Prepping for Prague

It’s a cold, rainy Fall day here in Berlin.  I’m super comfy lounging in my sweats, wrapped up in my favorite UPS blanket.  It’s about 3:00pm and I have to admit that I haven’t left the apartment all day!  As I sit on the couch reading and writing email, posting new Facebook photos and surfing the net I decided that it’s probably a good time to start brushing up on my English grammar. For those of you who don’t know, I leave for a 4 week TEFL certification program in Prague this upcoming weekend.  I’m excited to get started, learn more about teaching and begin to search for jobs in Berlin! I’m also looking forward to meeting some fun new people!  One thing I’m not excited for however, is the glaring fact that my English grammar capabilities are gravely lacking.  Seriously, I have not even attempted to improve my grammatical abilities since Mr. Bernstein’s 9th grade honors English class (and let me say that after that class, I moved out of the honors track and back down to “regular people” English).  I’ve been doing a bit of reading online, but if anyone has advice on a useful (and possibly fun) way to improve my grammar in mere days I’m all ears.

Other than grammar preparation, I’ve been going over what I need to pack and what I’ll want to make sure to do while in Prague.  I’m sure the city has changed since I studied abroad back in 2005, but there are definitely some spots I don’t want to miss! Additionally, Maddie will be visiting me while I’m there.  I’m so excited to show her “my city”!!!  We’ll definitely be hitting up the big tourist spots- Prague Castle, Old Town Square, Pivovarský dům, the Charles Bridge etc…but again for those of you who’ve been to Prague more recently than myself, I welcome any and all suggestions!

Other than minimal Prague preparations, we’ve been taking it pretty easy. Yesterday Dave and I decided to check out a Berlin museum and headed over to the Altes Museum. We had a great time looking at the vast collection of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art.  My favorite piece was a sarcophagus featuring the story of Jason and Medea from Euripide’s play Medea. Essentially, Jason and Medea are married, but he leaves her for the daughter of the king. She doesn’t take the news well and while pretending to give her blessing plots her revenge.  Basically, Medea poisons the new wife, the king and then kills her and Jason’s children before offing herself.  (Don’t mess with that woman!)  A little morbid, but the carvings on the sarcophagus were gorgeous.  See the pic below!

After our museum outing we grabbed some delicious German food (lots of meat and potatoes) at a restaurant close by.  A couple of half litre beers were also on the menu:) And that brings us to today…

We hope you’re enjoying our blog so far and would love to hear from you! Especially about when you’re planning your trip to visit us!!!

Back to School

I had my first classes this week since graduating from UPS more than 4 years ago. It was certainly weird to be back in the classroom, taking notes and looking over a syllabus again, but I am really excited about the opportunity this time around. There’s nothing like having to go to work to make you excited for school!

I am enrolled at the Berlin School of Economics and Law in the Master of Science in Finance program. The program lasts three semesters with an optional internship for a fourth semester. The final semester contains one course: writing a thesis. The first semester, which I just started this week consists of four courses: Econometrics, Financial Economics, Corporate Finance, and Corporate Financial Theory. Each class has one four hour lecture session each week until late January of next year when we will have exams, which constitute 100% of the grade.

As you might expect from a Masters program, the Professors take a very “hands off” approach to teaching. They leave it up to us students to do most of the work, providing us with only their lectures, reading lists and information on exams. Very little hands-on teaching is involved, although all the professors made sure to provide their contact information and office hours and made a point of saying do not hesitate to approach them if you are unsure of the material. Two of the professors also scheduled social events for us to meet up and have a beer after class next week… now that’s an assignment I can handle!

I can already tell my favorite class will be Financial Economics. Much of our reading list for that class consists of articles that are very relevant to the current Euro crisis, which is ubiquitous over here on the news. The hardest class will be Econometrics; our professor has a PHD in theoretic physics so it’s safe to say that course will be fairly math intensive.

One thing that I like about this program is all my fellow students (there are 36 of us) take all the same classes together. That has made it fairly easy to get to know people. I am the only American in the program but it has been fun to get to know some of the other students from around the world.  So far, I have made friends from Italy, France, Lithuania, Russia, Bulgaria, China, Canada, Uzbekistan and of course Germany. Everyone is really nice and they seem to have similar thoughts and opinions as me about the professors and the program in general so that is very comforting. It is nice to feel like part of a group, especially when given a daunting task, which on its outset, this Master Program certainly seems to be.

