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Whoops, forgot the CONS: (Regrets, I had a few...)

First off: BIGGEST REGRET: but now this is an EASY FIX! I took a crummy little Kodak camera with me, and as a result I have VERY VERY LIMITED PHOTOS of the FRIENDS and PEOPLE in my student life in Heidelberg. But I have probably more than 20 pictures of the Heidelberg Castle from every darn angle . This is a hard and sad lesson to learn. There were dorm-mates that I loved and saw every day - and I have not one single picture of MANY of them. Oh this makes me sad even now to think of it...

Second Biggest Regret: I ignored the practically FREE (I mean dirt cheap) subsidized trips to out-of-town places hosted by the University of HD - and why? Because there was some girl I didn't like who always went on them, and I had to be COOL or something, and so IGNORED THESE TRIPS because I was STUPID! Finally, a group of friends pulled me into a wonderful week in Berlin, and then it was time to go home - aaack.

Third biggest regret: Heidelberg was a hotbed of sharp political activity, Baader/Meinhof was active then, and many protests were being violently dispersed by the police using water cannones, etc. And one day, in March 1978, police threw out by force the student-squatters living in a 250-year-old baroque army caserne down deep near the Uni. I wish I would have seen that, just for the spectacle, but we had been warned by Cal State International Programs to stay away, so I did.

Fourth: And this isn't really a regret, but just a fact: I missed out on, you know, regular American college life, the sororities, ball games, etc. German University Life has nothing like this, just some dueling fraternities, for the boys, but no sororities for the girls.

But my complaint about how few pics of FRIENDS I TOOK? This cut is the deepest.

Posted by
12084 posts

Hi,

That little Kodak in 1978 must have been an Instamatic which took a film cartridge. I took that along in 1973. If the ball games, sororities , and the usual American college life were so important to you, then you missed out. I don't think you missed out. My college in Calif had a Verbindung with Heidelberg and later with Tübingen as well. I wish it had been somewhere else.

Posted by
3915 posts

Shelly, I spent time as a student in the Soviet Union in the late '60s and Poland in the mid '70s, and like you, the things I regret are the things I didn't do - the things I was too timid, or apprehensive, or uncomfortable to do.

It was a life lesson, though. I still am not one to jump into things with both feet, and nobody who knows me would call me spontaneous, but nobody who knows me now would call me timid or apprehensive, either. We grow.

Posted by
293 posts

@Jane - yes, we grow! Sometimes in ways that only manifest themselves later on in life. Soviet Union? In the 60's? Wow. How were you treated by the professors?

@Fred: Yep, that Instamatic with cartridge - expensive to buy film in Germany, then expensive to process, how easy it is today with our smartphones - can take 600 pictures in three weeks, video, etc.

Posted by
12084 posts

@ Shelley....That's why with the Kodak Instamatic or a simple 35 mm made by Konica, Minotta, etc you shot slides instead of prints because of the expense in developing the film. When I went to Potsdam on that tour from West Berlin in August 1987, I brought along 5 rolls of slide film, each 36 exposure, plus one roll of 36 alreadyloaded in the 35 mm camera, thinking when am I going get to return to Potsdam. Besides, I didn't want to run out of film while in Potsdam since it was an all day tour. What do I do then? I always brought Kodak, Fuji film from Calif over on my trips starting in 1973. You count how many rolls of 36 you're carrying in the luggage. Buying film in Germany was expensive. I did that only a few times, then it was Agfa.

Posted by
3915 posts

I had an instamatic, too! Great little camera. I continued to use mine for many years, until the latch that opened the back failed, and I couldn't get it open to remover/replace the film cartridge.

Shelley, the short answer to your question of how I was treated was "with condescension." The Soviet Union trip was a summer language program through the Universities of Kansas and Colorado, I think, with students from all over the US attending. When we arrived in Leningrad, we were tested and divided into groups by ability. My friend and I, both from Oklahoma State, we put into the lowest group - justifiably - but were treated by the local staff as though we were wasting their time.

