Tag Archives: quad life

Vallendar Living

Hi everyone!

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my semester at WHU. So far, most of my blog has been about my experiences in getting new experiences, within and outside Germany. There will be more, I assure you, so stay tuned! But for this time, I want to show you more about my daily life in Germany.

Living Accommodations

So when you Google the name of the place where I live in, you get this:

Haus Wildburg
Haus Wildburg

That’s partly true. Haus Wildburg is a property owned by the Marien nuns who work and live in this building as well as the housing units immediately behind it past the metal gate. We live past the gate, past where the nuns live, up a little hill to the student dormitory section.

Haus Wildburg is one of the cheapest housing options available to Tauschies at WHU. For 335 Euros per month (which, I now know, is very over priced in Germany) you get this:

Single unit, with one bed, a closet, a desk, a sink, and a radiator. Oh and a chair.
Single unit, with one bed, a closet, a desk, a sink, and a radiator. Oh and a chair.

As well as usage of the kitchens and common areas, which are essentially lounges. The facilities are old, but they get the job done. It’s small, but for me, it’s enough. I don’t take up much space anyway. (Haha)

I live with nine other students, most of whom are from America, so it didn’t take much adjusting to get along. It’s nice living with other people. When I go down to the kitchen to cook dinner (which I never did back in Hawaii because there was always the cafeteria that served buffet style meals), I would usually hear the boys in their kitchen, and it almost always smells amazing. No joke. The guys can really cook.

Which reminds me of the peculiarities of Wildburg. There are separate common areas and kitchens according to gender: one each for male and female. For laundry, we have to pay four 50-cent coins to use the washer and 3 coins for the dryer. That means one load of laundry will cost 3.50 Euros. Eek! Also, the nuns are VERY diligent landlords, and coupled with the fact they speak close to no English, makes things at times quite interesting.

Food

I know Europe has a reputation for being expensive, and I can validate that because I’ve been to some very expensive places (but nice ones. More on that later), but at least compared to Hawaii, groceries are very cheap here. I rarely spend more than 10 Euros on groceries, even at the most expensive store nearby campus, and that can last me for over a week. There are a few main places to go shopping for essentials at:

1) REWE (pronounced like “RAY-VUH”): the newest store in town, a few steps from school, and the closest store to home. Also the most expensive. But if you buy the Ja! brand, it’s like Safeway Select, or Kirkland Signature, or the CVS brand. You get it for cheaper – about the cheapest it gets.

2) Lidl (pronounced like “needle” with an ‘L’): A few minutes from campus not far from the Vallendar train station. It looks like a warehouse, and you can usually find cheaper produce and goods here than at REWE. But if you get Ja! from REWE, it’s comparable.

3) Aldi & Netto: Two separate stores, literally side-by-side, only divided by a parking lot between them. They’re about the same distance from school as Lidl (a bit further) but in the opposite direction. You can probably some of the best deals at these two places as well as good variety. For me though, it’s just really far to walk with a bunch of groceries.

The German diet consists of a lot of meat (yes, wurst), which I ate a lot of during my first few weeks here. Now that I cook a lot, with one good meal a day, I can save a lot of money. My home-cooked dinners have cost me no more than 2 Euros. Actually closer to 1 Euro, with pasta, meat, and veggies.

School

Compared to most campuses I’ve been to, WHU is actually quite small, which is nice because I’ll never have to rush from class to another. Every room is clean, well-lit, and new. The school has only been around for three decades, but it has already maintained a solid reputation for rigor and excellence for years.

The largest lecture hall at WHU. Not the most comfortable one.
The largest lecture hall at WHU. Not the most comfortable one.
Another lecture hall. Smaller but with better seats ^^
Another lecture hall. Smaller but with better seats ^^

And this is one of my favorite places on campus (aside from the library that is accessible 24/7):

The WHU chapel. Anyone is welcome to play the piano as he/she wishes. It is, however, not a sanctified chapel.  Image courtesy of Google.
The WHU chapel. Anyone is welcome to play the piano as he/she wishes. It is, however, not a sanctified chapel.
Image courtesy of Google.

Oh and they have coffee serving vending machines. For 60 cents, you can get a decent cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or even shot of espresso with milk. Every school needs this. What would I do for one of these so I don’t have to wait in line for Starbucks (and watch my paycheck dwindle down…)

Also comes with a cup :)
Also comes with a cup 🙂
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Orientation & Orienting (Tips Inside)

Hello there, I am a Tauschie.

Pronounced TOW-SHE (as in “towel” and the female pronoun)

That’s the WHU nickname for exchange students. I daresay I rather like it.

Most of my friends in Hawaii are wondering why in the world (haha, get it?) I had to leave home so early for Germany. That’s because our mandatory exchange student orientation was on January 3rd, which is practically the day after New Year’s for Hawaii.

