Elizabeth Hiatt
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz

I’ve finished my first week of classes here, and I have to say I think they went pretty well! I don’t have more than two classes in one day, which is something I’m definitely not used to. All of my classes are only about once a week, with the exception of German, which is a twice a week class. Oh there’s one other exception too… My International Financial Markets class is one day. That’s right. One. For eight hours… and then I’m done! Is that not one of the most awesome things ever?

I’ve learned a few things about how the class sessions and courses here are different from the ones back at home that I’m used to. For one thing, it’s very common to knock on the desk after a professor finishes a lecture. One girl told me it’s kind of like applause, and if no one knocks when the class is over it means that the students all though the professor did an exceptionally terrible job. It’s also common to knock once or twice if you have a question during a lecture. It’s kind of like raising your hand, but I think I actually like knocking better because you can raise your hand for a while without being seen by the professor.

Another thing that’s a little bit different, at least from Maryville College classes, is that (at least, during the first lecture of the class) if a student decides that the class isn’t one they want to end up taking, they can just get up and leave. Here at JKU if you aren’t present for the first lecture of a course you are automatically unregistered for that course, so if students don’t sign in they just get dropped from the course. Because of this, many students sign up for more classes than they need, and then they get to go and check the class out to see if they’ll find it useful.

One thing in particular that’s different that I’m excited about is that one of my classes will have an oral final. I’m used to having spoken finals in language classes, but this one will be for my religion class. The professor explained that we’ll be put into groups and that for the final first each person will present a portion of the class. Then the second half of the final the group will discuss and debate about a particular topic. I have never had a final exam quite like that, so I’m excited to see how it will go.

All in all, I think my classes will be very interesting. They’re not very big, or at least not as big as I thought they would be, and it looks like they will all be taking a part-lecture-part-discussion format. The class that I’m most excited about is my religion class. It’s called The Impact of Religions and Value Systems on European Culture. The professor is visiting from a Catholic school in the city, and he pointed out the fact that it’s interesting this class is even being offered, as JKU has no religion department. He used that point to then discuss the current public discussion about religions in Europe, and I think this class is going to be absolutely fascinating.

Even though I think it’ll be a challenge, I’m also excited about my German class. I really want to be able to learn as much German as I can while I’m here, so I also signed up for a “tandem learning” program at the school. I’ll be paired with a native German speaker who wants to improve his or her English, and we’ll help each other with our respective languages. I think that it’s a fantastic idea, because it would be very easy to just slip into the habit of using English most of the time here. And I don’t want that to happen!

I’m especially excited for this coming weekend because the international group on campus organized a ski/snowboarding trip! We’ll leave on Friday and come back on Sunday. I am so excited because I have always wanted to learn how to snowboard, and now I’ll get the chance to do it in the Alps! I have a feeling I’ll probably actually spend most of my time on my butt while I’m out on the slopes, but I don’t have any doubt that I’ll still have fun. Once again, I’ll update with pictures next time!

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