Week One

I made it to Germany! Here is an update about how my first few days went, with an approximate cost breakdown at the bottom.

I landed in Frankfurt and needed to get to Saarbrücken, so I got on a regional train to Mainz Hauptbahnhof, and then swapped to the regional train going to Saarbrücken Hauptbahnhof. I think there was supposed to be a direct train, but I didn’t find it… fortunately, my ticket worked for all regional trains. This took around 3 hours, and then the school picked me up from the main station.

They gave me a very fast orientation, placed me into the B1 level on the CEFR for German, and showed me my student housing room. Although I was very tired and it was late, I managed to take the bus into town before the shops closed to buy bedding and dishes at Tedox (an Ikea-like store).

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Internet at the dorms I’m staying at seems to be from the city internet (so great that they have this as a public service!), since the campus one doesn’t reach here, but it seems to unpredictably cut out for hours at a time, and it’s very spotty in general. For now, I will stick to my plan through my phone with Project Fi, and mainly try to use the internet on campus. I will see if it makes sense to get a local data plan once I find more permanent accommodation.

German class started at 9am the next day. Despite 10 hours of sleep, I was still exhausted (probably due to jet lag), so I really don’t know if I learned anything. My German just feels so slow and broken; I feel bad for the people who I am trying to communicate with!

In the evening, there was a free excursion to a local church and a local museum. The museum was very small, and mostly just showed off the old stone foundation of the building. Since I went with a large group of my class mates, I ended up meeting so many people! Today I spoke German, English, French, Russian, a bit of Polish, and a bit of Japanese!

The little cheese on my plate was called Handkäse. It's tastes/feels sort of like a gummy made of highly concentrated buttermilk filled with a crumbly buttermilk cheese. I didn't like it at all.

From Lidl — salami, proscuitto, liverwurst, 2 different cheeses (although I didn’t like the small one), 1/2 a loaf of bread (rye with sesame!), figs, red currants, kefir (similar to yogurt), salt, green onions, radishes, a zucchini, ginger, soy sauce, raw chicken — 15.66 Euro.

Afterwards, I stopped by a grocery store to grab a few basics– and I even remembered toilet paper, phew! In fact, I’ve been to a few different groceries by now including  NettoLidlAldi and Rewe, and I’ve found that their selection is mostly similar and not particularly interesting. The trend seems to be many awesome deli meat choices, expensive raw meat, incredibly expensive fish, and kind of underwhelming veggie/fruit selections. By the way eggs in the EU are not refrigerated, and when you come to the store, bring bags because they have none.

I definitely overspent this first week, but that’s ok. My budget goals for October are to find housing for 300 Euro a month, and then stick to 23 Euro a day for all other expenses. This will help me stay within the stipend. Plus, any money I don’t spend on living gets to go into a travel fund, so if I could spend even less, that would be awesome. I have some extra cash in savings that I didn’t expect, so I’m letting myself have September as a freebie (but still, hopefully, a frugal freebie) due to all the moving and confusion.

Total spent:

  • €36 – train ticket from Frankfurt to Saarbrücken
  • €46 – bus pass for the month
  • €10 – card for the cafeteria (“Mensa”) that you fill with money to use
  • €5.2 – bus tickets on the first day
  • €3.6 – food at the cafeteria the first day
  • €79 – bedding, cookware, and dishes at Tedox
  • €22.88 – food at Netto
  • €15.66 – food at Lidl
  • €218.34 Total

To do (short but intense list for the rest of the month):

  • Open a bank account
  • Get a student visa
  • Find a place to live
  • Find a doctor to get my thyroid medication refilled (although this can wait a couple months)

That’s it for now! I’m trying to find a good middle ground between information and boredom, so please let me know if you think of a way I can improve these updates in the future.

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