was a huge fan of fresh fruit, especially grapes. Not exactly proto-vegetarien, but he knew what he wanted.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures inside the palace, but the artwork of just about everything inside was magnificent. If it wasn’t marble or gold, it was designed to look like nature and took on the likeness of vines, trees, and exotic birds, all in this 18th century European palace. Of particular interest to me was a special sculpture of Mars that was made for Frederick II. This wasn’t the adult, fully armored and warlike Mars that is normally sculpted, but a young, resting Mars with his sword sheathed at his feet. This was apparently symbolic of Frederick’s vision of Sanssouci, where politics and war were not allowed to be discussed, in favor of the arts, music, literature, the latest ideas out of the Enlightenment, and other manners of leisure activities. A rather interesting factoid I learned about Fritz in Sanssouci was that only two people were allowed into his personal study; himself and the Enlightenment thinker Voltaire. I think many college students could learn a thing or two from Frederick the Great’s example.

Hi out there! Sorry for not posting recently; I have several presentations to give starting Monday, so I’ve been focusing on them, since everything needs to be in good German.

Anyway, I had the good fortune to make two almost back-to-back trips to Berlin and Potsdam, once with last year’s German FLA, Hannah, and the other with the school.

Berlin is a great city, and I spent a full day simply walking around the city and seeing things like the Brandenburger Tor, the several museums on Berlin’s so-called “Museum Island”, Checkpoint Charlie, and more. Especially interesting was the Holocaust Memorial, because unlike most memorials, it’s honestly just a whole bunch of pillars stuck in the ground. But the feeling of walking through the pillars on a cold November day had more of an effect on me than any other memorial except the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. It is easy not to look at the pillars at the edges of the memorial, because many of them are not even waist high, but what they hide is actually a depression in the ground, and suddenly the pillars are more than a foot over your head, and your vision is narrowed to just the far-off “window” that is made directly in front of you by the over-arching pillars, which are only about one “me” wide at any given point. The overall feeling of walking through the memorial was actually quite lonely, even though I was there with the group from Bamberg.

Well didn’t this turn out to be a nice post? I’ll write about Potsdam soon, I promise!

The colors of the cheering horde and the prepared ground were bathed in red. As each subsequent challenger loped into view, twin gouts of flame issued from the towers flanking the entry way. It was at this moment when I understood why this place and event was sometimes referred to as “Frankonian Hell”. With each contestant introduced, the mobile flame-towers were removed from the arena, the red lights dimmed, allowing both the red and the white colors of the home-town supporters to be seen, and the Brose Baskets of Bamberg were ready to play some basketball.

So, yeah, the people from Bamberg are really into their basketball. The entire crowd had the upbeat energy of a well-invested student section, though of course without most of the opponent-shaming organized taunts which can be easily heard at many high-stakes games, for the entire game. The fact that Bamberg’s team is actually one of the best in Germany is probably a contributing factor to this willingness to be engaged for the duration, but hey, that’s just speculation. To close, it seems that, in Germany at least, one doesn’t need to search for a soccer game for some exciting sports games.

Yes, all you people coming back  from October break to begin classes anew, I, though I’ve mentioned the Summer Uni and Preparatory classes in earlier posts, have only just finished my second week of actual German University classes. I haven’t really said anything worthwhile yet, mostly because I still have the problem where I understand what is said and formulate a response about a minute slower than everyone else in the class.

The class culture here is completely different from at Holy Cross, in just about every way that matters. First, the system to choose classes and the website where course descriptions are written are not the same, so lots of back and forth between the two is necessary to make sure you are enrolling in the class you actually want. The levels of courses are also not easily explained by numbers; lowest to highest means easiest to hardest. Instead, they just have the title, Lecture, Seminar (and there are usually 3 different kinds of these), and Tutorial. It’s also encouraged to take the same class subject at more than one of these levels. For example, several other students and I are taking both the Lecture and Seminar for Frederick Barbarossa II. Now that I’ve finally mentioned the students, there are a heck of a lot more of them in each class than at Holy Cross. The seminars have about 30 people each, which I don’t think any class at Holy Cross, that I have taken so far, had. The Lecture had about 100, from my estimate, but just to give a sense of scale, the “room” for the class is actually three rooms with the partitions taken down.

The professors also have much less oversight concerning their students’ work, since the only things that are required for the class are what counts for ECTS credits (the EUs system for transferring University credits between schools/countries), which is always only a combination of a presentation, and final exam, and/or a term paper. Otherwise no other homework is given out. Sometimes, the professor doesn’t even hand out “assigned readings” and instead just puts up a massive list of related literature on the Virtual Campus website (kind of like Moodle, not related to the other two website mentioned), and sort of says, “Have fun reading”. In the spirit of keeping this concise, I’ll leave you with a final thought; the term papers are typically due the day the next semester begins, not when the current semester ends.

