From School nach Paris

Also known as: One More Bureaucracy Description before Travels and Musical Ponderings Proliferate

For me, the most challenging part of settling in a foreign country, especially this second time, has been actually feeling settled. There has been this unnerving tendency where, every time that I feel that everything is all set, yet another essential thing that I hadn’t known I needed to do appears. This is all part of life, for certain, but it feels slightly more unnerving when it all feels like it needs to be done now or (for the dramatic part of my brain) something terrible will happen.

Of course, my initial responses to each new challenge have thus far included:

-but I just want to practice!

-it’s lunchtime.

-okay, but I’m late for a train

-why now? There’s Spätzle

-yes, but after coffee

and a few other reasons, all of which are priorities except for, you know, the thing that needs being done.

The most recent thing that I certainly didn’t want to spend time doing was actually matriculating to the Musikhochschule! Needless to say, it was unfailingly more complicated than it seemed like it needed to be. To save internet paper, here’s the reader’s digest version that is about 1/3 the length of my original synopsis:

  1. I had to audition for the music school. The audition took place on 9 October, two days after the semester officially began.
  2.  To matriculate and actually become a student, the school needs a copy of of a valid residence permit.. A valid residence permit requires a Studentenbescheinigung (proof of having matriculated to a university). I loved this logic maze. Fortunately, the way out of the endless circle was having the acceptance letter of the school. With this, I got a residence permit that was contingent upon attending the Musikhochschule.
  3. Although I applied to the school last March (sending in my CV, repertoire list, application, copies and certified translations of university transcripts and diplomas, copy of my passport, and a 30€ application fee), I had to then submit the following in order to matriculate:
    1. Proof of having transferred 1671,40€* to the school’s bank account. When doing this, I was supposed to include my matriculation (student) number, but I couldn’t get that until I was a student – but I had to submit this fee to become a student so… Thankfully this didn’t seem to be a problem?
    2. Proof of health insurance from a state health insurance. If privately insured (as I am through the DAAD scholarship), then I had to include a letter from an approved source excusing me from this health insurance. DAAD, thankfully, has this covered, but I had a panic moment when I was told that the school may not accept the DAAD’s private health insurance.
    3. Copy of a valid residence permit that is for study at this university
    4. Copies and certified translations of university degrees (didn’t I just send this in last March?)
    5. CV (also sent in last March, but why not?)
    6. Suitably unattractive passport photograph for the snazzy student card
  4. This paperwork resulted in an email confirming my documents were correct (oh thank GOODNESS), but that the money had to appear in the school’s bank account before I could matriculate. My bank claimed this would take less than 48 hours. I hadn’t heard anything a week after submitting everything… so I emailed the school’s administration to check that my money had appeared in their account, not in that of a surprised but lucky German on the other side of the country.
  5. The school’s reply confirmed that the money had been received (I do wonder when…) and that my matriculation would be processed “in the next days” and that I could come in “next week” to get my student card and paperwork. It was Monday.
  6. The wonderful international student secretary liaison who has been an angel throughout all of this confusion came to the rescue. She let me know when my student card was ready (otherwise I wouldn’t have known, and could have come to collect it and found that there was no card), and gave it to me on Friday (without her help I wouldn’t have gotten it for another several days).

Exactly one month after I departed the USA (27 September), I received my student card (27 October). Happy almost-Halloween!

Now, why the rush to get this?

  1. To access any instruments except organs (piano, harpsichord, fortepiano) one needs a student card (the rooms are on an electronic system where you reserve and sign in with the student card
  2. The student card gives you nearly 50% off in the Mensa (school cafeteria). It’s a bit frustrating to be a student and still be paying the “guest” rates. My money-saving New England self gets all flustered.
  3. With the student card, you can get a StudiTicket from the Stuttgart rail. This means you pay 207€ to ride all trains, trams, and buses in the Stuttgart regional area for free from September – March. Not bad when it was costing me about 2,70€ each way to get to school (this will pay for itself within a month and a half with me riding the tram once per day). Those tickets add up!!

SO what this extreme amount of writing means is:

I am now officially a student. Thus, in celebration, I can travel to Paris for an overnight and remind myself that I do actually speak a foreign language. Instead of potatoes, pasta, and Schnitzel, today’s meals will be croissants, crêpes, and duck! There also may be an instrument to be played…

Celebratory ice cream

*Of the 1671,40€ that I paid to the school, 171,40€ are administrative and school fees. The remaining 1500€ is a new tuition fee, enacted just one year ago, by Baden-Württemberg (the third largest state in Germany that is east of the Rhine and borders la belle France. Of course it is fondly shortened to BW, and Stuttgart is its capital). This is paid every semester by non-EU citizen and a few other categories of students. A portion goes to support international student assistance at the university and the rest is added to the state budget for continued financing of regional university education. 3000€ (~$3,400) per academic year seems like peanuts when compared to the tuition of most private and public high education institutions in the USA. Oberlin’s tuition alone now sits at just over $50,000 per year.