Not in Munich this time, but once again home in Berlin. I will get you all updated from the last two weeks here with some of my experiences at the Humboldt University.
First of all, all the international students who study must go through the Immatrikulation process. This basically means enrolment into the university. It is quite extensive and it took a lot of preparation to get it all done. Of course I needed to provide a photocopy of my passport- the king of all identification. I then had to show my Anmeldebescheinigung (the proof of residence documentation, which I discussed in a previous blog). They also wanted proof of sufficient health insurance during my studies.
I needed to pay a semester fee, which amounted to about 240 Euros. This covers costs like running the student international office and my semester-long public transit ticket. This ticket is the most valuable thing I walked away with from this whole process- I get to travel on ALL modes of transportation (S-Bahn trains, the regional long-distance trains, street cars, subways and buses) for the whole semester. And the semester lasts 5 months. The 240 Euros pretty much pays for itself. This is something I would like to see the TTC provide university students.
And the best part of the Immatrikulation? I received 50 Euros for nothing. Yes that’s right: free money! The city of Berlin gives all students who live in Berlin something called Begrüßungsgeld, which means “welcome money.”
So that’s enough with the university for now. An event that I attended last week was the Festival of Lights. Once per year, famous parts of the entire city are lit up in beautiful colourful displays. The light shows last all night and some of them even have music to play along with the changing colours. Some areas of illumination are the Berlin Cathedral, the East Side Gallery, the shopping mall at Alexanderplatz, the tall radio tower and some of the larger train stations. In total there are over 100 buildings which put on a show.
I would like to let you know as well about the phone plans in Germany. Back in Canada, we are all being ripped off (I guess you readers know that anyways already). I got the simplest and cheapest of all plans, and it is way more than I need. I am doing pay-as-you-go, so first off, that means I do not have any contract that I will have to worry about for when I leave to come home again. I pay only 10 Euros per month and I get all the internet I need. Well, it’s only supposed to be up to 500 MB, but even when I go over, the speed is still incredible. Last month for instance I used about 4 GB of data, and I had no slow loading times or problems surfing the net. I even use it back at my residence in conjunction with my laptop (what I will use in fact to upload this blog shortly ).
Out-going phone calls are only 9 cents per minute, which is very reasonable. And out-going texts are also 9 cents. But hardly anyone texts in Europe! Because the internet costs are so low, everyone uses an application called “WhatsApp” (this was completely new to me when I arrived). It is simply an app where you can text all of your contacts. Pictures, videos, recordings, group chats and so much more can be shared via “WhatsApp.” This is the main method through which I keep in contact with all my friends in Berlin. So, a piece of advice if you will ever be in Europe long enough to need a cell phone: download the “WhatsApp” application as everyone here uses it.
I know midterm season is still going on back home right now. For me, I am starting my third week of the semester. Kind of weird to think how different the schedules and university systems are. I am starting to feel the stress of classes as things are starting to pick up pace now. Good luck to those of you who still have midterms and I wish you all a good week!