Hannah and the deep South of the USA – Holiday Season, Exam Period and the new semester

Here you can read Part one of Hannah’s experience.

Winter in Carolina. Photo: Hannah Riemann

I can’t believe my time at Duke University is almost over! The last few months were a hell of a ride and I hardly had time to catch a breath let alone sit down and write down my experiences down for you. I am sorry, friends! So, let’s start from the beginning with me moving to a new house at the end of my first semester, celebrating American Thanksgiving, Exam Period coming up and preparing for Christmas. It was a very busy, but also very fun time!

So first things first: American Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Break

Over Thanksgiving we got a few days off from school, which was very nice and gave us a chance to relax and rest before the stressful exam period started. On Thanksgiving, itself a few friends and I booked a table at a very nice BBQ Restaurant in downtown Durham, because they offered a typical Thanksgiving dinner for a decent price. There was no way we would have been able to cook a turkey and this way we didn’t have to cook anything and also didn’t have any cleaning up to do. The food was delicious! At one point, I almost thought the table was going to burst under all the delicious food. We had mashed potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, turkey, ham, pulled pork, stuffing, soy nuggets (so the vegetarians didn’t have to starve either), hash brown, corn bread, beans, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and much much more! Just thinking of it makes me crave it again. It was so much food that even though we were six people we weren’t even close to finishing it and had to take the rest of it home. This way we had a second Thanksgiving Dinner the next day: Two for One, Yay!

Beautiful Duke University. Picture: Hannah Riemann

What do people the day after Thanksgiving? They go shopping, because it is Blackfriday!

And believe me, it is crazy. Super-sales wherever you look and people camping in front of Stores in order to get the best deals. Every store has special offers, most of them have deals like 50% on everything and people literally ‘shop until they drop’. It is quite an experience, but also very weird and gives you a great insight of American Capitalism and consumer culture.

On the weekend of Thanksgiving break I went to Old Salem, which is about 1,5 hours from Durham, with a friend. Old Salem is one of the oldest Settlements in North Carolina and is now a kind of Museum in the city Winston Salem. You can walk around old Salem and look at the beautiful old buildings for free, but if you want to take a look inside the buildings you can just buy a ticket, which I can only highly recommend. Actors are dressed in clothing from 200 years ago and show you how people back then lived. You can visit the old bakery, shoemaker and many more and can ask all of the actors about life back then. The person working at the old hotel asked me where I was from and when I told him Germany he said: ‘Oh wow, what a long journey. It must have taken you over three months to get here!” All in all: If you ever go to North Carolina, check out Old Salem. It is worth a visit!

Exam Period

With friends at a Onesie-party. Picture: Hannah Riemann

Everyone knew what the end of Thanksgiving break meant and everyone was dreading it: the beginning of reading week, followed by exam period. The libraries were full, students were stressed out, the relaxing days of Thanksgiving break seemed to be a distant memory of happier times and every day the circles under our eyes grew bigger and bigger. Coffee was running through our veins and seemed to be the only thing that kept us going.

In four words: Exam Period was tough. Once Thanksgiving Break was over everyone realized how close the end of semester is and how much school work we had to finish. I had two weeks to write two 20-page seminar papers, prepare and hold two presentations, write a 3-page discussion paper, finish another 7 page “Problem Set” for Economics and study for one of the hardest exams I have ever had. Trust me, I still don’t understand how I managed. I have never worked so concentrated and structured ever in my life. Even though I was still always procrastinating until the very end, I still studied harder and more focused than ever before. Two weeks came and went, exam period was over, I had my life back and everyone started to become human again.

During Exam Period, I also had to move, because my old place was too expensive. I found a cute new place with two roommates, one of which is a nanny and the other a waitress. A refreshing change to hang out and live with people who are not students but locals, who can show you to cool insider places, like ‘the Pinhook’, a LGBTQ-friendly bar where we went to a Onesie-party hosted by a drag queen – In short: an amazing night where my friends and I were dressed comfortably in unicorn, dragon, Panda-bear, sloth, devil and alpaca onesies.

Christmas Period

Photo: Hannah Riemann

The end of Exam Period meant that Christmas was just around the corner. It seemed as if overnight all the Christmas lights were hung up, Christmas trees were decorated and everyone was wearing the ugliest Christmas Sweater they could find. Because Christmas break was almost  four weeks long, I decided to fly back home to Germany to spend the time with my family. Once I got back to Durham in mid-January, I was welcomed by a winter wonderland in Durham with over 30 cm of fresh snow in one day. The first two days of school were cancelled due to the weather and everyone went sledding, built snowman and cuddled up at home with some hot chocolate.

As fast as the snow came, it was also gone. And with the snow gone, it was back to school studying in the library and catching up with the readings we were supposed to do over the snow days but did not because we were busy playing in the snow.

I will write about my experiences of my last semester at Duke in my next post. Talk to y’all soon.