Exam and Move-out

Well, the exam has been taken. I use passive voice to distance myself from the whole experience. While I answered nearly every section, there are two sub-questions that I know I messed up and one full problem that I feel very uncertain of. I still have very high hopes for passing. However, I don't have high hopes for a good grade, even if the grade won't be reflected in my official CMU transcript.

After the exam, I made my way to the Registration Office. After a half hour wait, my number was called, I told the lady I wanted to give my notice, presented my passport and residence permit, and signed the form she printed out. She put a little sticker on my permit saying that I had no primary address in Germany anymore, and that was that.

I spent the rest of the day splitting myself between packing and making last minute adjustments to my travel plans to Amsterdam. The fact that I couldn't pack everything up due to needing my sheets still really ground my gears, but oh well.

Today, I got up bright and early to finish what I started. With everything crammed into a backpack, a purse, or one of two suitcases, I moved on to the kitchen. I am actually quite proud of myself with my food budgeting. All I had left over after was milk, cream cheese, basic pantry staples, and a sandwich that I took for the train. I laid it all out for the others on my floor, along with all the 1, 2, and 5 cent coins I had accumulated. They added up to ~3.50 Euros, which is simply not enough to go to the bank and convert them into larger coins.

About 30 Minutes before my check-out time, I remembered that I needed my bank's Swift Number and IBAN (International Bank Account Number) to get my 400 Euro housing deposit back. Now, these are numbers that allow a bank to receive money. Banks love receiving money. Thus, you'd expect they'd make these codes easy to find. Nope. I desperately googled how to uncover these numbers. My banks didn't say outright. The internet just kept telling me the partial Swift code (the same as BIC Number) and claimed that my bank statements would list the IBAN. They do not. I finally found a pdf with Chase's information, although the Swift code still lacked the final numbers specifying which branch I use.I scrawled these numbers onto the form my landlord handed me. I intend to request the official information from Chase and email the Studentenwerk with it and hope they find this arrangement acceptable.

After signing the form, I clunked my luggage down the stairs and out the door for the last time. I had decided to take a train from Aachen West station, a fairly short walk from my apartment building, to Düsseldorf and then take an ICE (Intercity-Express) straight to Amsterdam Central. The first leg of the journey occurred without incident. I had an e-reader loaded with Douglas Adams to keep me occupied. On the second leg of the journey, the train was completely packed. I could find no open seats, so I squeezed into a standing area in the concessions car. It had standing height tables and padded ledges against the walls to half sit on / half lean against. I ended up in the corner with my backpack on my lap, my weight supported by an arm on the table and a butt-cheek on the ledge, and my bags in the vacant space beneath me. This was...an interesting way to travel. An hour into it, I pulled my peanut butter sandwich out, but it had become more of a peanut-butter-bread-ball. Filling nevertheless.

I took great pleasure in getting off the train. I had one more public-transit trip to make, a 5 minute jog from the main station to Amsterdam Sloterdijk. I got a single-use ticket at the only ticket station I could find and hopped on a train that claimed to be going in that general direction. Fortunately for me, it was in fact going in that direction. I got off, asked which exit to take, and was at my hostel in no time. Asking for directions in English felt very peculiar. I've gotten so used to assuming all social interactions with strangers should be in German, gotten used to formulating how to phrase my request as properly as possible and pushing through that irrational fear of them hearing my accent. Speaking in English and knowing that it's the other person operating in a second language is like walking up shallow steps when you're used to steep ones. They take less effort, but the ascent feels a bit absurd.

My hostel, Meininger, was just 50 meters from the station. Just outside the entrance is some seating and a few fussball tables. Inside, I encountered a clean and classy-cool lobby with a fridge of Ben&Jerry's and a bar/restaurant area to one side. The woman at the counter spoke exceptional English (unsurprisingly given the international clientele). She gave me a key-card which also controls the room electricity, a map of Amsterdam, and broke one of the 50 Euro bills the bank had given me. My room is an all female, 6 bed dorm. It has a sink, a small room with a shower, and a separate room with a toilet, which I imagine will facilitate smooth morning grooming between roommates. The beds are arranged somewhat oddly. There are two singles pushed right next to each other, a nightstand, wall outlet, and reading lamp on either side. Then against the room's long wall there are two sets of bunk-beds with moderately difficult to descend ladders. In the wall beside the top beds are little boxes that not only serve as nightstands but also have integrated nightlights and outlets. I do wonder why there aren't three sets of bunk beds...I guess I'll chalk it up to variety.

My temporary roommates are all native English speakers thus-far. Three moved in together, and I'd have pegged them for disturbingly stereotypical US party girls until they revealed they were from Canada. The similarity between US and Canadian accents never ceases to amaze and confound me. They are, however, definitely party girls in that they intend to hit the clubs and the coffee-houses. Nothing wrong with that, but I don't imagine our Amsterdam experiences will overlap much. The last girl I've met is from Australia (would have guessed Britain. I'm striking out on accents today.) As she's moving out tomorrow, all I'm likely to learn of her is the music she likes to pack to (Hip-hop), and that she's doing two masters at once at two different universities.

