Tandem Partners

25 Oct

The University of Freiburg has a very interesting program coordinated by their International Office in which foreign students (such as myself) are paired up with German students who want to learn English (in my case; it differs depending on what the foreign student speaks). I have been partnered up with a 24-year-old student named Franziska who is studying to become a teacher. We’ll meet about once a week, doing things like seeing a movie or getting a cup of coffee together, and every other meeting we switch languages.

This week was our first meeting (English day), and we met up in town and went to a nice little coffee shop, where we talked for probably three or four hours about all kinds of things. It was really interesting to sit down and talk to a German for so long, since most of my conversations with my roommates are short, “How was your day?” or “Man, it got cold,” kind of discussions. Franziska and I talked a lot about teaching and schools, since both of us would like to be teachers someday. What was very interesting for me to hear was that fewer and fewer German children are spending much time with their families. I’ve noticed this happen a lot in the States, as trends move towards both parents having jobs and kids end up playing video games whenever they aren’t in daycare, but I honestly thought things were different here in Germany. According to Franziska’s testimony, however, things are actually quite similar.

Just like in the US, trends in Germany are moving toward both parents having full-time jobs. From Franziska’s experience interning as a student-teacher, she says it’s really obvious which children come from such a household. There are people who work from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening, and if their child goes to bed early, they could possibly not see their mom or dad for the entire day. As she put it, “What’s the point of having a kid if you aren’t going to take the time to raise it?”

I know it’s not the happiest topic, but I still can’t help but think, “Wow. Here I am, 4,500 miles away in a different country with a very different set of rules, and I sitting here talking with a German about both of our countries having the same problem.” It’s kind of comforting, in a bittersweet way, to know that America’s not the only country with problems like that. Often times we could even finish each others’ sentences about a specific type of setting.

Next week we’ll speak German the whole time, which will give me some much-needed practice, especially since classes begin on Monday for me (Yay! Things are actually happening!). Hopefully this time we’ll be able to bond over a ‘good’ similarity between our cultures!

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