Author: Laura Wood
From the moment I accepted my offer from the University of Glasgow to study Law with German Language, I knew that I would be spending a year of my degree studying in a foreign language. I am currently at the Freie Universität Berlin and soaking up all that this amazing city has to offer.
The City of Berlin
My first six weeks living abroad have been incredible. I ticked off the main sights like the Brandenburg Gate, the dome of the Reichstag and the East Side Gallery fairly quickly. Every single day I discover something else to do: the ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ and steins of beer bigger than your head are definitely worth sampling! I have made friends from Japan, Costa Rica, Greece and just about everywhere else in between. A long weekend in the south of France is also on the cards after I managed to find myself some very cheap flights.
It has been really easy to meet other students, particularly because the university organised a series of induction events. The university system is completely different in Germany so these events helped to make me feel a little more at home, even if I still find myself getting lost on campus. Many people also join the international club which is Freie Universität’s version of the Erasmus Student Network. This club organises events across Germany so it has been a great way to explore my new home. The law department also organised various events so that all of the international law students could get to know each other. Some are studying in English but I promise that there are others attempting to study in German! My accommodation has also hosted international evenings so I have sampled Romanian Mămăligă, Indian Puri and authentic Spanish tortilla. Although haggis hasn’t quite taken off in Germany yet, I have introduced my flatmates to a decent cup of tea.
Studying Law in German
Studying law in a different language is definitely a challenge. So far, I have come out of most lectures with a very limited understanding of what has gone on. I have been reliably informed by past Berliners that it takes about a month of lectures until things start to make a bit more sense. Until then, Google Translate will be my best friend. The team at the international office is also very helpful and has recommended courses which are more suited to exchange students. All of the lecturers have also been very welcoming and understanding. Most of my courses offer an oral exam and the professors are just impressed that non-native speakers are brave enough to take their courses.
My university also offers a free German language course which counts towards the required ECTS credits and is perfectly suited to each student’s level of German due to a placement test. I have found it very useful to speak to other students learning the language as it can be a little more forgiving and helps build up my confidence for other scenarios. It is amazing how quickly I have picked up on the local lingo – even if my German lecturers at Glasgow would despair.
The best thing about a year abroad is the opportunity to try completely new things. The university offers sports spanning every letter of the alphabet and I have decided to try out Aerial Hoop. Among the laughs, bruises and fear, it has been a great new activity and a way to meet local German students. If I can’t crack German law, at least I have an alternative career plan in the circus!
This year is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Across the city, there are lots of events going on to celebrate so Berlin is even more exciting than normal. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for me. For now, though, auf Wiedersehen!