Name: Ruochen Feng
Location of Study: Frankfurt, Germany
Program of Study: The Goethe Institute
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
Hi! I’m Rachel. I am a sophomore Business major in the Mendoza College of Business, with a double major in International Economics (German). On campus, I am a Chinese tutor at the Center for the Study of Languages & Cultures. In my free time, I love music and traveling. I learned German during my exchange year in Germany from 2011-2012, and I cannot wait to go back to Germany again and further improve my German language skill this summer!
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
Through the SLA grant, I could spend a month immersing myself in the pure German environment, learning about the language, the culture and the people there. As an international student who majors in business and wants to do international economics int he future, spending a summer in Germany could provide me with the opportunities to experience the culture and economy of Germany as well as Europe. It will help me to become a more attractive and valuable employee in future positions of business. Besides, since Frankfurt is the financial center of Germany, I would take advantage of the abundant resources there to maximize my experience.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
First, spending in Frankfurt and learning German at the Goethe Institute could help me to improve my German communication skills greatly. By taking courses and practice sessions for four weeks, I could enlarge my German vocabulary and correct the grammar mistakes. Second, by living in Frankfurt, I could gain a deeper knowledge of Germany, its history, culture and economy, from a more personal perspective. Having the opportunity to talk to people from all over the world at the Goethe Institute and native German about their stories, I could improve my language skill and have a better understanding of the country.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to communicate (speaking, reading, writing and simply thinking) and think in German as second-nature.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to produce sentences (both speaking and writing) that include few or no grammar errors.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will have surpassed my current level of proficiency in German by at least 2 semesters.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
In the Intensive 4 plus courses in Frankfurt, I could receive intensive group instruction
in German in the morning and then practice the new material in the afternoon, including vocabulary, structures and contents involving a variety of approaches such as multimedia resources and creative activities. I would work hard to take full advantage of such an intensive course and practice speaking German as often as possible. Besides, I could travel with German friends to apply the knowledge we learned in class into realistic daily life during the weekend, and get a deeper understanding of German and Germany.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Hi! Welcome to my blog! Today is June 29th, my second day in Germany. I just arrived here yesterday from China and everything is doing well here. During my exchange year in Germany in 2012, I actually stayed at Bad Homburg, a town near Frankfurt, for four months. All the beautiful memories and my journey with learning German started at Frankfurt, so I’m truly excited to be back! As I first arrived at the Frankfurt airport, I was actually a little nervous, because the apartment I would stay for the four months was not in the downtown, which means that I need to find a special bus to get there. Walking out of the airport with luggages and jet lag, I encouraged myself to try to ask the local people about information for the bus station in German. Although it was a little hard at first, and I was still worried about my pronunciation and grammar, I finally made it. On the bus, I also met a friendly German girl, who talked with me in German and showed me the right station that I need to get off. She also had similar exchange experiences as me, so we shared storied to each other and that really made my first day here at Germany happier and easier.
As I arrived at the apartment, I was pretty satisfied. Many of the students here are from the Goethe Institute and we all have our own rooms, with a living room, our own bathroom and a small kitchen. The apartment is 15 minutes walk from a S-Bahn station, so that the transportation is also convenient. Due to the long flight, I was quite tired yesterday and slept early last night to take a rest. Today is my first day to Goethe Institute and I’d love to share more stories when I get back!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Time is flying by here in Frankfurt. I’m happy to say that I’ve adjusted to life here fairly well, and my course is also in full swing! I have been taking German courses at B3 level at Goethe Institute for almost a week, and I really love the teacher and new friends I made here. Although the class size is relatively small, and we only have seven students, but we are all from different countries: Canada, Dubai, Israel, Greece, Brazil and India. It is always fun to meet with people from different countries and work fields, and to share stories and learn German together.
Although I never learned German before my exchange year here 3 years ago, my listening and speaking of German is pretty comfortable. So the course is not that difficult to me when we made dialogues, discussions and presentations together. Thanks to the German course I took back in Notre Dame, I gained a solid foundation of German grammar as well. But since B3 is a relatively high level class, I learned some advanced grammar also during the first week, and I’m trying to use it in writing and daily conversations now:)
Since I am taking the Intensive Four Week program here, we have classes both in the morning and in the afternoon. While in the morning we have normal lessons led by the teacher, in the afternoon we would have practices for the things we learned in the morning, both oral and written, some sessions with students from other level, and also listening practices in the computer room. Everything is going well and I could feel that my German is getting better, as I participate more in the class, and get used to speak and think in German. Outside of the classroom, Goethe Institute provides many extracurricular activities, for example, travels to other cities or festivals to help us gain a better understanding of the German culture, and I can’t wait to have some fun in the weekend! Bis später!
