School has finally started here in Germany! And after taking another month of intensive German class, I still wasn’t ready for the German University system.

On Monday we all started class. Also on Monday registration for classes begins. So as an international student, I pretty much go to classes I want to take, talk to the teacher, and ask, “Hey, can I take your class?” that first week. So after struggling through explaining myself in German, asking the same questions over and over, and showing up in completely wrong classes, on Friday I finally figured out what classes I’m taking:

  • Energietechnik (Thermodynamics for Engineering and Energy Engineering)
  • Grundlagen der Fertigung (Basics of Manufacturing)
  • Flugantriebe (Flight Propulsion)
  • German Language Course B2
  • Intercultural Competence and Communication
  • Germany and the European Union History, Politics and Culture

And this all amounts to the equivalent of only 15 U.S. credits.

Anyway, back to how university classes in Germany (and in most of Europe) are completely different from those in the USA: The majors are something like a track system, where everyone in the same major takes the same classes, at the same times, with the same people, for all four years. This means that when registration begins on Monday and classes start on Monday, it is no problem for all of the students, because their major just sends them a schedule here are your classes: Ready, go! The second big difference is how long the classes are. They’re split into a lecture part and a module part. Seems normal until all the lectures for one week are on the same day, making for about 3- to 4-hour-long classes (except for two scheduled coffee breaks and one lunch break, precisely at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m.). Then some of the modules are offered right after the lecture, making for even longer classes. Others modules are labs offered on different days from the lectures, but I’m still trying to figure out how it all works.

In addition to new-student jitters, which are fueled by not knowing where to go or not understanding what people are saying, this tract system means that I don’t really fit in. I haven’t been taking the classes with my classmates for the past two years. I’m also the only girl of about 25 in two of my classes. This is almost normal coming from Mines, but still hard when you don’t understand half of what is going on. I just stick out like a sore thumb in most of my classes for now.

The classes I have with the other international students are more normal, maybe only because we all have no idea what is going on. Regardless, I’m going to enjoy taking classes with people from all over the world!