I think I have gotten a bit better at speaking, although I have a long way to go. I speak more often in class and with other people. I still slip into English occasionally and I still fumble over the words, but my German has gotten better, compared to my first week here. This week, other than the usual classes on Monday through Friday, I visited Stein am Rhein. It was a very beautiful and tranquil town, with old-fashioned buildings and a great view of the Rhine River. I actually got in the river and swam, as many of the other people did, but it was freezing. Because Stein am Rhein is in Switzerland, the people I encountered spoke in Swiss-Deutsch, which has a much different beat and rhythm to it than the German I have grown accustomed to.
It is interesting to learn the view the rest of the world has of the United States. Many of the people I meet and speak with in Germany talk about the US occasionally, and the most common topics tend to be education, politics, and vacationing.
For the most part, education and politics in the US seem to give off the most negative impressions. As I have written before, most of the other students have learned a compulsory language other than German and their native tongue in high school and they know that is not the same in American high schools. Not only that, but higher education in Germany is tuition-free, so many people are in disbelief when they ask how much university costs in the United States. I spoke with a friend from Spain who is in university as well; while tuition is not free in Spain, it is partially funded by the government, allowing him and others to more easily afford education. But he also spoke of the downsides of this system; many times his university could not afford to fix broken things or have less students per class. In terms of politics, everyone here knows about Donald Trump and our upcoming election. Donald Trump is not received well by any of people I have spoken to and the upcoming election is not viewed in a great light either. A friend from Lebanon explained that because she is ineligible to vote, she dislikes Trump but she cannot really do anything about him, which seems to be a general consensus amongst people I have spoken with.
But not everything about America is bad; many of the people think that the US has a lot to offer in terms of sights and things to do. Much like how I consider Europe an ideal place to go traveling, many people have told me about visiting New York or parts of Florida and California and how nice they thought it was there. Everyone seems to think the USA is a perfect vacationing place. There are a lot of American influences in Germany, and they recognize American celebrities, show American movies and TV shows, and listen to music made by American artists.