It’s the end of orientation week here in Mannheim and almost the end of my first week in Germany. Classes start next week and I can’t wait to experience a different educational system. One of our orientations was an introduction to the German education system and it is quite a bit different from Drexel’s class structure. At Mannheim there are lectures where the professor just talks for an hour and a half, it is not an interactive experience and you are just expected to listen and take notes.
Then there are sometimes tutorials and exercise periods to help you understand and internalize the information that you learned in the lecture. The higher level courses are designed as seminars, which are small group-like settings where the professor and students talk together about the topic of the course. One of the most interesting aspects of the German system is that grades are almost always based on a final exam. There can be group projects and papers that factor into your grade, but attendance and homework are never a part of the grade. So deciding to attend lectures is entirely up to the student and so is your success in your academic career. We were also given a tour of the Mannheim palace, which is where the main part of the university is located, so that we could find our classrooms next week.
The palace is amazing and although it looks traditional on the outside, the inside has been updated for a modern school experience with computers and card readers for the doors so only students, teachers, and employees can explore the entire palace. Since I’ve had a lot of free time this week, because classes haven’t started, I’ve been exploring the city with friends and experiencing the night life in Mannheim. Bars in Mannheim are open very late, until around 5 in the morning, and so are some food stands. You can also find a decent amount of people out this late and not just drunk college students, but older couples out for a late night walk around the city center. An interesting thing about the city center is that there are very few cars on the two main roads. They are mostly travelled by pedestrians and the trolleys.
Another interesting fact about the city center is that you can find little pretzel stands scattered around downtown Mannheim and at 60 cents, they are both a delicious and cheap snack. As for German beer, it’s been living up to its name so far as all the different beers I’ve had were very good. I especially liked the German Weissbier and have also tried a drink called a Radler, which is beer mixed with Sprite (not bad). As for the party I mentioned in my last post, we had a bunch of people at our dorm before the party; both exchange students and German students. Then we all went to the Schneckenhof, which is a courtyard in the palace where all the University’s parties are held. They played a lot of American music at the party, but there were also some good German songs being played too. Of course there was alcohol being served and not only beer, but wine and cocktails too.
One thing that I found strange was that they charged you an extra two dollars and gave you a red chip when you bought your first beer. This was to ensure that you return the bottles to be recycled or else you would be charged the two dollar Pfand (like a tax) every time you wanted another beer and didn’t have your bottle. That goes to show how strict the Germans are about recycling. They have a different container for different colored glass (white, green, brown), paper/cardboard, and regular garbage. I went to Heidelberg yesterday with some other exchange students to see the “lighting of the castle.” I’ll talk more about that later. The picture is of a canal that my dorm room overlooks. The river in the background is the Neckar and along with the Rhein, they flow around downtown Mannheim.