Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Game Plan

It is one month before my trip to Germany, and I am a mess. On top of midterms, finals, term projects, and housing, I have to make all of the necessary arrangements for my trip abroad. Most of the paperwork on the German side of things has been settled, but there's still plenty to iron out on the Carnegie Mellon end. Pre-departure meetings, scholarship applications, banking and insurance arrangements...

I'll get to all that in a moment. First, I want to explain just what exactly I'm making arrangements for.

For most of June, I'll be studying language and culture at Goethe Institut in Berlin. I have many and varied reasons for doing so. For instance, I want to expand my cultural awareness past the narrow view that I have currently; I want to receive additional summer credits to make room in my schedule for other classes; I want to see what German Chinese food tastes like compared to American Chinese. (I never said all of my reasons were good). However, my most convincing reason, and the real impetus for going, is that I love the language. I'm so utterly smitten that my roommate complains about me speaking German in my sleep! Not visiting Germany would be just plain illogical.

As for what the study entails, the details are all on the Goethe Institut home page.
Essentially, I will have 20 hours a week of classes dealing specifically with language and culture. The rest of the time is left open for exploring and interacting with the city. The Institute also arranges weekend activities for students. For now, I've been left in suspense as to what those activities will be.

Now, I'm neither qualified nor inclined to go over every step of the study abroad registration process. It's different for everyone depending on their situation. However, I can share some tips that I've learned the hard way.

1. The earlier you can figure everything out, the better.

This is fairly obvious, but I know that I repeatedly thought to myself, "It's still a few months away" This thought leads to your doom.

Time You Have < Time Required + Time for Sleep

This inequality is practically always true unless you get ahead of the game and start as soon as possible.

2. Make sure you have a bank account that works in your target country.

I recently discovered that neither of my banks actually operate out of Germany. This is problematic. I have yet to come up with a solution to this problem, partially because I am utterly clueless when it comes to banking, which leads to my last tip.

3. If you don't know, ask.

If you are uncertain on something, ask. If the person you ask doesn't know, ask someone else. Guessing about transportation or financial matters in particular can lead to disaster.

That's it for now. In the next few weeks, I'll post occasionally about my progress. However, don't expect much until my flight out in late May.