The first 2 weeks. Chemistry in Germany
Some would say that taking a flight 5 hours into the new year is a bad idea. Some would like to get some sleep after a full night of partying and fun. Not Matt and I. Spending the first 24 hours of New Years in crowded planes, in empty airports, and getting the quickest intro to a new city/country/continent, was a truly eye opening experience. Once we landed in Germany, Dr. Till Opatz, the professor who’s lab we will be working in for the next 3 months, ran us to the supermarket, showed us the city center from a carseat, and made sure we were all settled in for the weekend. He also made sure to inform us that it is German culture that most stores and buses do not run on Sundays. We survived, though, with no internet or much access to the outside world to be greeted by our future colleagues and friends on Monday. Over the course of our first week in Mainz, Germany we quickly learned all the names of the chemists here at Johannes-Gutenberg Universität. After our lab safety exercise and a quick look around, we got paired up with a PhD student (I am with Nicola Otto, in her final year of study here) and got quickly to work. Since then my work in the lab has been purely about speed learning 8 years of chemistry and understanding how to apply it to a lab setting! It has been a blast!
Now I think I get to talk about the more German aspects of my stay here! I should add in, I did take 2 years of German in my first 2 years of high school. That last statement is really there just to show that I showed up in Mainz a little cocky, feeling like I would be fully fluent in the near future. What I failed to understand is that the accents and colloquiums of the language here makes it very difficult to follow conversations. My classes here with Dr. Arduengo have really been helping me get to a vocabulary point where I can thrive, in addition to how he teaches Matt and I how to say things like Germans would, not the direct translation way. Overall, the language barrier has not been a huge obstacle since most people here at the university and in the city center speak at least a little english.
I wish I had more sight seeing stories to tell, but really these first few weeks have been purely about learning German and chemistry and attending functions with the lab crew. I plan on taking a trip to Frankfurt, the nearest big city in Germany, very soon since I have some family friends that live near there!