As the title suggests, this should have been posted sooner, but technology sometimes has other ideas.

So, the Summer Uni has come and gone, with only a tiny portion of the students taking part remaining for the actual school year, and now the students who will be staying either a semester or the whole school year have arrived, in order to take the German Preparatory Course. Here, unlike the Summer Uni, we are actually focusing on German grammar and language learning the entire three hour class.

On the other hand, working out a routine for where and how to procure food for each meal, without going out, ordering food, or having a meal plan (that’s just not a thing here), has forced me to really consider what and how much I eat from day. More than that, I literally need to plan my days around when I can run back to the kitchen and make something to eat before I go out, if only for the economic incentive therein. €11.00 for one meal on one day or €5.50 for the groceries that can serve as a meal for 2 or 3 days? For me this is a no-brainer.

I’ve also been trying to move away from pre-packaged food, in favor of actually cooking things myself, but at this point I still rely on food with directions on the packaging fairly heavily, so I’ll write more on that when there’s actually something interesting to say.

Sorry for the space between posts, between the Summer University and new friends, I usually just wanted to collapse in bed when I got back to my room. The Summer Uni is over now, so I’m going to try to do a couple posts about my experiences therein.

So, this post will be about our impromptu trip to Augsburg one Saturday! And by impromptu, I mean impromptu on a whole ‘nother level from what I normally consider impromptu. All we had was a meeting time at the train station (7:00 A.M.) and a couple people who wanted to go somewhere, while the rest either didn’t understand the rail system yet (like me) or just didn’t have plans on Saturday (everyone). We bought a Bayern(Bavaria) ticket €39/5 people per ticket, with access to anywhere in Bavaria before midnight on Saturday. We didn’t actually choose Augsburg until we were in Nuremberg’s main train station, and mostly because it was the first train to somewhere that was a large-ish city in Bavaria.

Augsburg itself was fun, with characteristic beautiful churches and a fantastic palace that we got to take an unguided tour of. But perhaps the most enduring moment from our trip to Augsburg was the Fuggerai. The Fuggerai is, for lack of a better term, an apartment complex built by an old noble family in Augsburg, called the Fugger family, in which people still live today, making it the oldest still-operational living settlement in the world. You can probably guess at the jokes that were made at the Fuggers’ expense. There was also a WWII-era bomb shelter in the Fuggerai, which was also pretty cool to see the Allied bombing campaigns from a German perspective.

The only bad thing about Augsburg was, waking up at 6:00 A.M. to get to the train station on time, I forgot my camera, so I don’t have any personal pictures of the trip. I will, however, try to snag some from my friend’s Facebook pages and repost here.

Wow! How quickly life at home changed, and how different my day-to-day life is in Bamberg is really quite startling. After sleeping on the plane, it only took two hours by train to get to Bamberg from Munich, and then a bit of a scramble to purchase a bunch of things like food and bedding so that I can actually live in my apartment. All the other students in the dorm (mostly German, of course), are extremely friendly and  helped indispensably with my arrival and moving it to my room. In the two days between my arrival and the actual beginning of the International Sommer Universität, I took several walks through the area nearby my dorm so that I could start to figure out how to get from place to place before it was absolutely necessary. The roads alternate between streets for all modes of transportation (cars, bikes, and pedestrians), bikes and people, and then only pedestrians zones.


First, classes for the ISU started almost immediately, even though I arrived here about a day and a half before the rest of the students from Holy Cross. From my impressions of this first week, the classes don’t seem to be designed to be difficult, so much as exposure to German literature, culture, etc. in the German language, but more on that as the classes continue. The other thing that is very different from what has been normal for me until now is the successive nights out at a Beer Garden or concert (sometimes both), hanging out with my new friends from countries all over the world after class until long after dark, (and later when with the Germans), and then we part ways only because some of the people need to take a bus to their dorm.

So, the summer days have wound down and it is almost time to leave for Germany. Plane and train tickets have been purchased to get me where I need to go, and the many copies of important documents (passport, letter of acceptance, lists of important phone numbers) are tucked away in various pockets of each of my pieces of luggage, just in case something happens to the originals.

To be honest, though, even with all of the work the preparations have been, nervousness and anxiety haven’t really been an issue until these past few days before my actual flight, when there hasn’t been that much left to do. And even then, family and friends who want to see me/hang out with me before I leave until next July have done a decent job of filling those hours with at least something, so my mind doesn’t have the time to dwell on the uncertain parts of my trip, such as my proficiency in German and making money last, whether by demanding my focus on whatever game we are currently playing, or simply reiterating to every family member where, exactly, I am going to be and how I am going to get there when the day comes. Repetition aids memory and all that jazz.

I’m not sure how long it will take me to settle into a routine once I get to Germany, but my next post will be from Bamberg! Look forward to it!