What I will and won’t miss about Boston, Massachusetts

Adrian and I lived in Boston for a about two and a half years and now that we’ve moved on to Berlin, I thought I’d write down a couple things I will and won’t miss about our old city.

Will Miss:

  1. The local sports teams – For some reason it’s always comforting to be able to count on the Red Sox being on at every bar you walk into, that Patriots will always be on on Sundays and that the Bruins and Celtics are playing their home games just a mile or so down the road. Here in Germany I’m either stuck going to over crowed American bars or watching spotty online streams so this is definitely something I’ll miss.
  2. The Boston Common/Public Gardens – Sure it’s not central park, and sure its covered in trash and infested with rats, but the Common is such a great place to go for a walk and it’s so quintessentially Boston… it’s probably my favorite spot in the city.
  3. The Charles River – Memorial Drive is the best road in Boston to cruise down and the perfect way to scope out the Charles on a nice day. Just don’t go swimming in it.
  4. Singing Beach – Adrian and I had season passes to this beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. It was about 45 minutes from the city but well worth the drive. Some of my favorite days were spent here. Adrian will surely miss Captain Dusty’s- the ice cream place down the road from the shore. She made sure we stopped there every time we went to the beach.
  5. The food – So many great restaurants in Boston, but my favorites for lunch were Dorado in Brookline and Mikes Deli in Brighton. For dinner Redbones in Somerville, Giacomos in the North End and Harry’s in Allston for their wings (not a big breakfast guy, sorry). Also Dunkin Donuts… in Germany they only have one size for coffee and it’s about 1/3 the size of a Dunks small.
  6. The weather – People in New England constantly complain about the weather but the changing season are one of my favorite things about the region. Whether it’s heading to the beach in the summer, opening the windows to let in the cool fall air or skiing in the winter, I love all the seasons in New England and for me it has the perfect climate
  7. The people – This is sort of a given, but being so close to my family in Maine and have some of my best friends living in Boston made it a great place to live… New England will always be my home for this reason.
Won’t Miss
  1. Public Transportation – Going from the Green Line to the U and S Bahn in Berlin is basically going from world’s worst to world’s best. I can’t say enough good things about German public transportation. Really the only bad thing is it’s a little expensive, but since unlimited travel is included in my tuition, that’s not a problem for me!
  2. Having a Car – Having a car obviously comes in handy (it’s probably the only reason I was able to find a job in Boston right away) but by the time I left, I was convinced owning a car in the city is more trouble than it’s worth. If you don’t believe me, trying digging your car out after a 2 foot snow storm at 5 in the morning so you can get to work on time.
  3. The rent – Rent is so overpriced in Boston that I have difficulty discussing it without getting angry. We are paying half as much right now in Berlin.
  4. Traffic – Mosquitos and traffic are the two things that are universally hated by human beings.
  5. Overcrowding – I heard once that there are 12 million people living inside the 495 loop. If you want to run in to half of them, take the Bourne bridge to the cape on a summer weekend. People are everywhere in Boston and they were always in my way.
  6. Pot Holes – I had six flat tires during the two plus years I lived in Boston. That’s right, six.

Der Wohnung

Yesterday we moved into our new apartment. The hotel was great, but it feels SO good to be in our own place. The apartment is located in Steglitz (an area in Berlin, but a bit south of the main attractions) and is only about a 5-10 walk to the U-Bahn and S-Bahn station at Rathaus Steglitz.  In it’s description the apartment was described as a 1.5 room place and looked a little small from pictures so we were expecting teeny-tiny, but it’s actually a lot more spacious than anticipated.  There is a long hallway that leads to a kitchen (with adjoining patio), a small bathroom and then a relatively large sleeping/living room.  The place is furnished, almost entirely with Ikea goods, and has a homey feel. We’re loving it thus far!

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After taking the day yesterday to settle in, we decided today would be a good day to explore our new city.  We took the sites at the Branderburg Tor, Reichstag, Unter den Linden, Alexanderplatz and Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg.  We’re taking a much need rest at home now, but are going to try and see if we can hit up a bar for “American Football” later this evening.  We’ll keep you posted on whether we’re successful in our search!

Much love and GO PACK GO!  (Patriots too I guess…)

Dave & Adrian