Name: Adrian Bottomley
Location of Study: Cologne, Germany
Program of Study: Carl Duisberg German Intensive Plus
Sponsors: Innsbrunk Fund
A brief personal bio:
I grew up in Indiana and went to a small public school k-12. I have played soccer since I can remember and am now a referee. I am interested in history and have been for a long time. I am interested in how the world works and why it is the way it is. I have wanted to learn German for a long time and have taken it every semester I have been at ND. My high school did not offer German so I could not take it before ND.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The grant is important as it will allow me to go abroad; something which I am not otherwise scheduled to do. It will allow me to be able to learn the language by immersion, which is the best way to learn a language and a way that is practically impossible living in the US. It also allows me to experience the culture and environment firsthand, without having the dome create an illusionary bubble that would obscure what I see. This will help me put what I learn about Germany, and to some extent the language itself, into some sort of context.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I hope to be able to dramatically increase my ability to speak German. Hopefully I would be able to function without needing to know English in areas that speak German. I would also like to be able to discuss ideas and concepts well in German without having to use overly simplistic language because I lack the vocabulary to articulate what I want to say. For example, I would like to be better able to discuss current events in German and read German newspapers about them so that I can know how these events are being viewed within Germany. I also hope to be able to find a local church and see how it is connected with the community is in.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1. Be able to discuss current events in German.
2. Be able to carry on conversations necessary for daily life in a German speaking area
3. Be able to better understand the German perspective (if such a thing can really be said to exist) on current events
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan on staying with a host family, which should help with “everyday” German. I also plan on contacting a church when I know where exactly I will be staying and going there when I can. This would expose me to a different vocabulary, while also giving something that I would be familiar with. It would also allow me to engage with a community. I also plan on going to the cultural events put on by the Duisberg Center. This will hopefully provide a way to explore the area and important sites without getting lost or something similar. It would also provide a way for me to meet people at the center and so have another community with which I can spend time.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
My host has decided that the internet is bad and therefore doesn’t have it. Germany, despite its position as a leading economy and tech giant, has not yet discovered the concept of free wifi. Either that, or simply commercializes it much more than the US does. The only wifi connections available require some amount of information to be given. Usually name, phone number, and email. The Köln/Bonn Flughafen has free wifi with only something entered as a name. It proudly proclaims itself to be the only airport in Germany to provide it. That plus all the smoking, smoking adds, “cigarretautomätisch,” cigarette vending machines, means that people smoke like the 80’s. Not everyone, but smoking sections everywhere. The Frankfurt airport had these enclosed, bus stop looking places where people could go smoke. The three police cars that arrived near the street I went down to find my host and the policemen’s’ uniforms also suggested the 80’s, that and they all seemed to be smoking. With the help a US Army Lt. Col. (something starting with a K) I successfully got a train ticket to Köln. However, DB led me astray and turned a 10-20m trip into a 2h trip. Yesterday I spent the most of the time exploring Köln. Saw part of the Eurovision Young Classical Musicians competition by the Dom (Köln Cathedral). Being Germany, the accordion is considered a classical instrument apparently. Apparently a man wearing a thong right in front of the Cathedral is ok, along with someone dressed as what is covered by said thong fighting with something else. I didn’t want to nor try to figure out what it was. The church I went to turned out to be Pentecostal, which explains the laying on of hands. I didn’t understand the sermon, but met Tjerk and Marianna Lorenz (probably, but not for certain, related to the pastor). They invited me to lunch at their apartment and I talked with them. He showed me how to use the bus system (similar to the train system and not free apparently, although since the machine wasn’t working it actually was that time). While a tiny pentacostal church is hardly my first choice, apparently the freikirchen are all small and this one is close and I have already met people there. I think a small church might well be best if visiting a place, even if I prefer larger churches.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Odd giving directions to a German. A woman on the Steinstraße Bahnhof (the one I use to get to class and back) asked me which direction the Köln Hauptbahnhof was. I pointed (she was pointing so that wasn’t too awkward) but it’s still weird to think I have only been here a few days and gave someone directions. I don’t know what to think of the class. It is all Brazilians except one Venezuelan and an Indian, though she might switch to a lower class. In some ways I know more than the class (for example mentioned relative pronouns, but those are the next lesson) but in other ways I think it is the little things that I keep getting wrong when speaking especially. If I were to read or write something I would do much better (which I think is normal). While I understand different concepts, I think my limited vocabulary and simple mistakes make it so that I can’t understand as much. Plus, during an exercise when talking with another student, I think her Brazilian/Portuguese accent (plus my American one) made it difficult to hear some words. For example, She said “stadt” a few times, but it didn’t register to me as that word.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Visited “downtown” Porz (Porzmarkt). Nice little area. Some shops and such. Also the main bus stop for the area. Also managed to buy groceries. Apparently sandwich bread that we have in the US is sold as “American” sandwich bread. Used a bookstore bag to carry stuff, while wearing my ND hat. Wonder how weird that looked. Bought a set of referee cards and a “book” as they were cheaper than in the US. I did the math backwards, but then with shipping and taxes and the reduced price they were about the same or cheaper anyway. Apparently they sell them in stores, but don’t normally sell them as I was asked why (though didn’t catch exactly the question, but think I heard “tutor.”
