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.

Make the Leap and Go On Exchange!

Alexandra K., Dual Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Business
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 1, 2018)

Imagine thousands of people sitting by a river, beer in hand, basking in the sunlight or throwing a Frisbee while techno music plays in the background. This is the definition of a Berlin summer. Sadly, my exchange was for the fall semester, where snow and a Glühwein by a fire was more favourable. However, being kept indoors also meant more time to bond with the students who I shared my dormitory with. Students from all backgrounds and languages mingled daily, and there was certainly no shortage of partying. The little things are what makes an exchange so memorable, such as ice skating at the Christmas markets together or using the car seats from an abandoned van in our living room. Some of the people I lived with have made their way into my heart as life-long friends, who I have already visited in their home countries.I attended HWR for one semester with the goal of deepening my knowledge of international management in an international setting. The experiences and lessons I gained from the teachers who are sourced from all round the world were invaluable, and helped to set me apart from the curve. HWR, like most of Germany, is very old-fashioned and traditional in their approach to learning and bureaucracy. No lectures are recorded and you are expected to build a relationship with your teacher. This approach at first seems a bit intrusive or unnecessary, but my teachers were able to connect with me on a personal and professional level. This approach encourages students to develop their own opinion and solutions to issues presented, as opposed to simply memorising content.

Culture shock in Germany was inevitable, but learning the language is the best step towards fitting in and finding your place. Before my exchange, I studied German in Brisbane at the “DerDieDas” school, which was excellent to ensure I was not wasting time on the basics when in Berlin. After my 6 months of exchange, I am currently at a B2 level, and am undertaking an internship in Berlin now. Advice for your exchange I can offer is be prepared to feel lonely, homesick or just displaced. Take the time out of your week to call home, be ready for the shopkeepers to be rude to you, and don’t be afraid to go out alone. One of the highlights of my experience was simply going to a local German-owned café and spending hours preparing for my German exam the next day. This small decision lead to me meeting my now-boyfriend, a Kiwi who lives in Berlin! Just make the leap and go on exchange, but don’t stop there, make the leap and squeeze every last drop out of the experience.

What One Can Do Tomorrow, One Can Do Today

Harry B., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honors)
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

The task of conveying my experience on exchange feels somewhat futile, for what made the experience unforgettable – the people met, language learnt, and culture lived – cannot, without losing something of its charm, be neatly distilled into a blog post. Can my friends, my parents, really understand just what it was that I underwent, why it was that I relished my time overseas; the experience and memories being so subjectively and personally my own. Perhaps this scepticism is shared by the exchange faculty, who advised in the writing of this post I focus on the university, facilities, costs, campus life and general tips – in short, just the most useful and easily digestible snippets of information addressed to the palate of the reader who is preparing, or contemplating, their own experience, not so much yours. So it is this I have attempted in the following few paragraphs.

The Berlin School of Economics and Law, where I studied, is in German classified a Hochschule – something of a university, but on a smaller scale, with smaller class and campus sizes. My lectures rarely had more than 30 people, my tutorials even less. This is vastly different to QUT and, I discovered, quite to my liking. For it was because of this the students became better friends, and the learning experience more intimate. Downsides do exist, but are not sufficient, surely, to hamper things: the library was to my mind under resourced, having neither enough places to study, nor computers to use. But I am guessing those reading this, if they’re on exchange, will not frequent the library all that often. My chief gripe, which is to the detriment of us internationals, is the absence of a well organised and supported club for exchange students. Although some effort was being made to remedy this towards the end of my stay, this was of no help to me, whose efforts to meet people would have been greatly assisted by an organisation, like QUT Exchange Buddies Club here, which organised bar nights and activities. Again, given the city in which you live, Berlin, is not short of entertainment, you may not find this gripe as deleterious as did I. But certainly one has a far better time gallivanting around with friends, than without, and it is through clubs run for the benefit of exchange students you meet such comrades.

I resided in private accommodation, which was quite expensive. Places in Berlin are becoming dearer and harder to find, so ensure you secure a place to live –using, say, AirBnb or or the fantastic WG-gesucht.com – well, well, in advance. Alternatively, one could through the university apply for a room in a student dorm, run by the organisation Studentenwerk. Though in general further out from the city centre, they are very affordable and populated with students. You will find, I am told, that the commute is not prohibitively long (especially biking to the train station) – at least not so long as to negate the other, sizable benefits of staying there.

