A Unique Experience in a New City

Dominic Dall’Osto, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University ‘Hessen International Summer University – Kassel’

Germany (June/July 2018)

I’ve just returned from a 4 week short-term program in Kassel, Germany – the International Summer University (ISU). I was part of a group of 45 students from all over the world at the ISU. Well, every continent apart from Antarctica. The program consisted of studying German, along with a choice of classes in Environmental Engineering, German Culture, or Nanoscience. We also had a lot of free time to explore the city, as well as travel around Germany.

The best part of the program, though, was the homestay component. I stayed with my host mum, Kristin, and 2 other students from Colombia, in a small farming village in the outskirts of town. It was amazing to wake up every morning, look out over the green fields and see farmers starting their work, but only be a 45 minute train ride away from the city centre. It was also great to live with 2 other students in the program – we shared a lot of new experiences getting to know Kassel, learning German, and cheering for each other’s countries in the World Cup!

The view from my room over our backyard.

My new roommates!

I also spent a lot of time exploring the sights of Kassel. The city’s most famous landmark is the Herkules monument. It is perched 500 metres above the town with a huge complex of water fountains leading down to a castle at the bottom. A castle in Kassel, who’d have thought?! Twice a week the water is turned on and the site fills with tourists following the water down the mountain; through the fountains, down an artificial waterfall, under the Devil’s Bridge, along an aqueduct, and shooting 50 m high into the air at the bottom. All of it is powered only by natural water pressure and has been running for over 300 years!

The beautiful view from the Herkules (ignore the cranes and tourists).

Speaking of powering things with water pressure (smooth segue!) I studied environmental engineering during my time at the University of Kassel. We had guest lectures from experts at the university, and nearby research institutes. But the best bit was going on field trips to see renewable energy technologies in action. We visited a farming village that had built a biogas plant to provide its electricity and heat requirements. We also had the chance to go inside a wind turbine to examine it up close. They’re a lot bigger than they look from a distance! Thanks must also go out to the amazing tutors from the uni who looked after us and kept us entertained throughout the program!

Visiting a wind farm. Fellow students for scale.

A Biogas tank in the village of Jühnde.

Another highlight was the group trip to Berlin during the program. Especially interesting were the stories told by the program director, Jürgen, who had experienced the separation between East and West Germany first hand. Hearing his accounts of waiting for 5 hours at the border while his car was searched were chilling. We also caught Germany’s capital in the grips of World Cup fever, with a huge public viewing at the Brandenburg Gate. Unfortunately, spirits dropped after Germany got knocked out.

Overall, the Kassel ISU program was a great and unique experience: living with a German family, but also spending so much time with the other students that they became like family; exploring a new city; learning a new language; being taught by experts in the field of environmental engineering; and generally enjoying the summer in Germany. I would definitely recommend Kassel’s International Summer University program!

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