A day in the life of an exchange student

Clock1May 20th 2011

I have not shut my brain off in weeks. It works all day and runs full-speed until my head crashes against the pillow and I fall instantly into a dreamy daze of language.

Wake up, work, sleep. Wake up, study, read, sleep. Wake up, shower, coffee, bus, class, tea, sleep. Wake up; my brain is still fresh from the nights refreshing cleanse. The brain’s troubled capacity is reset. Each new morning is a semi-rebirth. Sleep is the chance to make it all new through sleeping off the previous day; a wasted kiss, a troubled encounter, a misunderstood study session.

 I wake up first thing in the morning to the soothing alarm clock sounds and chirps and all I think about is the dream I had the night before. The other morning I shook my head up out of bed and the first thought that sprung into my mind was, “why is a raven like a writing desk?” It lingered heavy on my eyelids, the intrigue of it dripping from the depths of my brain. I sat there in bed a second. Let the weight of the world plow down on my head, the train roared by outside and knocked the creaky railroad tracks heavily as I processed the morning, the night, the world. Within seconds I am awake, have remembered that I have an unmanageable number of troubles to take care of which, I havn’t all quite remembered as I still sit in bed. I then remember that I am stressed. Why I am stressed hasn’t quite hit my sleepy brain at the first jingle and tweet of the birds rattling off my cell phone alarm clock.

Out of bed, I methodically move to the cupboard … opening the wooden door carefully as to not wake up my roommate who is from Belgium. I shuffle around boxes to grasp the coffee filters, the coffee, and try to make sense of how much water to fill into the little German machine. Bathroom. Time to pee out the water, tea, and coffee from the day before that had settled and had its fill all night. By the time I hit the brew button on the coffee machine and trudge to the bathroom, I remember the book I have to read, the paper I need to be working on. Spanish words dance across my brain. I am thinking entirely in German.TP

Shower. Wash. Shave. My brain is fully functioning in German now. I have read the labels in the bathroom, the “Shampoo”,  “Spülung” , “Erfrischende Dusche” “Rasier Gel.” “Mensch, ich freue mich auf dem Kaffee…” I think while whisking off the remains of face wash and conditioner. I can smell the coffee in the cramped bathroom. I squeegee the water off the floor. Brush my teeth. “Zahnbürste” “Mundspülung” I think of as I stand over the white sink. Floss. There are Danish words written on some of the stuff on the sink, in my roommate’s collection of toiletries.

The day only moves faster and faster after the brisk morning walk to the bus stop through the Mercedes Dealership parking lot.


While watching for cars zipping through the lot, the recycle bin awakens my morning senses long after my coffee enjoyment has been expunged. I eye the cars in the car lot showroom as I pass through the lot. I eye the clean-cut salesmen. My dad pops into my brain, and I think of him going to work the next day. Clean cut, suit, smiling.

Bus ride, music on. I think of the things I didn’t get accomplished last night. The book I didn’t finish, the article I couldn’t finish, the words I didn’t have time to translate,  I forgot to print a handout. The bus slowly packs with kids going to school while I sway with the bus, watching the stoplights go by. The smell of laundry from German school-kids’ fresh, clean clothes that their parents neatly washed for them, wafts around in the bus. The guy next to me is wearing dirty clothes, and probably doesn’t own deodorant.

Literature class, we discuss theories, analyze possible themes an author possibly attempted to portray. We make up critiques on society, which an author possibly meant. We analyze. We discuss. We over analyze. How do we know that this interpretations is what the author wanted? I know when I’ve written things that have been later analyzed the group pulls far more out of it than I had ever even contemplated. I just write. Back on the bus. More work. I eat an apple. Read.books1

By Thursday the routine is getting tiring. No time for me, no time to write what I want, no time to think the things I want to think about, except for my 15 quiet minutes in my head on bus rides. Headphones in, not able to make up my mind about song I want to listen to. I put it on random and allow my iTunes decide what it is I want to listen to. It chooses from is a list of thousands of songs of which I hand picked at one point in time because I enjoyed them.

Essentially in any given day I could be, for all intents and purposes, my mind can be working in four languages. I didn’t realize that this would be the case until I realized the Seminar on the history of the Germany language would be an introduction to the grammar, reading, and analysis of medieval German, which is in fact a completely different language than German today.

I throw some Spanish into my head to keep it fresh at hand. Spanish class is in the evening. I work on my German grammar all day in my head. Analyze sentences. In Spanish if something is unclear I ask the question and get the answer in German. Occasionally on the off chance that I really don’t understand, I have to make sense of the Spanish in English in my head before twisting it around, reformulating it into German to ask my question, asking it Spanish, then getting an answer in Spanish which I translate back into German. By the end of my last class on Thursday afternoon I can feel my brain pounding against the backs of my ears. I don’t think it has so thoroughly worked both sides of its full capacity … in such a close time frame, ever. Left and right sides of the brain are working over time all the time. Friday comes, I read all day. I come home in the evenings, turn on my mini stove and boil water for my afternoon tea. Its been a long week.

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