Berlin, apart from the sometimes high cost of private accommodation, is affordable. We live in an expensive country, so I suppose wheresoever we go we will be pleasantly surprised, but everything – public transport, food and groceries, alcohol, entertainment, health insurance – is markedly less expensive than Brisbane.

As to the culture of the place, I have been on a previous exchange to Germany, that time to Mannheim, and must say, the feel of Berlin is itself unique; it has no counterpart, I do not think, across country or even Europe. Frankly, I can imagine few places where a student exchange would be more fitting. There is plenty to do and see – which you probably did not require my assurance of. I recommend learning the language: there is an intensive class offered in the month preceding the commencement of classes. It helps to know a few words. Culture shock, to be honest, is not the problem it may have been in other Germany cities and towns. Berlin is extremely cosmopolitan, an unbelievable melting pot, and it is not uncommon to hear many different languages spoken in cafes and trains. To be sure, there are many locals earnestly going about their business, whose sensibilities you ought not to disregard. But on the whole, people tend to coexist in acceptance of and harmony with everyone else.

Tips:

  • Should you have the money, get German health insurance (80 Euro per month) – this will save you some hassle.
  • Ration your money, spent wisely and be resourceful.
  • Without being reckless, take risks: you are, for a short period, incognito.
  • Meet people and make friends as quickly as possible, organise outings.
  • Improve your cooking, stay healthy, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin pills.
  • Above all: do not waste what little time you have. You will be on your long haul hour flight back to banal Brisbane before you know it, so hit the ground running, be prepared and make no excuses for yourself. What one can do tomorrow, one can do today.

There is Truly Something for Everyone in Berlin

Ben M., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Bachelor of Information Technology
Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (Semester 1, 2017)

Standing in front of Technische Universitat Berlin

Berlin is the most exciting city I have ever been to, it is so culturally and ethnically diverse and for the last 7 months I’ve been lucky enough to call it my home while I completed an exchange program at the Technische Universität Berlin.

Although I told myself I would do lots of research and find out as much as I could about the city before I left, it became quickly apparent that that was not going to happen. So I landed in Berlin speaking no German, had no idea about the culture or the history surrounding the city.

Was I excited? Scared? Missing home? Lost? To be honest, after over 24 hours in flights and two stop overs, I was tired and couldn’t wait to sleep.

One of the most striking things about being there was, surprisingly, the language barrier. Majority of the population speaks very good English, and 99% of people under 30 will speak perfect English, yet despite this it’s a barrier to work out how to ask someone if they can speak English with you; and it feels somewhat weird to be speaking a Language which is not the main language. Even the little things like buying cheese or milk in a supermarket were made a lot harder by having no idea what was what.

After a couple of days my perspective changed though, with the help of google translate, no more jetlag and lots of hand gestures I started feeling much more comfortable and began to make some friends.

The city has a very dark and interesting past; surviving two world wars, the cold war and from even earlier. This, often incredibly varied history, has created a completely unique cultural blend and sense of freedom through the whole city that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world. It feels to a large extent that you can do whatever you would like, however you would like, as long as you don’t hurt other people, or the environment. And that’s how the city lives and the rules its inhabitants respect, which also leads to a complete culture of acceptance of individuality and who people are. In one day you will see goths, businessmen, families and a whole multitude of others, who by normal standards are ‘quirky’ or ‘different’, yet in Berlin no one would blink an eye, everyone and everything is treated as normal.

In central Berlin The Fernsehturm is a must see!

More than that there is truly something for everyone in this city. If you want to experience the worlds best techno clubs (Including places to sleep and buy food inside the clubs) you can, if you want to work for a start up, you can, if you’re interested in business methods, you can learn about that, if you want to do something creative you can do that.

The city and its people are supportive of no matter what you are interested in and no matter who you are, where you come from and what you like to do; which made living there one of the nicest experiences of my life.
That said, the city does definitely has its draw backs, it is an incredibly large and diverse city and its constantly changing which is not for the faint of heart. It is a big challenge to keep up with the city and if you’re not careful you can burn out very easily, which I saw many other exchange students do.

Studying in Germany is also completely different, the education system for University is much more free than in Australia, and for the most part students are given a large range of freedom when choosing subjects and the number of electives they have. This is also reflected in the learning style, which features much more self-directed learning than I was used to. Once I became used to this change it was fantastic, there was significantly less assignments, take home quizzes and some of my units had just one exam at the end of the semester. This did however mean a bit more of a crazy rush at the end of the semester, especially given they have no mid semester breaks.