Tomorrow I'll try to get in on a free tour, hang out at a well-known market, and sample the local cuisine.

Move-out Prep

In just two days, I will move out of my apartment and head off to Amsterdam for the weekend before my flight home. Between now and then I have a final exam. Joy! I've been working through the exercises and practice exams and feel reasonably confident. I just worry that I'll missread some important detail that completely changes how to go about solving a problem or take too long sketching things out legibly. (Accuracy in measurements actually matters quite a bit for this class.)

Apart from studying and watching Whose Line is it Anyway to relax from the studying, I have begun the move-out process. This has included shipping back excess goods (see previous post), downloading all the relevant course files from RWTH so I have them handy later and can recycle my spiral note-books, backing up all my computer files on Dropbox or Google Drive in case my computer gets damaged, and closing my bank account.

Closing my Sparkasse account was actually surprisingly easy. A friend who'd been in Aachen last summer had had an issue with final paperwork that the bank wanted to mail to him, which would have arrived only after he'd already moved out. For whatever reason, that was not required for me. I simply showed my residence permit, turned in my cards, and signed off. I was given the remaining balance in cash, which works for me. I can use it to cover costs in Amsterdam and hang onto the rest as start-up if I ever go back to Europe. I will have to be careful how I store it while I'm in the hostel though...this is why money belts were invented.

All I have left is to give my notice of departure to the residence office, which should take no more than a few minutes tomorrow after my exam (excluding wait times). All I need to do is show up with my passport and residence permit, fill out a form giving my old residence and my future residence, and boom. Settled.

I'll also need to pack...but packing isn't that hard when you know that you have to take everything. To make sure my suitcase doesn't go over the 50 lb weight limit, I'll make a quick visit to the gym and its scale. I do so love living 1 minute away.

Deutsche Post

In preparation for going home, I had to ship some knick-knacks back to the US to make room in my luggage. After looking around at various shipping resources, I discovered that using the German postal system would be way cheaper than FedEX or UPS, which all seemed to run well over $100 for an 8 pound package. The German option with DHL came out to 35 Euros, about $50, for a package between 4 and 10 pounds fitting inside their medium sized box.

On the topic of boxes, I love the ones provided in the post office. They were just so very sturdy and easy to assemble! They had lids more like those of a shoe box than the 4-flap tops I'm used to. They also came with 4 strips of tape to securely fix the lid. The places where the tape went were even marked on the mustard yellow box! It was just so orderly and easy.

The package will supposedly take 3 weeks to arrive in the states. I do hope so very much that Carnegie Mellon holds onto it until I am a) on campus and b) get a new ID card, since mine expired last year. Oops. At the very least, I have 3 kilograms less to worry about fitting into my backpack and suitcases.

Oral Exams: Success!

Today, I took the oral exams for Grundlagen der Maschinen- und Strukturdynamik and Multibody Dynamics back to back. Since the two classes cover similar topics and are taught by the same teacher, it made perfect sense to arrange it so. However, that didn't make it any less daunting. I had never taken an oral exam before, so I just didn't know what to expect. I knew I'd be asked questions, but not what depth or how much writing was expected, not to mention how capable I'd be of explaining in German.

Fortunately, that last fear turned out to be baseless. Since MBD was taught in English, the professor decided to ask all the questions for both classes in English, and I ended up answering in mainly English with German peppered in whenever it was easier not to translate. As for the types of questions, he asked that I sketch systems and graphs or write out some equations to show I knew them, but there was no calculation involved. They mostly were of the form "describe so-and-so" or "how would you do so-and-so?" There was one question that tripped me up for a moment. It involved a topic we'd only briefly covered in class and which I'd completely forgotten about until reviewing the lecture slides yesterday. However, once I figured out what he was asking for, I got through it just fine. I sure am glad I remembered to review it!

Now that I have my philosophy classes with their written assignments and the two dynamics classes behind me, all I have left to worry about is the written exam next Wednesday, and another one in September.

Which reminds me...I should really ask my adviser who could proctor that for me in the States.

The fourth day in July

Shockingly, the 4th of July is just another day in Germany. No back-alley fireworks, no illegal gun-firings, no massive piles of grilled food and coleslaw.

In order to at least mildly feel like I'm celebrating something, I have cooked an "American Style" frozen pizza for Dinner. Its sauce-cheese-crust ratio is far closer to what I expect compared to what otherwise passes for pizza here, which is more bread plus a little cheese and sauce.

Fortunately, Germany is playing France in the World Cup, so if there's a victory I'll get the din I've come to expect.