Auckland student Eins Lee presents scenes from student exchange in Freiburg
I arrived in Freiburg on a six-month exchange as a conjoint student in psychology and music from the University of Auckland. I am a New Zealander by birth, and I grew up mainly in South Korea. Applying for the exchange was an exciting decision, and every step of the way has been positive and eventful. My goal was to pursue learning German and to further my studies in psychology and music – as well as to experience and participate in the culture of musical Europe. For the most part I was looking forward to discovering life and meeting new friends. Here I share scenes from my first three months in the city: personal impressions of a Freiburg student’s life!
On arriving in Freiburg, despite my exhaustion from the long flight, it was difficult to miss the Münster, the central landmark. Feeling the fresh early evening breeze in the square and hearing the locals speaking around me, it felt quite surreal to think I will call this city my home for half a year.
Right from the start of our German course, we participated in activities and excursions organized by the language institute. Above, is one gorgeous view from the Schlossberg beer garden. Wednesday is 2-for-1 beer day; here I had the first best night out with new friends from Italy, Spain, France, Hungary and England.
Two days later, I visited the popular mountain, Schauinsland, in the nearby Black Forest. Not only did we ride the twenty-minute-long cable car up the path, but I also got a gorgeous first impression of the region, which is difficult to show with only one photo.
On my first weekend, I visited the Kaufland supermarket with Florian, a new friend from Maastricht. We could not believe our luck at the variety of food right next to our accommodation, and nothing stopped us from filling up the cart. Left is das Freiburger Frühstuck at the Uni Café, to show what a hungry student might order for breakfast.
On the topic of food, this was part of my Freiburg debut as assistant chef to Florian. The highlight during cooking is always when he reveals his French side by offering cheese and wine. On the days we do not cook, a group of us go to an Italian place nearby, or somewhere serving Flammkuchen —a regional speciality similar to pizza.
Left, is the beautiful Gewerbekanal. It took a week or two for me to learn the way around the city, but now I know that straight ahead in this direction is a brewery, the Feierling, with the best home-made beer. Right, is the Okenstraße tram stop near home, one of two stops we can use to go into the city.
In the run-up to the elections, the main parties campaigned in Freiburg, with visits from Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leader of the Social Democrats, Martin Schulz. We were lucky that our teachers let us out of class to hear the speeches, which were excellent opportunities to experience spoken German in a current context. Plus, those green trees in the background are just incredible!
My most eventful classes were for the Stadtgeschichte course on the history of the city. Most days our excellent teacher/guide showed us around the city’s landmarks, including the Uni museum, minster, city hall, Rieselfeld district, and the Augustiner Museum, on the left. Right, is a group of us from different classes enjoying a beer together at Martin’s Brewery.
On the final Saturday of our September course, we visited the Todtnau waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls in Germany. The waterfall was not as massive as I had expected, but there were lots of impressive scenes of the kind of nature one does not see everyday. We did not feel embarrassed at all taking plenty of selfies here.
One of my joys in life is attending music concerts, and Freiburg has been no exception. Above is the Theater Freiburg, right next to the tram stop with the same name, and next to the Uni library. The other picture was taken inside the nearby Konzerthaus (concert hall), with me feeling cultured after attending a concert.
Our very own Mensa/cafeteria. I generally find the food here either too salty or sweet, but it comes at the bargain price of around three Euros for a meal with a complementary salad. The grassy area outside is ideal for a lunch break and chat with friends, especially before the cold winter.
I played violin in my first concert in Freiburg with the Akademisches Orchester at the start of the winter semester. I was overjoyed to see many of my exchange friends in the audience. Throughout this two-week project, I especially enjoyed making new music friends, and I rapidly had to get used to surviving with mainly German for rehearsals.
Every week, I have gotten to know more friends at my accommodation, the Händelwohnheim. One weekend afternoon my friends Anders (right) and Thomas (centre) suggested we have brunch together in the grass area between our two buildings we call the “garden”. Even though it was autumn, it was almost too freezing to stay outside.
Here I had my first experience locating a Postbank and picking up my package of coursebooks, which I had ordered online. It is with little things like these that one feels accomplished and one step closer to being able to survive entirely in German. Having to read the mail written entirely in German still gets me, though!
Challenges in Freiburg include long administrative processes, the meticulous security of the library, and having to ask for clarification when I don’t fully understand the German instructions in my Spanish and French classes. But it is all part of the process, and having a fellow Kiwi like Flynn (above) makes it easy to scout for each other!
We arrive back at the heart of Freiburg, site of the famous Bertoldsbrunnen fountain. This is where all the trams pass by. Like the construction seen at the back, my German skills and grammar are still a work in progress. However, it is an absolute joy to be surrounded by and interacting with people in all kinds of contexts.