What does a German Studies student actually do?
What do you actually do on your degree? Is a question I am often asked by well-meaning sciencey friends. My degree is German Studies, and aside from learning the German language, nobody seems to be quite sure what a single honours language students actually does.
Let me enlighten you like I was enlightened by my Enlightenment module. We read books. Lots and lots of them. We watch some films. We dip into history and politics. Then we read some academic articles about the afore-mentioned books, films, history, politics, and anything else relevant. Maybe some philosophy too. Everyone loves Freud, right?
Once we’ve done the reading, we go to a lecture or seminar about the topic, not necessarily in that order 😛 There the lecturer imparts their precious knowledge onto us, and we soak it up like a sponge. Then we attempt to squeeze this knowledge out into an essay.
Some of my past essay titles have been:
“Discuss Brecht’s uses of the formal principles of epic theatre in Mutter Courage.”
“It is a mistake to think of Emilia Galotti and Kabale und Liebe as political dramas; they are really plays about human psychology. How far would you agree (or disagree) with this view of the two plays?”
When writing the essay, we form an argument about the question and then back it up or contrast it with a bunch of secondary reading from academic articles. This might seem obvious to some, but one of my pals was amazed when I said I have to read academic articles: “I thought you just made loads of stuff up.”
And, of course, there’s the language aspect of the degree. Conversation, translation, and essay-writing in the target language are the main focuses, with the aim of reaching if not fluency, a very high language level nonetheless.
This is the stuff that we put into action on the year abroad, where we develop our “gap yah” ego as well as our language 😉 Jokes aside, the year abroad is a dunk into the “real world” and the self-development which goes on when abroad in a new country just can’t be replicated in a home environment.
Then you come back into the comfortable routine of fourth year, boost up for more essays and exams, and also just try to enjoy what for many will be their last year in formal education.
Now for the job hunt woohoo.