Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Update 1

So I got this update up a lot later than I wanted, but here it is. Since it took me so long, I am going to have to briefly summarize a lot, but feel free to ask me about any of it. I lived with a host family for my first three weeks in Stuttgart after finishing my intensive five week language course in Marburg. It was fun and they were super nice and helpful and I learned a lot about what a typical German family life looks like, but I am also glad to be living in the city now. They live in the town just south of Stuttgart so it took about an hour to get to the university or into town whereas it takes me about twenty five minutes to the university now and maybe 15 into downtown.

I live now in a two bedroom apartment at the top of what used to be a hotel with a guy from Georgia (the country). My roommate understands a lot, but doesn't speak any English which is awesome because it gives me a non-pressure opportunity to really speak German. My apartment isn't super nice, but it is definitely good enough for how long I will be here and especially since the rent is decent. My roommate doesn't exactly keep the place super clean and he will on average have people over at least two nights a week when I am trying to sleep, but I have had the place to myself for the last week and a half since I last saw him so even though I feel a little bit bad about it, I am happy. He is really nice and fun to talk to, but I have to get up early so it is nice to have the opportunity to go to bed when I want and not be woken up most nights.

It took the first three weeks of being in Stuttgart, but I finally got a hold of my professor. Apparently he was on vacation the first two weeks and didn't respond to the email I sent a month before that for some reason, and wasn't really ever in his office and no one seemed to have any idea where he was so I finally trapped him after one of his lectures and from there everything went pretty well. He introduced me to an awesome PhD student who is working on the project I proposed to do. He seemed really excited for me to be there and introduced me to everyone in our research group and after I told him I could speak German, gave me the benefit of the doubt and hasn't looked back since. He has also been really patient when explaining all of the theory behind our project especially since all of that is also in German. I have been surprised that I have gone through multiple meetings with him about theory and only had to ask him about a couple of words. It helps that he has had me read German dissertations about our project so I can learn a lot of the terms that way.

Our project, without wanting to go into too much detail so as not to bore people, is studying particle collisions in Xenon plasma with applications to the development of reusable heat shielding material (our plasma is a simulation of the kind a capsule experiences on reentry) and also to make ion engines that use Xenon plasma more efficient. It has been slow to start. We were able to run the experiment once, but then one of the circuit boards in the laser we use to make our measurements burnt out randomly so we have been waiting to receive a new board which will have to be setup which will probably take a couple weeks. That means I have been reading to try gain at least a basic understanding of almost all new material. It sounds like we might start setting up while we are waiting for the laser after the holidays though.

Outside of work, I am trying to get involved so I have more chances to make friends and use my German. I went to some of the practices of the university frisbee team until it got too cold outside for the clothes I brought here that I can run in. It was fun because they are a nationally competitive so the practices were at a high level that really pushed me. I also joined one of the big bands at my university. That has also been extremely fun too because the people there are also very welcoming and there is definitely some good friend potential. They also have a huge collection of music they play out of so there at last a few new songs that we play every week. They take a tour to Sweden every May to play at a big festival there and at German cities along the way so I am definitely looking forward to that.

I have been doing a lot of travelling. So far in Germany, I have travelled to Mainz, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Mannheim, and Munich, and outside it to Geneva, Vienna, and Venice. I am also planning to fully utilize the holiday break for some serious travelling. I will first meet my friend Shane, from my language course, in Munich, where he is studying, and we are going to meet with some of his friends for Christmas. Then we are going to meet some more language course friends in Berlin before taking the train to Krakow. We are going to spend three days there and then head back to Berlin for New Year's eve. Then on to Hamburg for the last few days of the break. I am sure plenty of stories from that trip will be here eventually!

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