legally brunette

Monday, August 13, 2012

Taking a prolonged travel break because I’m now a candidate for a juris doctorate.  Aka a law student.  Weird, right?  I thought so too.  I've picked out this sweater for my first week of school, and that's about all the preparation I've done. I've also researched study abroad opportunities in Switzerland.  With that said, I'll see you soon/later/maybe not until 2015.

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$50 giveaway to Shabby Apple! {closed}

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Who doesn’t love Shabby Apple? With their wide variety of affordable swimsuits, dresses, skirts and tops, Shabby Apple offers something for everyone (the skirt I’m wearing in this post can be found right here!).

Today, Shabby Apple is offering one lucky reader a $50 shopping spree on their site. A few of my favorites are pictured, left.

Want to win? Just like Shabby Apple’s Facebook page and leave me a comment here, telling me you did so.

For an extra entry, verify that you’re a gfc follower here in the comment section.

For yet another entry, comment here with your favorite piece from Shabby Apple (any collection).

If you tweet about the giveaway using this link (please tag me @jenni_AT_DE), comment here for a fourth entry.

And if you write on the Shabby Apple Facebook wall and let them know I sent you, you can comment right here that you did so, for a fifth and final entry.

Giveaway closes 11:59 CST on August 26! I will announce a winner using

P.S. Use code jenniaustriagermany10off if you’d like to receive 10% off your next Shabby Apple purchase!

P.P.S Winner is listed below. Congrats!

"What's the biggest difference between German schools and American schools?"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

{two of my German schools from my first Fulbright}

After teaching at three different schools in Germany, as well as privately tutoring individual students from nearby German towns, I feel as though I have a pretty firm grasp on the German school system. For any of you who may care, I've included some information and personal anecdotes below.

A German child's education begins Kindergarten. Don't ever call this 'school', though. It is most definitely NOT 'school'. I once asked a friend's little girl, "Was hast du heute in der Schule gemacht?" (What'd you do today at school?). She told me, ever so angrily, that she went to Kindergarten -- not school! Her mom explained to me that there was a big difference and the two should never be confused.

After Kindergarten comes the Grundschule, which is more or less Elementary School (or in northern states, 'Primary School', right?). After 4th grade, German children must make a decision: do they want to one day go to a university? Or will they pursue a trade-related profession instead? University-bound students enroll in a Gymnasium or a Gesamtschule, while those pursuing a career in a type of trade will attend a Hauptschule or a Realschule.

Now, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this system - mostly because the notion of deciding your career path at the age of 10 seems, to many people, absolutely absurd. After teaching at a Gymnasium, a Hauptschule and a Realschule, I have to say I don't agree with the system at all. There is an extremely negative stigma associated with the Hauptschule and Realschule. My Gymnasium students were prone to asking haughty questions like, "Are you teaching the 9th graders at the Hauptschule tomorrow? Have they learned to read yet?" I often got offended for my Hauptschule students because many of them tried so very hard, but at the end of the day, I felt as though some of them were living under self-fulfilled prophecies; they were students at the "dumb" school and they would never amount to anything as a result.

One of my favorite female students at the Hauptschule went on to cosmetology school and another became an office receptionist. One of my favorite male students went on to be a mechanic, and another a policeman. They were happy with their choices and I was happy for them. But I have a hard time accepting that these choices were more or less made at the end of 4th grade.

Many of the students admittedly had no control over the decision to attend a university or not; their parents decided for them based on what kind of upbringing they themselves had had. Others started at Gymnasium level, with the intention of one day attending a University, but failed to display advanced enough skills or grades and were therefore demoted to a Hauptschule or Realschule. One of my absolute favorite 5th grade Gymnasium students, a little girl named Leoni, cried the day she found she was getting downgraded to the Hauptschule. It broke my heart. Of course, it is possible to earn your way back to Gymnasium after being demoted, but in my experience teaching, never once did I see that happen.

With all of that said, there are some advantages. The students at Gymnasium level -- being surrounded by the smartest of the smart -- are motivated to excel, pushed beyond their limits. No one is merely mediocre and everyone is pretty darn brilliant as a result. The books I read in my high school AP English class, for instance? (Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby...) My Gymnasium students read those same books. At the same age as I had. In English. When you're surrounded by only intelligence and academic apathy is kept at bay, competition is fierce and the students strive for perfection in its presence. The only question: is grouping the 'smart' together and saying "Get smarter!" worth grouping the 'dumb' together and saying, "Stay dumb!"? At the end of the day, I don't believe it is.

Feel free to add your two cents in the comment box. Also, I enjoy getting travel/culture inquiries on Formspring. If you have any questions, post them there and I will answer them. Thanks!

lomography geography: lake version

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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jersey tan

I've never been a "lake person". I don't know about the other 49 states, but in Oklahoma, there are those who would assign a negative stereotype to "lake people", labeling some of them as lazy drunk-os with nothing better to do than float through dirty water in an inner-tube, koozied beer in hand, "Cheeseburger in Paradise" blaring from the boat's speakers.

Now, I wouldn't count my good friend Brett among such a group, which is a bit odd since he is, indeed, very much a "lake person", in that the lake is his second home and his boat is worth more than his brand new truck.  Last summer, when I was home from Europe on a break from work, Brett invited me to the lake and I declined on account of my not being a “lake person". Somewhere between last summer and this one, however, I decided that I wanted to see this illusive lake for myself, since Brett and company frequent its waters a few times monthly.

Brett comes from a generous family who regularly offers their lake residence to visitors, "lake people" or not. Despite being told I'd never be offered another lake invitation after formally rejecting the first, I received a Hogwarts letter of a text message a couple of weeks ago, informing me that I had, remarkably, been re-added to the guest list.

During the 3 or 4 hour drive there, we discussed what would and would not warrant an invitation back to the lake. At that point, I was already having enough fun to stop acting unimpressed and began plotting ways to guarantee a return ticket. I told Brett, "When I was little, I would always cry on the last day of trips. It didn't matter if it was a two-week trip or a weekend trip, I'd always get so sad on the last day. If I cry on the way home, will that help?" Brett answered, ever so poignantly, "Actually, I think that'd be a reason not to invite you back."

I didn't cry a single time during this trip, I'll have you know (unless crying from laughter counts). Whether or not I made the cut for the next lake excursion, though, only time will tell...