That being said, just being there was a wonderful cultural experience. It not only was my first trip abroad, it was my first time more than 100 miles away from home. I loved the country and the people; not so much the bureaucracy. Lots of hoops to jump through. But we were given a lot of freedom. We were based most of the time in Leningrad, and could wander around anywhere we wanted, without supervision. We assumed we were being watched, so we didn't do anything stupid, and self-censored our speech in the dorms and classrooms.

My experience in Poland was somewhat similar, in terms of the reactions of the professors. That time I was doing research for my dissertation, and again was treated pretty condescendingly. The department I was assigned to told me that what I was studying wasn't a worthwhile topic, so could I please look for help elsewhere; another department I went to for help said I was wasting my time, but they did find an undergrad to help me out. Again, I had all the freedom I wanted; there was nowhere I couldn't go and nobody I couldn't talk to. And I fell in love with the country, enough so that when I had a chance some years later to work abroad, I chose Poland.

Posted by
12084 posts

@ Jane...What city was this in Poland? The topic of the dissertation which was viewed as "unworthy?" Was the instruction in Polish?

Posted by
3915 posts

Poznań; Linguistic Stratification (Sociolinguistic variation between social classes); and no, I didn't actually take any classes. My local advisor was in the Linguistics Department, and spoke little English. I did attend a few conferences and lectures, in both Polish and English. I had more help from the Sociology Department, and some from the English Department. The head of the English Department was a friend of one of my professors here at home.

Posted by
12084 posts

Thanks for your answer. "...spoke little English." Then I take it that you communicated with him in Polish...fantastic!

Posted by
293 posts

Jane, those academics were quite quick with the judgement regarding your "unworthy" topic, but maybe it was because they wanted to believe they lived in the social classless utopia. Sounds like a very interesting topic to me.

I'd like to know if they were curious about YOU and your life in America?

Posted by
3915 posts

Fred, I spoke a little Polish that I had learned on my own, but wasn't at all fluent yet. Many Poles speak some English, so I could usually find someone to help. And my staff contact there spoke fluent German, and I knew a little. I also spoke some French and Russian, but neither helped me much. The Poles were not enamored of their neighbors to the east, so knowing Russian was not an advantage.

Shelley, I think it was more that the field in which I was interested was new in the US, and virtually unknown in Europe. Poles are very pragmatic people, and were well aware that there was a marked class structure there, mostly based on education and occupation. I was a budding sociolinguist, interested in finding and quantifying class markers in language, and fitting all this into the larger sociological context. Everyone knew that people from different social classes used language differently, but most people had no idea what differences there really were, and which were actually socially significant. Even linguists were surprised at the class markers I found, and told me I was mistaken, until I showed them the data.

And yes, Shelley, the Poles I met were very interested in me and my life. Most Poles loved and admired America (many of them have relatives here; there's even a word in Polish that means the community of Americans of Polish descent.) In all my travels there, I only met two people who didn't greet me with openness and kindness: one was a WWII vet who was still angry and hurt about Roosevelt's behavior at Yalta; the other was a peasant woman who was convinced I was German. And this was years later, when I did speak Polish fluently!

Fred and Shelley, thank you for your interest. This was all a long time ago (40 years!). The world was different, and so was I. Shall we move on?

Posted by
12084 posts

Yes, as in the Hank Snow song, "Keep Movin' On" Thanks for the explanation, all very interesting. I would have guessed, not surprisingly, that the dept staff in Poznan spoke good German. A French woman, I know, fluent in English and German, went on a day trip to Poznan in 1999 from Berlin, got to the tourist office, found no one there speaking English or German, obviously only Polish. Finally they got an old guy who could speak French to assist her with the info.

About that old guy with the grudge again Roosevelt: not at all surprising since he believes that FDR sold out Poland at Yalta. Historically, a case can be made for that and, conversely, an argument seen strictly through US interests can be made to refute that case. It's not very moral, pure power politics.