In our little manual of Consortium for Advanced Studies in Barcelona, we have a little page about the choque cultural, or culture shock, that study abroad students are expected to experience, complete with a graph of highs and lows numbered by week. The third week is the “honeymoon” week, emotions careening all the way up to the top of the graph; however, things go sour during the fifth week. Everything they say is true: The fifth week is the worst week, and I just survived it.
It started when I was coming back from Oktoberfest. We’d survived three days of grueling early-morning drinking and it was a relief to be heading to the airport at 6 a.m, and not another tent. However, after my first cup of coffee, I realized: For the first time after a long vacation, I wasn’t going home. I was going back to Barcelona, to my dorm with very thin walls and new classes and new friends. I wasn’t going back someplace where I was comfortable; I was going from one uncomfortable, weird place to another. It was heartbreaking, and I spent the next four days locked in my room, watching How I Met Your Mother online, Skyping my boyfriend and crying. The fifth week is the worst week, but I’m still alive.
But Oktoberfest! I could tell you everything, but that’d reveal way too much about me and what I do when I’ve been drunk for 12 hours straight. I do, however, have a couple pieces of advice for Oktoberfest, when you decide to go. First off, it’s a must for study abroad students to go to Oktoberfest, but it’s hard to get flights and reasonably priced hotels if you don’t plan in advance. My friends did Couch Surfing, which is free, and it worked out well for them.
Secondly, even though it’s not your first instinct, resist the urge and don’t go to Oktoberfest on the weekend. It’s still a complete shitshow during the week, and you might actually have a chance at getting served beer in a timely fashion when you arrive at 9 a.m. If you come on the weekend, expect long lines and no seats, even in the beer gardens, even at 8 a.m. You can’t order a beer unless you’re sitting down, and Oktoberfestbier only comes in liters. There are 3.8 liters in a gallon. Yes, I drank a gallon of beer a day for three days straight and I’m somehow alive.
I also ate the types of food that should have killed me by coronary: Buttery onions and chives potatoes, buttered corn, chocolate-covered fruits, sugared nuts, pretzels, raw meat with a radish on a bun (don’t ask), chicken, cheese bread — you name it, everything high in calories was there to satisfy the most ravenous of the drunk munchies.
It’s also not uncommon to black out by noon, as evidenced by how early in the day I saw an ambulance. One of the friends that I was with blacked out around 2 p.m., to awaken on a grassy hill at 6 p.m. wondering where the fuck he was and why he was missing one hundred and fifty euro. My only story, other than the things that I can’t remember so therefore they didn’t happen, is that I lost my phone and half of my toenail. Yeah, that kind of hurt.
Also: everything the other study abroad blogger said about the ‘Fest is true, but I didn’t think that you’d believe me about the 12 Dutch men in matching lederhosen that we befriended, or the stuff she said about everyone using the riff from “Seven Nation Army” as a drinking song, so I have the video to prove it.