Getting orientated in Marburg

Orientation for Fulbright students was in Marburg this year. I admit, to my shame, that even when I was there, I didn’t quite know where Marburg was—only that it took five hours to get there by train from Munich. Thanks to Google Maps, you can be better informed.

The red marker is on Munich, and the black line leads north-west to Marburg.
The red marker is on Munich, and the black line leads north-west to Marburg.

It seemed a bit silly to travel so far for what was essentially a one-day orientation, but since the Fulbright Commission paid the travel, hotel, and food costs, I suppose I can’t complain.

Knowing that they’d be locking us in a conference room and talking at us for most of Tuesday, the Commission kindly provided a tour of the town on Monday afternoon. It’s a very small university town—other than the university itself, it’s mostly notable for its eponymous virus, the Elisabethkirche, and its school for the blind. As in most European cities, a walk around town means a lot of climbing hills and gazing at old buildings.

Of course, the best part of orientation was meeting my fellow Fulbrighters. I arranged to book the same train tickets as several of the other Munich students, so we had a long time to chat. Over the course of orientation, I met fellow engineers, fellow opera enthusiasts, and people involved in projects ranging from paper-making to theoretical mathematics. In typical conference fashion, most of this “networking” took place over dinners and drinks (the Fulbright Commission understands how to ply grad students). The Munich cohort even managed to convince me to attend Oktoberfest with them, so look for a report (and photos of me in my brand-new Dirndl) shortly!

After a final free breakfast at the hotel Wednesday morning, we journeyed back to Munich with long to-do lists. The last few days have been an almost-comical struggle with German bureaucracy. Through trial and error, we seem to have determined the proper order in which to do things (residence permit, bank account, insurance exemption, university registration, student visa application), but it’s involved a lot of waiting in long lines, only to be told we’re missing the needed documents and must go elsewhere first. I’m hoping (perhaps unreasonably) that I can finish all this paperwork by the end of next week.

In slightly less depressing news, I’ve started doing some au pair work for my landlady’s family. Her children are quite self-sufficient, so this mostly involves making sure no emergencies arise, cooking snacks, and interacting with them in English to improve their language skills. It keeps my rent low, which in Munich is very important! Even more excitingly, I am singing with church and synagogue choirs now. Although this means waking up far too early on weekends, it’s good to be singing again. I’ll tell you more about the choirs—and the wild karaoke parties that follow rehearsals—in another post.