When I decided to go to this university, I knew this would be coming. Still, my head seems to be overflowing from all the new things I learn. All the courses are taught in English, which isn’t that big a challenge but is still something to get used to after almost four years of university classes exclusively in German.

Additionally, I have Chinese classes. It’s a beginners’ class again as there are too few people to form a more advanced course. “Again”, because I have already started to study Chinese twice. Once while I was in Japan in high school, where I had a regular language class together with the Japanese students. The second time was in university in Hamburg during my Bachelor’s course. I studied Chinese for two semesters there, until the course got cancelled due to a lack of participants. Before coming to Cologne, I more or less spent the summer reviewing and studying everything I could find in my textbook from my second course – in hope of being able to get into an advanced course in Cologne. Well, that didn’t work out, so now I had to start all over again. But my teacher promised to bring me some advanced material which I can work on at home by myself. Like that, I will at least be able to learn something new. Because I studied by myself for such a long time, my speaking skills aren’t that great. So I started to do language exchange as well to improve those.

Filling sheet after sheet with characters I already know: homework for Chinese class.

I can’t really explain why, but for my semester abroad, I prefer going to Taiwan instead of China. There’s such a “China hype” going on right now (and has been for the last couple of years) and honestly I don’t want to ride on that wave. I love Japan and speaking Japanese, so this will always be my focus. But I want to venture further out into South East Asia. As an Asian language, Chinese was the only option at the university, so it seemed only logic to head to Taiwan then. The problem here is, the Chinese in Taiwan is slightly different from the one spoken in mainland China. Not only do they use the traditional instead of the simplified characters, they also pronounce the words differently. I’m learning the traditional characters additionally as the other members of my Chinese course learn the “normal” script (which I already know). And I hope that my Taiwanese language exchange partner will help me a bit with the pronunciation.

Copying texts from the textbook in Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

But, as I said, I really do like languages, so I also chose Korean as an additional voluntary language class. I learnt to read and write Korean within a day. (Partly thanks to my really great Korean teacher!) Luckily, the Korean script is really easy. Also, my Korean teacher told me that Korean grammar is really close to Japanese grammar, so I will have no problem at all learning it. I’m curious as to how the next few lessons will turn out and if it really is that easy.

Flash cards to learn the Korean characters.

I really hope I can keep up with all these new impressions and things to learn. I do have to attend the regular university courses as well, which also demand a lot of attention and work. And yes, I do want to keep up my Japanese as well and already applied for a part-time job at a Japanese company. But I guess if I want to learn to speak all these languages, I better do it now. Memorizing new vocabulary won’t be getting easier as I’m getting older.