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It is white in Düsseldorf. It is the second time this winter, and I heard it is quite unusual here. The first time was in the beginning of December, when the whole city was filled with cozy Christmas stalls.

Whenever I was wandering through the crowd I could pretend I was in the Netherlands; almost everyone around me was Dutch…J The atmosphere in the city was great, with people gathering around the Glühwein stalls, a large white ferris wheel near the Rhine and loads of nice treats. In December I also moved into my new apartment in a friendly and lively part of Düsseldorf, much closer to the city center.

Now that I also live closer to the university, I can go there by bicycle, but it poses a challenge to cycle around Düsseldorf (at least if you are used to the Netherlands), with almost no bicycle paths and car drivers not so used to cyclers. I cannot get myself to wear a helmet though… ;-) I found a nice cycling route to work, following the Rhine and through a small forest. The view is great in the early morning when the sun comes up.  

After spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve with friends and family in the Netherlands, I had a difficult first week back in Düsseldorf, with home-sickness and on top of that the flu. It is great to have an apartment of your own, but I've never lived somewhere completely alone, and I thus felt quite lonely. I know from my internships in Zürich that it just takes some time getting used to a new environment, and that it will get better. What makes it slightly more difficult here compared to Zürich is that people outside the university usually do not speak English, or are reluctant to. I try to improve my German every day, but my knowledge is still very basic. For my first project a student is helping me with the German instructions and guidance of the participants. In my first blog I said I could start the pilot the next week, but that was a bit too optimistic. Due to busy schedules and waiting for ethical approval we could not start before Christmas. Bad as a delay might be, it gave me some extra time to think about the paradigm, and now I completely changed it, hopefully for the better. :-) So now again I will, very optimistically, say that we will start next week!

My colleagues are a great help, because the atmosphere in the lab is just so great, and we regularly have a drink, dinner or coffee together. Every Friday afternoon we have a colloquium, and after that we always have a drink in the lab, usually followed by more in the Altstadt.

I am still teaching every week, guiding my students through the research process. It is a practical course in which the students have to design and execute, analyze and write about a small experiment. In December they gathered the data, and now it is time for the big old favorite: statistics… It is still somewhat strange to teach. I'm sometimes afraid that I ask too much or too little, but I guess that is a matter of feedback and experience. The semester is nearing its end, and followed by a break, which is very welcome because teaching takes a lot of preparation time.

And finally (!) I am registered as student at the University, meaning I have all the advantages of a student, like a free public transport ticket for the whole of North Rhine-Westphalia, discount in the Mensa and other places, and I can sport for free! All in all a lot of new experiences, and after some good and bad moments, I'm looking forward to the coming months with fresh courage and motivation!