Today we woke up for the last morning in Berlin, and will sleep for our first night in Heidelberg! With alarms set bright and early, we managed to get our entire group ready to leave the hostel at 7am. We made our final walk to the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, where we took a short train to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main station).
There, we had our first meal of the day. For many of us, myself included, this was McDonald’s. This was also the only meal many of us enjoyed until supper time.
Our ICE train arrived around 8:30, and we all crammed aboard Wagon 5 to our reserved seats. That is, the 21 seats that were reserved for 22 people. A ticket was missed, and by sheer luck and circumstance, I ended up not having a seat number. I moved from seat to seat as the passengers who reserved those seats moved me out. Eventually, I found a safe spot in Wagon 1, where I could take a little nap.
It was over 5 hours to get from Berlin to Heidelberg. Once we reached the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof, we were greeted by the Heidelberg University Summer Course desk, and bought our bus tickets to get to the university. At the same time, we also ran into Josh, who arrived the day before. He was going to follow us to the university on his bicycle, and departed just as we tried to cram 22 people onto an accordion city bus. It didn’t work. I ended up having the doors closed on me, with no room for me to get in.
The bus departed, and I returned to the bus shelter and talked with a few other summer students. After 20 minutes the next bus came, and I got on not really sure of where I was going. As it was going through Heidelberg, I looked out the window and saw Josh, on his bike, grinning back at me as he followed the bus. It turns out, he reached the school with the first bus, and when they realized I was missing, came back to check if I was going to take the next bus, then saw me get on.
At the Universitätsplatz, we entered the main building to be greeted by four lines: cashier, office, exam registration, and habitation arrangements. After ensuring we had paid, collecting all the documentation we needed, registering for the level placement exam, and getting information about our housing for the next month, we all sat and waited for our name to be called. A volunteering student would then drive us to our new home, and introduce us to the people there and give information about what should be done and where to find things.
After 2 hours, I was finally called and brought to my place. I am very far from the school – 20 minutes by bike, barely faster by bus. Walking is out of the question. However, my room is very nice, with a great desk and plenty of room.
The back yard is also directly on the Neckar River, and has a view of the taller buildings in downtown Heidelberg.
I am living with 3 roommates, all university students. They speak English and German, and have been very helpful for getting settled. They even provided a bike for me to use, hopefully allowing me to save money on buses and get in shape over the next 4 weeks. As far as I am, I am not alone. My star is surrounded by a green box, and the red boxes surround a few others from our group.
Tonight, I tested out the bike by buying some groceries, and biking downtown to the university. I biked around looking for others from our group, but was unsuccessful for a long time. Finally, as I was about to give up and go home, I ran into Iain as a crowd of people cleared. We walked around, and ended up getting supper at the Mensa. The Mensa is the university cafeteria or meal hall. It offers buffet food by weight, at 8 Euros per kilogram. My plate of food tonight was only 2.78 Euro, complete with fish, sausage, rice and carrots. Great value there.
After this, we walked around more, and after finding no one else, we split ways and I biked the 20 minutes back home.
Tomorrow, we are taking our placement exam. It will determine which difficulty level we get placed into for the course. They evaluate both oral and written skills to find the best fit. Class begins Monday.