As the past few weeks have flown by, I’ve decided to take a short journey through the life of a student here in Bonn.
Unlike Madison, the University of Bonn is not placed directly on top of the city with access to nearly everything for students within 20 minutes walking distance. The campus is more sparse, spread out in different buildings throughout the city. The student living area I was assigned to, Ferdinandstrasse 1 (name for the street where it is located), is a 15 minute bus ride away from the main city bus and train station. From there, it is about a 5-10 minute walk to the Universität Hauptgebäude (main building). This majestic-looking university building is distinct alone because of its yellow color and easily one of the most beautiful in the city (though it wasn’t always yellow!) Most of the main classrooms are located here for the university students, in addition to a small Infopunkt (information point–a kiosk with apparel, computers, and a coffee bistro) and bibliothek (library). The Hauptgebäude has a wonderful inner courtyard, which includes a tunnel out to one of the main streets through Bonn, serving as a walkway through the university.
In front of the Hauptgebäude is the Hofgarten, a large grassy area utilized by the students throughout the city. It’s a great place to relax between classes or after lunch or to play sports later in the day. A few pick-up games of soccer were set up by the Sommerkurz students throughout the month here. Many of the students (not only Sommerkurz but also regular university students) use the Hofgarten as a place to hang out or meet up in the evenings, as well.
A typical day for me began with waking up around 7:30 am to get ready and eat breakfast with other students in my personal dorm (six bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a shared kitchen) and a few from other floors. In Ferdinandstrasse 1 there were three levels with two dorms on each floor. The Sommerkurz students were all divided between various living areas, so we were not all located in the same area around the city. In my dorm, a group of us try to catch the bus at 8:25 and then ride it to the Hauptbahnhof in Bonn. From there, we walk to the Hauptgebäude and I (along with a few others) walk an additional 5-10 minutes to a smaller building down the street.
At the beginning of the Sommerkurz there was a placement test, and from that all the students were placed in the appropriate level class, ranging from beginner (A1 to A2) through intermediate (B1 to B2) and advanced (C1 to C2). There was also a class for students who had no prior German experience. Most of these classrooms have between 10 and 15 students. From these levels, classes were somewhat randomly divided between the Hauptgebäude and the other university building, which was just a short ways away from the main building. My class happens to be one of the ones at the secondary building, so we have a slightly longer walk in the morning.
Classes are held every weekday from 9:00am-12:30, with a short break in the middle. The Unterricht (curriculum) is dependent upon level and teacher. My class normally has grammar, reading, writing, and speaking all involved in the curriculum each day. We also listen and discuss German music, work on short presentations and play games a few times throughout the week.
After class, most students eat lunch at the Mensa, the local cafeteria of the University. Like any other cafeteria, the food is mediocre but there is always a good variety and cheap prices. There are two levels, which offer completely different foods, in addition to a cafe below.
Of course, some nights we receive homework, depending upon our teacher. Luckily for us, it isn’t too demanding or time-consuming, which still leaves us with time to hang out or socialize in the evenings of there is nothing else planned.
In addition to class, every Tuesday and Thursday are devoted to Arbeitgemeinschaften (AGs). These workshops are an hour and a half long, are we are required to take at least two, with a maximum of three. There is somewhat of a choice for these, as they range from choir and theater to pronunciation and grammar. As the month went on, these AGs seemed like a hassle to most students, but they are a break from normal curriculum and let us improve our German even further
As time gets nearer to the beginning of the Madison fall semester, I know that classes will be more time demanding; I, along with the rest of us here at the sommer course, are trying to focus only on improving our German through this relatively relaxing coursework.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen