October in Berlin has been wonderful and stressful — the academic year finally commenced and went from zero to sixty really quickly. Our first formal day at Humboldt, dies academicus, was on the 16th, and it was the most gorgeous yellow autumn day. I showed my coursemate Sophie around the campus and we sat by the river and revelled in the beauty of Berlin.
Around the same time, the Festival of Lights took place: beautiful moving artworks were being projected onto several famous buildings around the city, including the university’s law faculty.
Back to my studies: considering that the teaching style here is much more laissez-faire and students are expected to do a significantly bigger chunk of work in their own time, my timetable is still fuller than it was at King’s. Hours of independent work will pile on top of 30 contact hours a week and I start every day at 8am. Every module is made up of 2-8 hours of lectures a week, some of them with additional tutorials. These tutorials are self-organised by students and often quite packed, with up to 60 students.
The fact that Humboldt is an old university is quite obvious. This has its benefits (like beautiful buildings steeped in history) but also its drawbacks. Major construction work is being performed over years, with loud noises interrupting almost every lecture. Additionally, the Berlin universities are so old-school that they still give out thin A4 sheets of paper (!) as student IDs and public transport passes. Only 2 weeks ago have they started introducing plastic cards. I got mine immediately, and it doesn’t look too bad at all! Humboldt is finally making it to the 21st century
I was hoping that my constant struggle with Eduroam would finally come to an end when moving here, but I was wrong. My laptop wouldn’t connect, but I found out that the help desk I was looking for was in the Grimm-Zentrum, the library I had been wanting to go to anyway. And it is something else — both in terms of architecture and ambiance. The Grimm-Zentrum opened only eight years ago, so it is brand new and spacious. The giant 10-story building features an extraordinary reading room. And while we were spoilt at King’s with the lovely reading room in the Maughan, the Grimm-Zentrum is special and breathtaking in a different way. Check out this video: LINK.
Also, Germans really do take quiet study seriously. You are not allowed to take anything into the library unless it is in a see-through bag. Food is strictly forbidden, and so are bottles with labels. Libraries here are basically as strict as exam halls in England. But it really does give you a great space for learning.
Most of October was gorgeously sunny, but now that lectures are in full swing the weather matches the mood. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m at uni from 8am to 8pm, so I often get there and/or leave when it’s dark out. And it’s getting gloomy, too. But hopefully soon the grey will turn into white and I will get to take some photos of a beautiful snowy Berlin!