As some of you may know, I am now living in Aachen, a small town in far West Germany (seriously, you can’t get any further west, it’s just trees and then France).
I’m completing a German language course here, as one of the other things that I’ve discovered over the last couple of months is that my German has taken a bigger drop in quality than Charleston’s tap water.
Speaking of water, that’s what Aachen means in a certain language. I’m not sure which, I missed that part of the introductory tour of the town. More down to distraction than lack of Deutsch (football scores). I may have missed a few details. Basically, Aachen is the third-best town in Germany for hot springs. Is this a claim to fame? I’m not 100% sure. At Elisenbrunnen, one can indulge in the sweet smell of sulfur. Again, I’m not sure this is anything to brag about. It was far more powerful than the smell at Geysir in Iceland.
The language course is very interesting. It’s a huge departure from the last course I took. That happened in mid 2011. I was single, had a bit of money to spend, was starting an ERASMUS year, and twenty-two. This time round, I am almost twenty-five, have a girlfriend living a few hours away, nowhere near as much money, and a real desire to improve my German. It’s a very different feeling. Good different, I think.
At the start, I wasn’t really too keen on making heaps of friends, like last time. Whilst I’ve previously said that I’m practically used to goodbyes now, I still don’t like them. This course in particular would always necessitate goodbyes, as it’s not a pre-exchange-semester course. People won’t be staying afterwards. The majority will be heading back. Another thing is that the course is filled with Australian/New Zealanders and South Americans (we have holidays at the moment, whereas most of Europe has exams coming up). So there’s no going to visit friends on a whim, as it’s now plausible to do with European-based friends.
But it’s almost impossible not to make friends in a course like this, where everybody’s
essentially away from home, and looking to connect with someone. And it’s been fun. I haven’t been the reckless fool that I was back in 2011, but it’s still easy to enjoy yourself. I can’t help but think how stupid my initial attitude a week ago was. I loved making close friends with the group I had that August, loved knowing that each night there were people to hang out with, who you clicked with instantly. I was sitting in our apartment’s living room today with a few friends, talking nonsense, organizing trips, and realized how much I enjoyed it. So yes, any misled hopes of remaining anti-social have flown out the window quicker than a bogan in the driver’s seat’s cigarette.
This is a strange town in some ways too. I’ve been told that due to the nature of the courses that the University offers, there are generally a lot more male students than females here. The local dialect is hard to stumble across, possibly due to the fact that this is a student town. I didn’t experience much Badisch in Freiburg, truth be told. Being close to the border is odd too. Need to go to Ikea? We popped across the border to Holland. Dutch people often come across our way to go shopping. It’s cheaper. I’ve previously experienced this in Basel, where the Swiss always duck across the border to Germany to do their shopping.
I’m also trying as hard as I can to learn from mistakes I made last time I moved into a new city. I’m trying to get involved in cultural activities and actually learn something about the city. I’m also trying to socialise with my new roommates as much as possible. Truth be told, I didn’t have to try on this one. One of my roommates offered me a beer and a game of FIFA the first night I got in, and 2 hours later we still had our eyes glued to the screen, tossing up whether to go with El Clasico or Arsenal vs. Chelsea. Not much effort required, which is great. I’m also making a concerted effort to be productive, work where possible, improve my cooking, and go swimming all the time. So far it’s working.
The house is fantastic in general. After being told that I would have to live in essentially a dorm for 6 weeks, I made the decision to find private accommodation, and came down here for an apartment viewing in mid December. The place is on the fourth floor and has a great view of the town, I’m a five minute walk from the centre, and there’s so much space. I live with two cats as well, which is surprisingly pleasant, except for once where we had forgotten to fill up their water and one of them woke the house up by meowing, even following me into the bathroom and watching me shower, meowing the whole time, even pawing at my leg.
Anyway, thoughts exhausted. I’m really not looking forward to leaving here though. Should be fine.