Report December - Anastasia Gustova
How did you spend Christmas in Germany?
I celebrated Christmas with only a couple of close friends, no more than 5 people in accordance with restrictive COVID measures. We listened to music together, baked cookies and decided to make sushi ourselves. We found an Asian supermarket not far from the centre of Würzburg. It was an interesting experience to visit such a place. There are a lot of different and interesting products in the Asian supermarket and it was difficult to understand what some of them actually were, so we didn’t risk experimenting, but bought everything we needed for sushi: rice, soy sauce, chopsticks, rice vinegar, ginger and nori sheets. After a hearty meal, we played some games, shared interesting stories and watched Christmas movies. In 2020, the Christmas markets were not very large-scale and they only lasted for a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, we could feel the atmosphere. You could smell the caramelized nuts, candy floss and pancakes with Nutella could in the entire city centre of Würzburg.
Did you travel within Germany or to other countries in your first couple of months here in Germany?
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to travel due to restrictive COVID measures. Nevertheless, one day we went hiking in the mountains. According to the Germans, Würzburg has a warm climate thanks to warm air streams from Italy, so the temperature in winter is around -1 to +5 and there is no snow. I really missed the snow, which we usually have a lot of in Moscow in winter, so I went for a walk with a friend around Kreuzberg. It is a real winter fairy tale an hour from Würzburg. Where and how do you plan to celebrate New Year’s? I planned to celebrate New Year’s with international students, since all Germans usually go home to their families for the Christmas holidays. Therefore, my Russian friend, two other girls (from Turkey and Spain) and I organized the Russian-Turkish-Spanish New Year’s. Everyone cooked traditional New Year's dishes and we celebrated New Year’s twice – at the Russian time and at the German time. My Russian friend and I, of course, made a Russian salad and dressed herring salad and the girls liked both salads. For me, the Spanish tradition was especially interesting. During the last minute before the new year begins, you have to eat a grape at every bell chime. If you can eat all 12 grapes before the new year arrives, then the new year will be successful and happy. Something similar that we do in Russia is that you write a wish on a piece of paper, set it on fire and throw the ashes into a glass of champagne.
Do you like Germany?
I like a balanced lifestyle. Here you save a lot of time on your way somewhere. In Moscow, it took me 1-1.5 hours to go to the university, one way. Here you can walk to the centre in half an hour. At first, it was unusual that all shops close at 20:00 and are closed on Sundays as well. Therefore, you need to really plan your shopping in advance. On Saturday, it is better not to go to the supermarkets, as there are a lot of people and in the evening many items are either gone or are not of the best quality. I am disappointed that it is quite problematic to make an appointment with a doctor. I think the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on this, but usually the next free appointment is at best a month and a half from now and there is no online service to make an appointment. For a foreign student it can be difficult to understand German on the phone. Also, some clinics are not currently taking new patients.
Where do you usually eat?
Mostly I buy groceries at the supermarket and cook at home because I like to watch what I eat. I cook for 2-3 days at once, so that it takes less time to cook and I don’t have to go to the store as often. But the university cafeteria sells a variety of dishes for students at a very affordable price, so sometimes I go there too. You can also enjoy homemade cakes and pastries in the cafeteria. If I’m hanging out with friends at someone's home, then we use delivery services. In Würzburg, I was recommended to use the “Lieferando” and “Good to go” apps. You can also call the café or restaurant directly and order take away like that.
Are you taking any language classes?
In the first semester, I decided not to take on the additional workload of a language class, as I wanted to understand the process of studying and passing exams first. But in the 2nd semester I will definitely take a German class because I know that I have good language skills, but it is necessary to improve my spoken German, since I tend to lack some vocabulary when talking to Germans. Fortunately, FHWS provides such an opportunity for their students and I am already watching and waiting for the registration to open for the classes.
Did you participate in any GAT tutorials?
The GAT tutorials were online this year, so I started attending them while still at home. Of course, there were many questions and the tutors always gave a comprehensive and detailed answer. What I would also like to note is that the tutors constantly shared up-to-date information on the COVID 19 situation, which was updated daily. So, upon arrival, it was necessary to register with the Department of Health, take a test and quarantine for some time. Without the tutors help, I wouldn’t have been able to figure it all out. In addition, I learned how to register for classes and exams and got information about the study regulations and examinations.
How safe do you feel safe in Germany compared to your home country?
I can’t say that I feel safer here than I do in Russia, but there is a sense of protection at least in terms of the healthcare system in difficult times like these.