Name: Yumeng Yang
Location of Study: Berlin, Germany
Program of Study: Carl Duisberg Centrum Berlin: The Intensive Course Plus
Sponsors: Innsbrunk Fund
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising sophomore from Chengdu, China. My major is business, and I also have a German minor. I took Intensive Beginning German courses in Notre Dame in my freshman year, and really enjoyed meeting everyday with my professor and classmates. In the future, I want to get an internship or job in a German company after graduation.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
Through the SLA grant, I can advance my German greatly, because I can immerse myself in the community where German is actually spoken, an experience I can’t have on campus here at Notre Dame. As a business student interested in international business, spending a summer in Germany will offer me the opportunities to experience the culture and economy of Europe. It will make me a more attractive and valuable employee in future positions of business. Since Berlin is the capital of Germany and has unique history in the past, 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:
Berlin is a very unique international city. I can get as much as I want not only from the class, but also from the city. Through this intensive course, I can advance my German skills tremendously in six weeks. The language class helps me to communicate, but staying in Berlin helps me to experience the history instead of just knowing the history. I will also live with a host family, so that I have the opportunity to interact with ordinary German people. I would get to know a German family and live a German life. This will certainly be beneficial for me in my future to interact with Germans.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to a semester beyond my current German coursework placement at Notre Dame, so that I can begin my Intermediate German 2 class more successfully.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to understand and get used to a German way of life. I will embrace the cultural diversity in an international city like Berlin, and be tolerant with the cultural difference.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to communicate in German with native speakers on basic academic topics, and express my perspectives on the latest national news.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to understand Berlin’s history and how local people approach the history, and develop my own point of view.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
The program includes many leisure activities such as day trips to Potsdam, Sachsenhausen and Leipzig; city tours in Berlin Mitte, Kreuzberg; guided tour in the Reichstag; a theater workshop; a trip to the exhibition at the Anne Frank center. I also plan to attend some events in Berlin in June, such as Carnival of Cultures, and Fête de la Musique.Because of the unique history of Berlin, I can visit the numerous museums and universities there, and dive deeply into German culture.By living with a host family, I have many opportunities to practice German. I will interact with them on a daily basis for six weeks, and begin to understand how average German people live.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
I left the US on Friday, May 16, to begin my 6-week exploration in Berlin, and arrived in Berlin one day later (with the time change). My host family lives near Lake Tegel, which is 30mins’ U-Bahn (subway) from my institution Carl Duisberg Centren. CDC is located in the city center (Stadtmitte) of Berlin, and only 3 minites’ walking distance from the famous street “Unter den Linden”. The transportation in Berlin is always on time, and it’s easy to get from one place to another with U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Bus, and Tram. Because I bought a month pass, which is 78 Euro, I can take all of them without paying more. Our course began on Monday morning after a placement test. I was placed into class B1+, which had around 10 people from Brazil, Colombia, USA and Japan. My class ends at 1:30pm every day, so I have time to visit many places in Berlin in the afternoon. I visited Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburger Gate)- a landmark with over two hundred years of history that witnessed the division and reunification of west and east Berlin. Potsdamer Platz, where the Berlin wall once stood, is an example of urban renewal, and Alexander Platz, devasted during the war, is now the most famous shopping square in Berlin.
Because Berlin is a city of history, I really enjoyed visiting museums. I bought an annual ticket (25 Euro for students) so that I can visit 19 “Staatliche Museen”(national museums) in Berlin. In this week I visited 3 museums in Museumsinsel (museum island), a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site: Pergamon Museum, a museum features collection of classical antiquities from the ancient Near East, is the most-visited one that hosts the Ishtar Gate from 6th century BC Babylon that stands 47 feet high and 100 feet wide; Neues Museum is the one that displays the famous 3300-year-old “Nofretete Büste” (Nefertiti Bust) from Eygypt; Alte Nationalgalarie displays many neoclassical, romantic, impressionst and early modernist paintings and sculptures.
Ich freue mich auf die nächste Woche! (I’m looking forward to the next week!)
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
The weather in Berlin this week was not so good. It rained a lot, and was always wet and windy. I had to wear a coat to school, and many Berliners were wearing scarfs, sweaters and jackets. However, the bad weather did not deter me from going out and exploring Berlin.
After the first week, I became familiar with the surroundings. It was easier for me to change between different U-Bahns, S-Bahns, buses and streetcars. I continued to visit more “staatliche Museen”. Altes Museum (Old Museum), built in 1820s, is a work of neoclassical architecture, and exhibits sculptures of ancient Greeks, Etruscans and Romans. Bode Museum, the two main facades of which abut the river Spree, hosts many Byzantine artwork, most of which are related to Christianity. “Kulturforum” includes many museums located near Potsdamer Platz. For example, Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) has a collection of European painting from the 13th to the 18th centuries; Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) collects masterpieces by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Pablo Picasso; Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) collects artworks from the early 20th century, which represent Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism. Museen Dahlem in Dahlem-Dorf are right next to Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin). They host non-European and ethnographic collections, mainly from Asia, Africa and North America.They even collect wooden boats and cottages from the 20th century.
