Kassel – a European Experience

Wenona C, Bachelor of Information Technology / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Short-term program: Hessen International Summer University – Kassel
Germany (June/July 2019)

My highly anticipated four-week exchange to Kassel, Germany has greatly impacted my life. I loved my time inside the classroom as I socialised with students from the U.S.A, Russia, China, Italy and Taiwan. I capitalised on the opportunity to mix with students who had different perspectives. This experience has significantly altered my views about different cultures and current world politics.

The International Summer University program at the University of Kassel was taught by leading professionals. I took three classes: German language, Intercultural Communication, and German History and Politics. Outside of the classroom, the program leaders took us on excursions to Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Berlin and Marburg. The scenery was stunning, particularly in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. This World Heritage site consists of a palace (which doubles as a museum) that displays artworks by Anthony van Dyck and Rubens. The palace is surrounded by acres of gardens and the Hercules monument.

Hercules monument, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

History came alive through the scenery, palaces and museums. I walked the same steps of previous Kings and Queens, stood on the ground where WWII was fought, and visited a working camp where people were imprisoned. The visual impact and sensory overload of European and German history needs to be experienced in person, and not just by studying the pages of a history book.

The culture and education in Germany were not what I expected. The professors and educational facilities were world class. However, technology wise, I felt like I had taken a step back into the 1990’s. Public transport relies on a cash and paper ticket system. There is limited electronic integration in shopping centres. Germany is in many ways, a contradiction. Germany has the largest economy in Europe and is an international leader in medicine, health, education and car manufacturing. On the other hand, our lecturer’s used butchers paper to write learning materials.

It was daylight in Germany from 5:00am to 9:30pm. This enabled people to partake in activities after work. As well as this, many of the historic sites are close to the city centre. People spent more time outdoors than using technological devices. I could identify how these factors contributed to a healthy lifestyle. Whilst overseas I certainly encountered difficulties. I found it difficult to communicate with my host family who did not speak English. I also struggled with the food provided and the limited portion sizes.

This program has contributed to my understanding of German culture and the importance of Kassel in Germany’s history. I have learnt about racism, discrimination, the European Union and the global impact of refugees on the European economy. I have also been educated about the history surrounding WWII from a German perspective. I have developed strategies to overcome culture shock and have improved my intercultural communication skills. I will undoubtedly use these skills in my future career in a diversified environment.

Going on an exchange was completely outside of my comfort zone. I did not speak German and had never travelled to Europe. I had no family in Europe to rely on for assistance or help me along the way. I have been challenged and at the same time, have discovered a sense of self-reliance and confidence in myself that I did not possess before I embarked on this journey.

I am grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to go on an exchange and improve my university experience. Participating in an exchange has altered my world views and broadened my career possibilities. I will take from this experience wonderful memories and friendships that will impact my academic future, choices and goals. Thank you QUT.