Written by Kat Li, Foster School undergraduate student
Since the course schedule of the University of Mannheim is not really in sync with that of UW’s, I had the opportunity to arrive a month beforehand and participate in the University’s International Winter Academy. It’s basically an intensive German language course (4 hours per day, 5 days a week!) lasting the entire month of January. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take it at first (instead of traveling around Europe for a month), but it turned out to be a great decision.
Because of the sheer amount of hours spent each day in class, my German improved dramatically. I went from only being about to understand really basic phrases to being able to understand, speak and read significantly better. In addition to the classes in the morning/afternoon, there were optional seminars we could attend in the evenings. Their topics ranged from grammar and phonetics to German history and literature.
And no, it wasn’t all work! There were excursions 2-3 times a week to neighboring cities and attractions within Mannheim. One memorable trip I went on was to Heidelberg, an old city completely un-destroyed during WWII. We took a tour of the ruins of the castle there, which was destroyed by the French in the 17th century. Inside was the largest wine barrel I’ve ever seen, with a capacity of around 220,000 liters!
Finally, because only about 80 international students attended the Winter Academy, we became a pretty close group. We were able to become good friends before the huge group of about 600 international students arrived in February. Participating in the Winter Academy was wunderbar and now I’m looking forward to starting the semester!