Quick update: I have to leave now.
Okay, I originally thought I'd be writing everyone a nice, boring paragraph or five about differences between education systems German and American, but that's being scrapped and pushed back to day when I have more time. This is just going to be a quick update, because I'm dealing with somewhat significant issues at the moment, and just don't have it in me for light-hearted wit.
What am I talking about?
I'm going to have to leave Mittweida. Worse, I have to find another University that will work for what I need before December 19th (four weeks, give or take) or my two week visit home will transform into a relocation.
Yes. I'm serious.
Here's the deal. I am currently living and studying at the Hochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft in Mittweida, Germany, via the GE3 program. Global Engineering Educational Exchange. I applied to GE3 in the Spring of last year, looking for a university in a German-speaking environment where I could study this year. GE3 took my application which listed what courses I'd like to be able to take, compared it to what courses were being offered world-wide, and placed me here, at Mittweida. I have recently become aware that there is a very strong possibility that I will be unable to finish my studies here this year. This is bad.
Allow me to clarify. I have had a few meetings with Frau Annett Kober and Dr. Thiel of the Akademisches Auslandsamt (International Office) here at Mittweida concerning my schedule for this semester (Fall 98). At different points, both of them expressed - as an aside - a concern for "what to do with me" next semester. Over time, I've been asking more questions and learning more, and reading (and translating) more from Hochscule's Big Book of Course Information, and it would appear that engineering classes are not offered here next semester.
I can't say that I understand exactly how this works, but the "even" semesters are spent by Mittweida students working with companies as some sort of local internships, not attending class. I'm not entirely sure the mechanics of how this works, but the apparent result is that no engineering classes are being offered at this school next semester (Spring 98).
This is not what I signed up for. I have no desire to spend the time and money I am spending to be here this year in a job-environment. Although no doubt I would learn and experience yet another aspect of German society and education, I don't feel that this is the best option for me, at this point in my education. I need to take courses which fulfill graduation requirements at CWRU, or else I'm just paying tuition to spin my wheels, and add years and debt to my academic life. I'm trying to avoid that kind of thing, although its inevitable.
I admit there is a *possibility* that I am missing some significant details, or that I am translating badly, but I don't think that's true. I am attempting to find a definite answer within the next few days, but I realized the limited amount of time and resources I have to deal with, and felt I should begin communication with people - especially my contacts in the States - as early as possible. I sent an email (almost identical to what you're reading now) about a week ago. It went out to two individuals at CWRU who run the Study Abroad program there, and three email addresses I had for GE3.
To say that I am concerned about my situation, that there are no classes available for me here in Mittweida next semester, is an understatement. This is where I thought GE3 might help. It is my desire to finish my year abroad, if not in Mittwieda. I was allocated to Mittweida by the GE3 program, so I started there. I asked them about the feasability of being transfered to another German-speaking university in Europe. Failing that, I would consider English-speaking universities in Europe, as second-best. Should it become impossible for GE3 to help me in this manner, I'd want help from CWRU's JYA Department, in locating a German-speaking school in Europe. Again, failing that, an English-speaking alternative might be acceptable.
The critical issue here was/is time. Luckily, my parents insisted that I fly home for the Christmas break, and have already bought my ticket. If I cannot take classes in a European university next semester, then I need to return to CWRU, and get on with my education. I don't know the calendar for this year, but traditionally, Case Western resumes classes the second week of January, beginning their second semester. I cannot wait until the end of Mittweida's Fall Semester in February, because I will miss the deadline to return to CWRU. Moreover, a visit home for two weeks is a drastically different endeavor than a _move_ home. I need to know before I leave Mittweida on December 19th, whether I will be returning the next semester.
This means, I need to have a solid "YES" from another University in Europe, by December 19th, or I will have packed up and moved out. As far as I'm concerned, this is my least favorite option, but dawdling about in Mittweida comes at too great a price for me to be careless...
GE3 did write back to my intial emails quickly, and said that they were forwarding it on to the French branch. There were some delays with different people not being in their office(s) on the same day, but eventually, GE3 France said they'd call Mittweida and investigate on Friday. So, then this (Monday) morning I get a very rude awakening, a very wierd and disturbing phone call. Frau Doberenz, the third woman in the international office, who is locally the "official" GE3 contact for the school, called this morning and interrogated me in German at miles-a-second speeds, in German...
"Joshua? Why did you not come to talk to me about your problems? We have office hours, you should come talk to us? Why did you tell my friend Dr. Emily that you were having problems, and not talk to us? Why did you tell these other people your problems, not talk to us? We have office hours, you should come talk to us? You did not talk to us, why?"
Then there's this long pause (compared to how fast she spit that out, it must have been an eternity) and she says, "Should I talk English?" The language was fine, I wasn't sure how to respond in *any* language. Groggily and at a complete loss for words, I said something like, "English is fine. I talked to GE3 because this is their problem." We talked for a few more minutes. She wants me to come in and talk to her. She did reveal that Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen all take "Praktikum" during even semesters, but there are Seniors who do research-type things and they stay and take support classes. She offered I could do that if the material fit. (I have strong doubts that it will, but I'll give it a look-see.)
She and I made an "appointment" for this Thursday. She says we will talk about "my problems" and find me classes, either here or at another university. Frankly, that's the *exact* sort of reason I went to GE3 in the *first* place. *GE3* put me here in Mittweida and claimed that it fit what I needed. *GE3* should be doing the work on this, not me and not Frau Doberenz. They have the resources and its the reason I signed on to their program in the first place. And frankly, I find Doberenz' reaction inappropriate. *Both* the other women in her office told me, more or less, that Mittweida wouldn't offer me courses for next semester. And, all of the support literature says the same thing, in even more explicit terms.
I don't feel like I had any strong obligation to chat with Doberenz before talking with GE3, as I think this was *entirely* in GE3's court, and should remain there. I'm still waiting for an "official" response from GE3, though.
Fun, fun, fun, eh? Oh well. So it goes.
So, that's "what's up" with Joshua, in case you were wondering. How's your life?