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
I spent the D-Day anniversary in Hiroshima Nagasaki park in Germany with a group of internationals and two German hosts, which is a little weird when on thinks about it (none were Japanese, mostly Latin America with a few others). In some ways it was similar to a US park, but with more beer and maybe a little marijuana (during the day/evening). Apparently in more student areas the police don’t care as much. Also, the Germans appear to largely listen to American music, or at least English language (much of what I heard was US, but might have missed a couple that are from another English language country). One of the Germans said that they (Germans) prefer that and that the local music, while starting to grow, is not popular. She basically said it is all polka and such. Interesting to me is that there was a group behind us that was apparently tuned into a NYC rap station (at one point there was station identification). They simply like the sound of it, but probably don’t understand it (that and different views on profanity would explain the music in a public place as it was not censored). This is also weird to me as, while I am definitely not a part of this piece of American culture, I understand that it comes out of one and that some of rap music has a specific message that comes from that specific culture and so to not understand the lyrics is sort of missing the point (though I’m sure the artist appreciates the pay check). When we left the park, our hosts told us to simply leave behind the bottles as the poor people would appreciate it (bottles can be returned for .25 Euros or something like that). I thought that was a little demeaning and the Panamanian who was next to me thought the same thing. It seemed to me a little like saying we are going to leave the trash for the trash. However, I ran into some kids of an American missionary (to Turks in Germany) and his kids who have been raised in Germany both said that it is normal and not demeaning. Also, these past two nights there have been thunderstorms. These were nice in that they both dropped the temperature significantly, though after the first the temp went back up. However, the Germans apparently have no concept of a strong thunderstorm as in my class the teacher commented on how bad the storm was. An Australian I talked to said that it was bad and as he was riding a bike he saw someone being blown across the road. What to me is a little embarrassing is that the storm delayed a lot of transportation. The trains were all delayed. The Köln Hbf was filled with people who apparently were stranded and trying to get information from the DB information desks as trains were cancelled and delayed. The autobahn was blocked for a while. I just kept thinking that they don’t get tornadoes so however bad the thunderstorm was, it shouldn’t be able to bring the transportation system to its knees simply by knocking some trees over.
On another note, the Germans get Fingstagmontag (pentacost monday) off as a national holiday. Reminds me of the part of the Hapsburg class where we talked about how Joseph II had to reduce the number of religious holidays in order to increase the number of work days. My host hesitated before letting me do the laundry. She would not do it on that day. When I said I was a Christian (though nondenomination which doesn’t seem to have a good German corollary) she seemed to change her mind. Apparently Köln was a freistadt that chose Catholicism and so Protestantism has only been allowed for 150 years (the missionary told me). He said it was now about 50/50.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Spent the day with a family and others from church. Watched a soccer game, talked about the US, Germany, Christianity and maybe a few other things with a pilot. We spoke in English which, while not helping my German, allowed the conversation to happen. He apparently had seen some documentaries about the US recently about the CIA coup in Iran and the Naval Intelligence (which he anachronistically called the CIA even though it didn’t exist yet) knowing that Pearl Harbor was going to happen. He on the one hand thought the history was bad (which it is) and that people should learn from it. On the other he made a remark about the fact that apparently the Dutch are arrogant and that the thinks that ‘even though there have been a few generations’ since WWII there still hold that against Germans. I see his point in both cases, but also see the other side. Also talked about Snowden. He said that he thought it was good that Snowden revealed all the illegal wire-tapping (which I understand is apparently not technically illegal according to the government). We both commented that the law has probably not caught up to technology and that governments have no problem taking advantage of that. Interestingly, when he said something about the US listening in on Merkel, I said that the German intelligence does or at least tries to do the same thing, and he seemed a little skeptical. I was reminded, though didn’t say so, of someone making the comparison that because of how the internet wires are laid out and the capabilities of different nations the “intelligence field” has the US as basically is the only nuclear power. He also commented that he thought a revolution every once in a while is a good thing. He referenced how high taxes are, and then after income tax (1/3 for him, which is lower because he has a family) Germans then pay sales and property tax, in essence, paying more taxes with already taxed money. He asked about race relations, though didn’t phrase it that way, and if it was ok to say “black.” I told him usually, though