Classes for the Münster program are held in the Paul Gerhardt Haus, a building owned by a local Lutheran congregation. It serves as a home base for a youth café, confirmation classes, senior citizens gatherings, and several student groups. There are more groups here this year than ever before, which makes some juggling of room assignments necessary. We appreciate having our classes in a central location (close to the main train station where all bus lines intersect) and in a friendly environment.
Students in the Münster program take four classes: a Religion course taught in English by Pastor Mahler (a retired Lutheran pastor), a Paideia II course focusing on Jews and Germany, and two German courses. There are actually two German courses offered simultaneously for different skill levels. One is taught by me, and the other is taught by Andrea Schäfers, a graduate student studying the teaching of German as a Foreign Language. The German courses are split into half-semesters, which means they cover a lot of material in a short time! Being surrounded by German really helps students – they are putting their skills to use all the time.
One thing that the students and I have both noticed is that the pace of classes is very different here than on campus. The German classes feel more like a J-Term class, meeting on consecutive days for longer periods of time. Gone is the MWF or TTh rhythm of a “regular” semester. Having completed two full weeks of classes, things are starting to feel a little more routine.
It has been a lot of fun to witness the discoveries students are making in their first few weeks in Germany. Some of our students have traveled abroad before, but for many this is their first time in Germany. As an American who first spent time in Germany after her junior year of high school, I can remember (and sometimes even still experience) these “a-ha” moments. Students from small towns now confidently manage the public bus system here in Münster; picky eaters are bravely trying foods with names they have never heard; shy students are starting to connect with their host families. There are challenges and moments of awkwardness, but the students are rising to the task.
This weekend is Karneval, with the high point in Münster arriving on Monday (Rosenmontag) with the parade. Stay tuned….