Yesterday was the first day of classes. I got up bright and early for my first class—French at 8:30. I had been worried about French class, even though I had studied some over the summer; after all, it had been years since I’d taken a proper class. It didn’t help that when I mentioned who my teacher was to the second-year students, they would say “Ooooh,” in that way that lets you know you’re screwed. Any protestations afterward that she wasn’t actually that scary were (understandably) met with disbelief on my part.
My French class is small—only six people, including myself—and my mind has been calmed considerably regarding the fearsome Madame Cali. True, she does speak exclusively in French, and that can be a lot to keep up with in a 90-minute class. At the same time, she is very aware of the level we are at, and goes just far enough beyond it that we have to pay attention and learn something. Added bonus: she recently visited Wake Forest!
My afternoon class was my German-language political science class; “Theorien der internationalen Beziehungen” with Dr. Gärtner. I am technically a B2-level German speaker, which means I am competent to take classes in the language, but that certainly doesn’t mean I understand everything. Thankfully, Dr. Gärtner speaks slowly, if not very loudly. Plus, some of our reading materials and his slideshows are in English, which helps to bridge the gap. My classmates have also been really great; my friend Sylvia is Austrian and makes sure to check in and see if I understand what is going on. So far, it’s not too bad.
To close out the day, we had to attend the academic inauguration—basically, it’s what we call ‘convocation’ in the States, only a lot shorter. Seriously, the whole thing lasted 30 minutes, tops. We had the Austrian Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Michael Spindelegger, as our speaker. His speech was fairly interesting—he had just returned from General Assembly week at the UN in New York—but I was having a hard time keeping my mind on the speeches when I knew that there was going to be food at the reception immediately following. Sure enough, once we’d finished listening to the Austrian national anthem and the European anthem (fun fact: it’s “Ode to Joy”), it was time to quickly (but still discreetly) dash over to the tables with the food. It was so good: lots of things with cheese and salami and dip-type things. There was also cake. Chocolate cake with coconut, poppyseed cake, apricot cake…I was in heaven. Then afterwards, a few of the students went back to the bar to celebrate the first day of classes being over. I met a few new people, including a guy from my political theory class, an Austrian who had studied abroad in southern Ohio and knew every team in the ACC. We also bonded over a shared knowledge of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, trading off instances of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if…” And somehow, I even managed to get to bed at a decent hour so as to be up on time for another 8:30 AM class today!