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Today is July 10th, and I’m getting used to my life here in Germany! From Monday to Friday, I have German classes at Goethe Institute from 9am to 5pm, and I would usually go to the downtown, restaurant or supermarket with my friends after school. Last weekend, I went to Bad Homburg to meet my friends from the exchange year. I’m always grateful to still keep in touch with them after all these three years between such a long distance. And as I finally saw them in the old place, I feel like all the memories went back and nothing had changed after I left. Although some of them are now also in universities, some doing internships and some working, we were still chatting and talking like in high school, go shopping together and have dinner at our favorite restaurant. I also visited my host family during the weekend, we went to the castle in Bad Homburg and museums in Frankfurt together. I always say that I feel like being home in Germany, and that’s definitely because of my host families and friends here. Being with them for the whole weekend made me talking and totally immersed in German all the time, my host mother was actually surprised about me talking German all the day with her, since I could barely speak a German word at first three years ago. Now I’m on the train back to Frankfurt, and the brand new week is coming:)
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
3 Weeks have passed and I just cannot believe how the happy time flies! I’m trying to spend every day here as meaningful as I can and I’m actually starting to plan the next travel here haha! The German course at Goethe Institute is doing well, and I learned a lot of vocabularies every day. The teacher would provide interesting games or small competitions to help us remember the words and in doing conversations, sh would correct our grammar mistakes in oral language. For example, I used to mix “als” and “wenn” together, and use “wenn” all the time no matter of the circumstances, but now I’m getting used to think about it before speaking, and same with the articles and accusatives/datives. One great improvement I feel in my German is that I began to speak in German with the intention of using correct Grammar, rather than just express the right meaning, and i will work on that part also in the future.
Last weekend I went to Cuxhaven, a city 2 hours away from Hamburg, to visit the other host family. The train system in Germany is very different from the one we have in China. In China, there would always be nonstop trains from a city to another, but here in Germany, people always need to transfer trains, which makes the journey longer. As a result, I have to take 3 trains, and spent 7 hours from Frankfurt to the train station here my host family, and same situation when I came back. But I did gained a lot nice views from the journey from south to north Germany. And as my German gets better, I am already able to understand all the broadcasting on the train, which was a huge difficulty for we when I first arrived. It was great to see that my time here in Germany has been paying off.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
For the last weekend in Germany, I travelled to Paderborn and Braunschweig, as always, to visit my host family and friends. I’ve always wanted to meet and thank them for all their support and help during my exchange year here, and show them how I, along with my German language skill, have been grown up for after the three years. The daily German courses went fast when I started to get used to the discussion and presentation, speaking and writing. Now I am comfortable with writing essays in German and have gained better knowledge in grammar to correct the mistakes I made. I also become good friends with my classmates, and on the last day of class, we went to a small cafe near the Goethe Institute to celebrate the end of these four wonder weeks. Compared to the first week, when we were still a little hesitated in speaking German and would think a lot about the sentence structure before making dialogues, we became more fluent in talking and communicating in German after the four weeks hard work. I started to speak and order dishes in the restaurant like a real German would do, and even learned slangs in German, which often makes the conversation more interesting:)
I’m truly thankful for the opportunity from SLA program and my hard work here at Frankfurt—I advanced my language skill, improved my understanding of German culture, made friends from different countries with various jobs, and really felt like being home here. I still remember the time when I send postcards to my family in China, CSLC in the US and my other friends in Germany, how I am pleased that I’ve arrived at a point where I’m more than content with my current life, with the support from the people I love and how I’m looking forward to my bright future as a sophomore at ND. I always feel the connection inside myself with Germany, and after this wonderful four months, I know that I will definitely come back to Germany one day. Deutschland, ich werde dich wieder sehen.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
I am so grateful that I was able to take German courses at the Frankfurt Goethe Institute for four weeks thanks to the help of CSLC and SLA grants. During the amazing month, I not only gained a deeper understanding of German culture, but also greatly improved my language skill, in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Now that I can read long articles in German without checking the meanings for every word, and instead try to understand under the context and feeling comfortable about it. Also, I learned to pay more attention to the German grammar, and implement the knowledge we studied into everyday practice. Although I know that there’s still a long way to go for me to speak german professionaly, I find the way and have more confidence now to continue learn German and speak German in the future.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
The SLA Grant experience totally enlarged my perspectives toward the world, as I experienced the power of globalization through which people from different countries sit together in a classroom and learn a foreign language together, and the power of language through which I could able to get a better understanding of the foreign culture, history and society. If you want to learn about a foreign country or culture, learning from the books or websites is far not enough. The best way is to experience it by yourself and you will have a more detailed understanding of the country by talking with the local people. I would say that if you have the same interest, please do apply to the SLA Grant as soon as possible, it will enrich your summer and probably also provide you another option in the future!
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I will continue to study German first by taking courses back at Notre Dame. I will try to listen and speak German as often as I can, and keep writing and reading German outside of the German courses. I would also love to join the German club to meet more people that share the same passion toward German and as for the future, I would say that the SLA Grant definitely provides me with a new opportunity to study abroad or work in Germany in the future. And I’m really grateful for all the help and support for this precious opportunity:)