We had a day off on 27 May, which was a Christian holiday “Christi Himmelfahrt”. Many of my classmates spent the long weekend in Amsterdam, but I stayed in Berlin since I did not know it and had no travel plan beforehand. It was not a bad choice, because on Sunday, there was an open-air concert “STAATSOPER FÜR ALLE” (city opera for all) in Bebelplatz in the city center, right in front of Humboldt University of Berlin. Up to 30,000 people were there to listen to this fantastic concert for free.
My German class was also going well. Unlike German class in Notre Dame, here we spent little time learning Grammar, and more time discussing topics. We had listening materials every Wednesday to Friday to listen to reports or interviews from “Deutsche Welle”. We had to take notes, answer questions, and wrote short essay based on the listening. This week we had “the chef of Germany national football (soccer) team”.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
In this week, we finished the book “Aspekete B1+ Teil1”. The grammar was always easy, for example, past tense, adjective endings and clauses, which I had already learned at Notre Dame. However, the biggest problem is my vocabulary. I encountered more complex words, for example, Gesellschaftsschichten (social class), Unabhängigkeit (independence), Beziehung (relationship). The hardest parts are verbs. I have to remember whether a verb is reflexive or nonreflexive, and when it’s reflexive, whether the reflexive pronoun is accusative or dative. It is also hard to remember the different meanings of words with the same stem but different prefixes. For instance, with the stem “nehmen”, we have “abnehmen””annehmen” “zunehmen””aufnehmen””ausnehmen””vornehmen””einnehmen””mitnehmen” ”teilnehmen””nachnehmen”.
I went to East Side Gallery and Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, which are both memorials of the Berlin Wall. East Side Gallery, a section of Berlin wall, is over 2 miles long, with hunderds of paintings by artists all over the world. Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) is a memorial park of only a 200 feet section of the former border that commemorates many deaths in the process of crossing the wall.
I also visted Museum Beggruen and Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, which are right opposite to the famous Charlottenburg Palace. Museum Beggruen features hunders of paintings from Picasso, collected by the collector and dealer Heinz Berggruen; Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg displays symbolistic and surrealistic artworks from the collection of Dieter Scharf.
From June 6th to 8th, there was the “Carnival of Cultures” in Berlin-Kreuzberg. People were wearing costumes to show their own culture, and celebrated Berlin’s cultural diversity. On June 8th, there will be another Christian holiday “Pfingstensonntag”, and we have one day off on Monday. I plan to travel to Munich with my friend.
“Christi Himmelfahrt”(Ascension of Jesus), occurred 39 days after Easter. It is also known as “Vatertag”(Father’s Day) in Germany. It has been a public holiday in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1936. On that day, 90% businesses are closed. Many Christians and Catholics will attend special church services, while many men choose to get together with friends. “Pfingstensonntag”(Pentecost Sunday), along with a day off on Monday, is also a public holiday. People will attend special church services on that day. However, the atmosphere of a Christian holiday is not that obvious in Berlin. Described as the “atheist capital of Europe”, it has only “36% of people who profess to having a religious allegiance”(Connolly). And because the culture and religious beliefs are so diversed, people see it more as a public holiday than a Christian holiday.
Connolly, Kate. “Atheist Berlin to Decide on Religion’s Place in Its Schools.” The Observer. Guardian News and Media, 26 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 June 2014.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
On last Saturday, I flew to Munich with my friend to spend the “Pfingstferien”. We visited many sights in and around Munich. Before I left home, my host mother said that Bayern (Bavaria) is not a typical German state. The Free State of Bavaria, the largest state in Germany, is well endowed with a rich amount of natural resources.
The first noteworthy difference was the dialect. In Berlin, most people speak Hochdeutsch (standard German), but in Bayern, people speak Bavarian dialects, understandable but very different from Hochdeutsch. They emphasize the pronunciation of “r”, making it sounds like “r” in Spanish. We had the dish “Schweinebraten”(roasted pork), a typical Bavarian cuisine made from potatoes, pork and sauerkraut.
On Saturday, we went to Neuschwanstein Castle, located in the Southwest Bavaria, after a 3-hour train ride. The train went past southern German rural areas with picturesque scenery that I’ve never seen in any other part in the world. Neuschwanstein Castle was built on a mountain, commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, overlooking the village of Hohenschwangau and the border with Austria. Hohenschwangau Castle, Ludwig II of Bavaria’s childhood residence is on another side of the mountain. After a 4-hour train ride on the next day, we arrived at Königssee, a natural lake in the extreme southeast near the border with Salzburg, Austria. Noted as the cleanest lake in Germany, Königssee was formed in the last ice age and surrounded by the Alps. To protect the lake, only electric-powered passenger ships, rowing, and pedal boats are permitted.
On Monday, we finally had the chance to explore Munich. Nymphenburg Palace was the favorite summer residence of the kings of Bavaria. The park of Nymphenburg Palace is now open to the public, and many local people were jogging in the park. Marienplatz is the square in the city center of Munich with many churches, restaurants and shops. Luckily, we saw the Rattans-Glockenspiel in the noon, and overlooked the city from the top of a church.
Minority status in Germany is always a problem, because up to 80% Germans have no immigrant background. Among the minorities, Turks make up Germany’s largest ethnic minority. Undoubtedly, Germans are very friendly to them. However, even if the Turks were born in Germany, they still feel that they would never be one of the “genuine Germans”. The Germans are polite to them, but are subconsciously aware of the ethnic differences, and ask embarrassing questions to them unintentionally.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: