Post-Program Reflections

Although tomorrow is the last day of my program, I would like to give my Post-Program reflection now, because it seems that September 2 is the deadline to upload it. Here they are:

  1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA Grant experience.

This two-month SLA experience greatly helps me with my German learning. It is the first time for me to be put into a German language environment. In the past, both in China and in the U.S., my German learning focused only on grammar and reading. This summer, thanks to the SLA Grant, I have to use German to survive, both in and outside Carl Duisburg Center class. I think it is a breaking experience for me, which builds my confidence to improve German in a more balanced way. The teachers in class made us speak only in German. It turns out to be a very effective method to develop the habit to “think in German.” I think I have basically met the goals that I set for myself before I started the program: now I not only have confidence to speak German, but also read German scholarly literature more fluently, because German as a language feels much more intimate to me.

  1. Reflect on your SLA Grant experience overall.

For me, the SLA Grant experience this summer is a learning tour, not only because I practice German sufficiently inside and outside class, but also because I have opportunity to personally put my feet on a lot of German places. European history is my academic specialty. This summer, besides Munich, I have visited Regensburg, Bamberg, Salzburg, Cologne, Aachen, Reichenau. In the past, I met these place names hundred of times in papers and books, but never saw them personally. Thanks to the personal encounter with the landscapes of these old cities and the historical remains preserved in their museums, the history that I study has never been more live to me after this summer. For those who prepare to start their own summer language study, I would like to suggest that you choose the target city carefully. Because I planned to visit several cities in south Germany, I chose Munich, and it turns out to be a right choice.

  1. How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future?

As I said, this SLA Grant experience has built my confidence to speak German. It is a good start. I need to keep learning and practice. In the past, every time I met German or Austrian scholars in conference or other academic occasions, I naturally chose to talk to them in German. In the future, I decide to try to use German in oral academic communication. Moreover, I am thinking about finding a language partner when I come back. This experience in summer has proved how important a language environment is for a learner. Though I cannot always stay in Germany, I want at least to take effort to create such a language environment – by speaking with a native speaker – at least a couple of hours every week. Lastly, I would like to try to apply for a exchange program (DAAD, for example) to do my research in Germany for half a year or a year. This summer, I have proved that I can handle living in Germany and study effectively here.

Last week in Munich

This will be my last week in Munich. A little sentimental? Yeah. It is indeed a very nice city to live and study in. In the less than two months here, besides the Carl Duisburg Center where I have language class, the place that I visited most frequently is the library of Monumenta Germaniae Historica inside die Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. I have collected many documents useful to my research there. The routine life between three spots –  the Carl Duisburg Center, die Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek and home -makes me feel as not a guest but someone from here. Now I feel a little intimate to the city, to its life rhythm.

So, for the last week, let me simply put some pictures about my ordinary life of Munich:


Outside Carl Duisburg Center


The community where I live


On subway


The reading lobby of the MGH Library


Auf Wiedersehen, München!

Week 6 – Salzburg

This weekend I paid a visit to Salzburg, the westernmost big Austrian city. It is very close to Bavarian state of Germany. It only took me two hours by train to reach Salzburg from Munich. I visited Salzburg because it was one of the four metropolitan cities in the age of Charlemagne. But now Saltzburg does not have much Carolingian remnant. Its topography today was basically established in the eleventh century, the cathedral in the center of the old city, the benedictine monastery near it, and, the great castle on the mountain:


week 5 – Reichenau

This weekend, I paid a visit to an island around Lake Constance near the border of Germany and Switzerland: Reichenau. In the early middle ages, Reichenau was well known for its abbey. It was established by the Irish Saint Pirmin, and became one of the most important cultural centers in the Carolingian age.  The most famous abbots of Reichenau in the ninth century was Walahfrid Strabo, whose biblical commentary for Deuteronomy is one of the major primary sources for my dissertation.

Horticulture and vegetable cultivation are major business for Reichenau today, as it was more than 1200 years ago. Walahfrid Strabo once wrote a famous Latin poem Hortulus , Little Garden, describing and praising the different plants in the garden that he usually worked on. During my visit, behind the Münster of Reichenau, I found a little garden called Strabos Kräutergarten, created in memory of  Walahfrid Strabo’s famous poem:


Week 4 – MGH

From this week on, besides taking German class every morning from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm, I begin to work in the library of Monumenta Germaniae Historica every afternoon. MGH is one of the oldest and the most important institutes for medieval history:


It has being publishing critical editions of many crucial medieval documents. Its library and office is within Die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library). The library is super large, with five floors, containing most books concerning medieval studies. It is a wonderful place for medievalists, like me, to work with. The reading room is very convenient to study:


It reminds me of the Medieval Institute of University of Notre Dame 🙂

Week 3

In the past week, besides regular German lessons, I paid a visit to Residenz – the former royal palace of Bavarian kings.

The palace itself is without doubt spectacular, as the following photo of The Hall of Antiquities witnesses as an example:


But what really impressed me in Residenz was the an item from the Carolingian era that are preserved in the Treasury of Residenz. It is the prayer-book of Frankish King Charles the Bald, the grandson of Charlemagne:


It is thought to be the earliest extant Latin prayer book for ruler. Before really having an opportunity to look at it in person, I had not realized how small it is: smaller than an adult’s palm. Its size hints that this prayer book was so portable and therefore probably was always carried by Charles the Bald with himself. On the other hand, The small font of the prayer book might also suggest that Charles the Bald probably did not really read it when praying, but used it as a memorandum, which confirms my positive evaluation about the degree of religious knowledge that Carolingian rulers including Charles the Bald had.

To me, as a Carolingian scholar, the visit to Residenz was so worthy, mostly because of the unexpected encounter with this Carolingian treasure!

Second week

This is not a quiet week for Munich. The shooting incident on Friday nearby the Olympia shopping center shocked everyone. When it happened, I was just leaving the Carl Duisburg Center and on my way back home with U-Bahn. The spot of incident is not far from the Olympic Park where the 1972 Summer Olympics was held. I played basketball there last Tuesday, and saw the monument in memory of the Munich massacre. The monument is in front of the building in which the tragedy happened 46 year ago:



The tragedy on Friday caused great panic in the city. I heard the siren outside the window for hours. But everything has been back to order since Saturday. 

Concerning my study, the past week is quite productive for me. I can feel that I am getting more and more accustomed to speaking German!


First week in Munich

My first week in Munich has turned out to be great. I arrived at the airport last Friday, and the signs (a lot without English translation) all around soon reminded me that I had entered a German speaking world! Cultural shock came out soon as well. It took me a while to figure out how the Germans are still obliged to buy transportation ticket when there is no fare gate at metro station entrance: there are plainclothes who randomly check the passengers’ tickets and would make fine as high as 60 Euros to fare dodgers (in German they are called “die Schwarzfahrer,” the black riders!).

The place I live is in the southern part of the city. It takes me 40 minutes every time to go to Carl Duisburg Institute to take the German course. I enjoy the time on U-Bahn, because it gives me the opportunity to observe the life rhythm of ordinary German people. After an interview, the institute instructor assigned me into an A2 class. The teacher insists speaking German only in class, which was challenging to me (since my German had been a little rusty) at the beginning, but I can feel that I am getting accustomed to it. Besides me, there are only five students in my class: a Japanese, a Brazilian, a Korean, a Pakistani and a South African: a very international team! The South African Pedzi is a PhD student (like me!), whose specialty is modern theater. He has talked to me a lot about the project that he is working on, about how genocide is memorized in modern theater, and I feel it very interesting and inspiring!

Munich is a beautiful city. This weekend I will have time to pay a visit to the famous historic scenes in the center of the city: die Frauenkirche (the Church of Notre Dame), die Residenz (the seat of residence and government to the Bavarian rulers from 1508 to 1918) and etc. As a historian, I am really looking forward to it! And, I will enjoy the famous Bavarian Schweinshaxe!