So the night of the 2nd, a few of us Tauschies got seated at what we thought was a restaurant. Since we were a larger group, we had to bring an extra chair and moved around things a bit. But when we realized that it did not serve dinner food, we couldn’t stay and (rather unceremoniously) departed the place…right in the line of sight of the store owner. Oh dear.

Yeah. So the next morning, Cynthia and I walked down from Wildburg together and decided to redeem ourselves by purchasing our breakfast from that same bakery store. I had a chocolate croissant (chocolate inside). Warm and dee-lish. I like Starbucks, but it got nothin’ on this. Success.

The day was a pretty full one. We started at 9:00AM and it was one information session and documentation preparation after another. We all lined up to submit our information disclosure agreements and health insurance documents to get our student cards that double as access keys to school facilities and IDs. As for residential permits, we had until Friday, January 10th (a week from that day) to register at the town hall a few steps away from campus. The town hall is a blocky, orange (peach?) colored building right behind the restaurant Die Traube [see photo gallery] on Hellenstrasse. It’s big, orange, and labeled “Rathaus.” You can’t miss it.

(If anyone is interested in knowing, the 5-month permit costs 50 Euro, and the 8-month permit [also requires an electronic application] is 100 Euro).

After figuring out the initial nuts and bolts and how to legally stay in Germany for the duration of the semester, we were schooled on how to register for classes. Unlike other exchange programs I’ve heard about, WHU students don’t register until the weekend before the first Monday of the semester. Some classes don’t open up until a few days, or even weeks later. Until the classes open up, we can “pre-book” the desired course, which places it on our personal calendar so we can check the class times in relation to other classes. This was extremely helpful because I found three classes that overlapped with each other before I officially registered for them. So so so so much less stressful than registering at UH Manoa. Here, most classes don’t have a cap, so students pretty much get all the classes they need and want.

Then came the German placement tests. There was an info session where the German teachers gave an overview of the program and encouraged everyone to take German. It’s all for free, and it won’t be held against you even if you fail the final exam (and therefore the course). For those interested, students can take the exam and be certified for a specific proficient level. There are four levels offered to exchange students: A1 (Beginning), A2 (Intermediate), B1 (Advanced), B2/C1 (Very Advanced). The teachers (all female, so “Lehrerinnen” or “Professorinnen”) stressed that the subsequent class/level assignment after the exams were only recommendations; we were free to choose any level we felt comfortable with.

Since I technically took three years of German, I decided to try out the placement exam and interview. I had little hopes for myself because my three years were discontinuous and I repeated first-year German when I entered college. On top of that, I never spoke it other than the few opportunities in class. As for my placement, I expected to be in A2 at best, but somehow I got B1! I know it’ll be a stretch, but I decided to go for it anyway, since I do intend on becoming literate and partially fluent in German. Fingers crossed that I’ll survive.

We did some more exploring and checking out facilities during our free time between the orientation and the evening activity. On our expedition to find the campus gym (in Building D), we got locked inside one of the glass buildings because the inside access key scan pad wouldn’t work, even though we were able to get in. We got out the back door, and it turns out the Gym building was pretty much right there, so it was a happy mistake!

We gathered at the main Burgplatz (which is like the main Quad, center of campus) at 7:00PM under the dark sky for our campus tour. Strange, I know. But most of the things to see were indoors, so it didn’t make much of a difference. The facilities are really quite excellent. Very much so, in fact. There is a chapel, Harry Potter-esque staircase, multi-story library, a large 24/7 gym, lots of study rooms, and modern lecture halls with seats that might be too comfortable!

At 8:00PM that evening, the welcoming student committee (called the Vallendar Integration Program, aka VIP) gave a rundown of Welcome Week. It sounds better and busier than anything I expected. I don’t know if I should go too in-depth, but let’s just say these kids really do know how to party. And they do it all the time. *winky-wink*

And the fun already began that night. After a late dinner of pizza, about 60 Tauschies went with the local kids to a club in Koblenz. I didn’t go, but I heard they had a good time.

CLUBBING TIP: Apparently there’s a coat charge (about 1 Euro) and an entrance overhead fee that you have to pay WHEN YOU LEAVE, not at the door, so you don’t realize you need to get charged. I heard it’s 7 Euro, but it might vary from club to club.

*Note of caution: While Vallendar is a safe town, it gets very dark very early, and it is super quiet. I almost got lost trying to find my way back to my dormitory from another location other than campus my first night because it was so dark and there were hardly any street lights. But it’s very small, so even if you’re not sure where you are, it won’t take you long to find your way. And you’ll know the place well soon enough.

(There is a duplicate post in my personal -other- blog. Still trying to get the hang of this. Sorry for the confusion!)