Now I feel like a Fulbright scholar! The orientation was in Göttingen where about 50 students were welcomed, informed, and fed under the care of a conscientious German Fulbright staff. Monday afternoon we checked in, learned more about how the program works, and then split into two groups for walking tours of downtown Göttingen. I enjoyed the historical tour of the University, where I saw the statue of the goose girl, a university legend. Beginning students lay flowers at her feet and return to give her a kiss when they receive their doctorate. Even though I’m not enrolled here, I would love to give her a kiss in about two years!
Tuesday the conference got down to business. I found out I need to get a residence permit from my local immigration office (which requires a signed apartment contract, insurance coverage, 2 photos, proof of Fulbright affiliation, and passport), and then I need to use that permit to open a bank account. I also need to identify an on-site research advisor so that I can qualify for doctoral status with the program. I have to register with the local university, pay fees, and get their student id (need more photos), not that I’m going to take courses, but it’s required for Fulbright scholars, and student status carries some privileges. (For example, rowdy Göttingen students were locked in the university jail instead of the one downtown).
Back in Wolfenbüttel, I went right to work. Thursday I opened a bank account so that the direct deposits have a place to go into and my fees and rent have a place to go out of. Then I walked to the Landkreis Office and asked them about getting a residence permit and was told I have to first register at the City Hall (Rathaus). I walked down the street and around the corner to the Rathaus and got registered and presented with a big welcome packet of information in about 5 minutes. To celebrate, I stopped for coffee and strudel on the way home. Friday morning I went back to the Landkreis office, this time with an appointment and registration form and they put an extra page in my passport with my photo that states I am a legal resident here until July 31, 2012.
Let me tell you why I love Wolfenbüttel. At each of the three offices I visited on Thursday I asked politely, “Do I need an appointment” (“Brauche ich einen Termin?”) and at each one they said yes, but come on in. Can you believe it? I have heard rumors of students in the big city taking several subways only to be told to come back tomorrow or go to a different office or stand in line. I did everything within about 6 blocks of my apartment with little or no waiting and was greeted with a smile every time.
They’ve been setting up carnival rides in front of the castle. Friday evening the rides were whirling, the lights were twinkling, the music was playing, and the kids were having a wonderful time. I paused to watch, before turning toward the library. There was going to be a concert with a piano, violin, cello trio playing selections by Mozart, Beethoven, Hayden, and Ravel. Inside I ran into several researchers I know. The vaulted interior of the library with its baroque painted ceiling and rows upon rows of precious old books almost up to the top made a beautiful setting for the music, which was absolutely spellbinding. Afterward, some of us walked back to the apartment together. How can you not love this town?