This was my first week in Radolfzell, and I spent most of it adjusting to the lifestyle here. On Monday, May 16, my flight landed in Zurich and I had to find my way to Radolfzell by train. Everything in Zurich was easier to manage because most things were said and written in German and English. Things went smoothly until I arrived in Radolfzell. Walking with a large suitcase in mild rain, I stumbled my way over to the Carl Duisberg Center. What I had not realized was that I was not staying at the actual center for eight weeks and that the actual guest house, where I would be staying, was about a mile away. It took me over an hour to find it, but I was just happy that I had finally made it. I settled into my room and went back out to get small errands done, but Monday was a holiday for Radolfzell, so almost everything was closed. I ended up going back to the guest house and getting ready to for class the next day.
The first day was overwhelming, only because of the speed at which the teacher and other students spoke. The teacher spoke so quickly, that I only understood about half of his lesson. I felt incredibly slow in comparison to the other students and felt embarrassed to speak at all. Not only did I pronounce words wrong, but I also stumbled over words as I tried to speak to other people. It got better over the next couple days, but not as much as I would have liked. Even though I still can’t quite understand 100% of the lesson or discussions in class, I feel like my listening comprehension has improved already. Speaking is still quite a challenge for me, and most people here can tell immediately that I am not from Germany. The ones who know English will respond to me in English, which is a little discouraging, but I try to continue on in German.
Outside of class, I run errands and attempt to speak to local people in German, which does not go so well mostly because I find my nervousness hinders my speaking. The more I worry about messing up, the more I end up stuttering, which is frustrating on my part. Another student from the Carl Duisberg Center told me not to feel sad or discouraged over my mistakes, because I will only be able to improve my speaking by continuing despite the mistakes. I felt better after hearing that from someone who spoke much better German than I did, and tried not to take it to heart when people could not understand me because I had chosen the wrong word or said it incorrectly. I still feel nervous and worry when I speak, but it has only been a couple days and I am doing slightly better than when I first came. I am usually more on the quiet side, so I am definitely going to have to try harder this coming week, and hopefully I will see even more improvement.
Overall, this week was mostly about adjusting. There were all kinds of things that were a little odd to me when I first came. There are not many crosswalks here, everyone brings their own bags to the grocery store, and the keys turn differently in the keyholes than in the USA. They are also really big on recycling so there are always at least three bins for anything ranging from trash, compost, paper, plastic, or glass. It was very confusing on my first day and a little confusing now too, but I have adjusted and can navigate my way around Radolfzell pretty well. I am glad I took some time to walk around random streets, because this place is so beautiful. There are flowers and trees everywhere, the ground is cobblestoned, and the buildings are often colorful. Radolfzell also has a great view of Lake Constance, which is right by the center. I feel very lucky to be here, and am excited for the next week to come!