Saturday, October 21, 2006

Staying Put

I made the decision yesterday to stay in Hamburg for the entire year. My program tried to tempt me with easy offers of moving to Berlin for at least February through June and working for this really cool organization. As wonderful as that might have been (since I fancy both greatly), I opted instead to work at the institute I'm studying at and pursue my own thesis research.

In part, I was not in the proper mindset to make such a move. First, I had to fight with the institute and with DAAD to even secure my spot in Hamburg. Then, I went through the process of finding an apartment I liked and moving all my stuff here. There is something so utterly tiring about moving every year or two; I just couldn't see myself voluntarily moving two to three times more this year.

As another DAAD scholarship holder said, why even put down any roots or make any friends here in Hamburg when you won't be here next semester? Such a disjointed year didn't appeal to any of the foreigners in the program -- we'll all be in Hamburg for the spring.

It's much easier for the Germans, who may themselves have cars or who have a better support network, to up and move (sometimes back) to a city in another part of the country. And so we foreigners sacrifice which institute may have been the best opportunity or the best fit in order to ensure a little stability and harmony in our year in Germany. I don't think our program understood this, as they were overwhelmed by the number of students wishing simply to stay put.

The selection of our spring "residence institutes" was the final element in our 2+ week introduction to the program. In the days since my birthday (our first day of school), we've had tedious 9-to-6 days of lectures and presentations. Monday our classes actually begin, and I am looking forward to them greatly -- simply because I am in class no more than three hours per day!

This coming week will be the first that I'll have had time to deal with all the bureaucratic nonsense that life in Germany entails. First on the list is registering at my new address (6 euros), which will be followed in short order by getting a university library card (free, but not possible without registration). I also need to register at the foreigner's office (60 euros), though I would like to hold off on that until DAAD has officially extended my scholarship for the full academic program; otherwise I fear I will need to pay the application fee again for a one-month extension.

I've already picked an internet provider, though I have yet to sign up with my power and gas companies of choice. Then there are the bank transfers to arrange, the city library card (15 euros), all of the change-of-address notifications I will need to send out, and for whatever reason, the university has me registered under the wrong program . . .

I guess the good news is that I will only do all of this once. So dear friends, now is the time to book your tickets to Hamburg!


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