not always and that African-American is now the term used, to which he said “that’s a long word.” He wondered if the conditions were simply a result of choices of the community rather than oppression, which I told him was true and yet not. True in the sense that from what I understand a number of reasons for the differences in outcomes come from things within the community that need solving, such as absentee fathers. Yet these are influenced by the wider community. I mentioned that there are two drugs (I said crack and cocaine, but also that I couldn’t remember which they were) that are very similar but for one the penalty is maybe 10 years in prison and the other it is 2 years and the black community tends to use the 10 year one and the white community tends to use the other. His response was, “that’s racist.” I then tried to explain the problems of trying to change it (accusations of playing the race card, weak on crime, tough on crime…). He seemed to genuinely not know and wanted to know if and how racism existed or if people chose what happened to them and that, in his example, if 5 black people and 5 white people are given the same choices to better themselves and 2 black and 4 white take it (consistently) then it is simply a fact and not racist. He commented that he is different colors (pale when scared, red when burned, white) and so didn’t see the meaning behind it (he is married to a Brazilian). Also when the president came up he said, “[but] he’s brown,” to which I had to explain that in the US culture Obama is black. It is a little weird because at first I thought he was being racist when he said his example, but I think he really didn’t care about race and so his presumption was that simply the culture was different and that’s why things were the way they were.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
I talked with a German who had spent the school year as an exchange student in America. It was interesting some of the answers she gave. I asked what the German education system is designed to produce beyond just people who can get a job (the US for example wants to produce Americans who are proud of the country etc…). She said that the German system is designed to produce more global citizens. It stresses that the country did something very very bad in the 30’s and 40’s and that today we need to all be at peace. It sounded rather wishfully idealistic. I asked her this at a birthday party/welcome home party for her that I happened to get invited to. The kids were 16-18, but in some ways fit more the college stereotypes we have. Many drank, though no one seemed completely watsed, and a few smoked. One kid mentioned he was surprised at how uncommon it is to smoke in the US and basically seemed to view the alcohol and smoking restrictions in the US as very restrictive and he couldn’t live with them. During most of the party they were blasting out English language (all but one American) songs. Some of which would be considered rather offensive in the US due to language. I was told by multiple people though, that the Germans largely don’t understand the meaning of the lyrics and largely just listen for the sound. At one point someone even apologized to me for the music because I could actually understand it while the Germans could not.
I visited a different church on my last weekend and met people probably closer to my age or a little older. They are actually a part of Hillsong. I talked with a guy there about different things. He asked me what I missed the most about the US. I told him the free water, free wifi, being able to drive where I want to go, and such. We also talked a little about the spying and such. I commented that to me it was a little ironic that Merkel was in China complaining about US spying. He said that she has a huge double standard. He also said that in Europe there were many people that appreciated what Snowden did, but that European countries didn’t feel comfortable taking him in as it would make relations with the US difficult and that they would hand him over to the US. He didn’t think it was good that the US has that much power, though he understood that Americans probably don’t think that. He saw the wiretapping as a betrayal of trust with the US. Not that we spied, but the level. The fact that all the internet companies and everything are in the US means that we already spy so much this was apparently too much.
In sum, I think the German trip was good for me. I have a better understanding of the language (my host said that my german had vastly improved at least), but I also think I learned things about myself and was able to see things from another perspective.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
I think I was able to learn more, especially listening and reading. My host at least said my German had improved a lot and I seem to be able to understand more. The sermons at the church I attended went from unintelligible to being able to understand main points. In class I could hear the teacher and very rarely have a problem understanding. I was able to talk with people about different things and see the perspective of people here.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
I think that it was good for me. I was able to learn the language and some about the culture. I was also able to learn about myself and think about things.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I have no grand scheme about what I want to do. Obviously in the short term I will continue with German at ND. I do get the feeling that I might end up in Germany again for business or something. Not to stay too long, but in order to do something or other. I enjoyed my experience here.