This past week was definitely the most eventful one I've had since I've been in Tübingen. It began Monday morning with a visit to the Department of Chinese and Korean Studies, which is located about a thirty minute walk past the university in an obscure but hardly subtle, mustard-yellow colored building. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. But when I entered, I was immediately greeted by a table full of homemade pastries (uh-oh) and some very friendly faces who were happy to direct me to the office of Frau Wu, the Chinese instructor. I stood quietly outside her door while she administered a language placement test to the girl before me, feeling my palms getting sweatier by the minute. Finally, I was invited into her office, where she magically already knew who I was (probably because I sent her an email three weeks ago that she never responded to). I briefly restated the contents of my email, which was basically just an explanation of what I'm doing in Germany and my desire to continue with Chinese, with the recent addition that I am considering applying for a Masters in either Chinese Studies or Politics and Society of East Asia next fall.
To be honest, who knows what I'll be doing after my Fulbright year is through. But I do really love living in Tübingen, and thanks to the public nature of German schooling and the government's socialist tendencies, I could earn my degree here for free. And that certainly has its advantages.
After I finished telling Frau Wu about my previous Chinese courses and my time in Beijing, she pulled out a textbook and asked me to read a few lines from a random page. I had expected something like this, and managed to read all the basic words without a problem, stumbling over a few that I've since forgotten. The end result was that I'll be taking 5th semester Chinese, which is the equivalent of first semester senior year Chinese class at Vanderbilt. In the spring, I'll take 6th semester, and at the very end, I'll take an exam. If I pass, I'll be automatically admitted to a Masters program in the department, should I choose to enroll. In other words: Best. Possible. Outcome. Chinese class started Tuesday morning at ten, and my classmates seemed very friendly. I feel only slightly intimidated by the fact that they all just returned from their semester abroad in China.
My second class is potentially the most helpful history course for my project that I could possibly have envisioned. It's called "From Original Text to Published Edition," and centers around the transcription of a diary from the 1800s written in the same old German that half my letters are written in. We spent the first day learning the alphabet, and I showed off my week-old skills of reading Sütterlinschrift
by answering every question correctly. Not to brag, but it was kind of
a big deal. Plus, the professor agreed to help me next week with some of the words I've been struggling with in the letters I've read so far.
The last class I wanted to attend for the week was on Thursday. I was pretty excited by the title: "What is cultural history, and why is it important?" I dragged my friend Meredith
along, who was visiting for the week from Flensburg, to show her the university. In typical Kaci fashion, we arrived thirty minutes early for the class and made ourselves comfortable in the back of a classroom that slowly filled up until there were hardly any free seats. At 4:15, the professor walked in and began class immediately. It took about three minutes of confusion and a word written in a foreign alphabet for us to realize that we were not, in fact, in Cultural History class. We were in Intermediate Greek. Once we realized our (read: my) mistake, we got up to leave as unobtrusively as possible. Unfortunately, our exit was less than smooth due to the fact that we were in the very back of the room, and were forced to walk along the windows of the classroom once we made it outside. Awkward.
I'm still not entirely sure where Cultural History actually met that day, because I did indeed have the correct room. But since I'm auditing and not officially registered in any history courses, I did not receive any memo about a room change. Oh, well. At least now I only have class two days a week . . .
Next Wednesday will be my first Kolloquium
for PhD candidates in the history department, which is the only class I'm actually required to attend by my faculty advisor here. I'm pretty terrified, considering I'm not a PhD candidate, nor have I ever formally studied history. Needless to say, this week should be another interesting one.
I'll keep you posted.