Riding a bike through Berlin

Most of the universities are also state run and students do not pay for the tuition. This means, usually, less fancy, showy and flashy buildings and technology, but do not let that fool you, the standard of the education is incredible and has some of the best research and professors in the world.

My best takeaway from exchange was to learn German as a second language. Not only is it a great skill to have but it makes life a lot easier. Even the basics of the language instantly meant I could order food, drinks, and go shopping with a lot more ease. Once I began to meet people and have conversations in German a completely new world opened up to me.

Learning the language not only gave me the ability to make new friends but gave me a much greater value and understanding of the cultural norms and differences and allowed me to understand a lot more of the quirks and things that I wasn’t used to.

A great spot to see the Teufelsberg towers

Doing exchange was a fantastic opportunity that I was so fortunate to take, I learnt another language, experienced a city unlike any other and now have friends from all around the world. I can definitely recommend going to a city that is not first language English. Even if you don’t speak the language it will expose you to a completely different culture to what we are used to in Australia and give you many opportunities to learn a lot about your self and other people!

The experiences I had on exchange, and the things I learnt, make me feel like a completely different person. In just 7 months I learnt so much about myself and have memories and life lessons to carry with me for the rest of my life.

Reconnecting with Friends and Family all over the World

Sylvia L., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

Student exchange is one of the things you have to experience in your life. Even if you don’t know the language, it is worth it just to immerse yourself in another country’s culture, meet new people from all over the world (free accommodation when you’re travelling in their country now!), and truly a fun experience overall.

I undertook my student exchange in Darmstadt Germany, at the Hochschule Darmstadt studying Animation and Game. Not many people have heard of Darmstadt despite it being the headquarters of the European Space Agency, and students from the Graphic Design faculty at Hochschule Darmstadt recently had the opportunity to design the logo for the 2018 ISS mission. Located near Frankfurt, it was very easy to travel around Europe, which of course I did. Belgium, France, Czech Republic, Austria, England and even more.

German Christmas Markets

Some people have the idea that Germans are very unfriendly, I beg to differ, with the exception of bus drivers. The number of methods they have to cook potatoes is unbelievable and I truly miss all the cake and bread, especially the bread, nothing compares. While I was there I got to experience the Christmas Markets which Germany is famous for, they were absolutely magical and I discovered my love for potato pancakes and apple mousse.

Heaps of places to travel

Personally I felt that uni was easier in Germany then Australia. The system there allows you to retake exams if you fail them and I found there was a lot less pressure because of that. I really enjoyed my units there, especially the games methodology lecture where 50% of the time it would just be the lecturer playing games on the original NSES with lots of references to modern gaming thrown in.

The people I met over there were what made the trip truly worth it, especially those that you know will remain life-long friends despite the large distance between you.

Catching up with old friends and family

Another highlight of my trip that I am extremely grateful for that student exchange allowed was reconnecting with friends and family from my childhood. Spending time with my cousins in France and England, staying with old neighbours in Berlin and Benshiem, eating dinner with my grandmother’s family along the Rhine, those were the best moments.

I highly recommend for everyone to go on exchange. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you learn and gain so much knowledge, connections, and an unforgettable experience.

Finding friends and falling in love on exchange

Declan, S. Bachelor of Business
University of Mannheim, Germany. (Semester 1, 2018)

The thought of going on student exchange never crossed my mind. But one day I was just procrastinating, scrolling through the QUT website, and I came across a link that said: ‘Applications for student exchange in semester 2, 2017 close TOMORROW’. I decided to have a look and see where I could go. I had been learning German out of personal interest for about a year so I thought, why not Germany? I rushed to get my application in on time and hoped for the best, but never really gave it another thought. Then the time came to find out whether I had been accepted and I found out I was headed to the University of Mannheim! I knew it was going to be a challenge but I had no idea what was going to be in store for me, or that I was about to have the best and probably more important time of my life.

Firstly arriving in Mannheim, a small(ish) university town in South-West Germany, was quite daunting. I had to find my way to the student accommodation and check-in, all in a language, that up until that point, I had actually ever conversed in. But I managed. The reality that I was now on the other side of the world had not yet set it, but after my first few days I started to have my doubts and thought to myself, what the hell am I doing here? I was yet to make any friends and the start of the semester was still a couple of weeks away.

But the following day my luck changed. I was sitting in a cafe taking advantage of some free wi-fi when a group of people made their way in and sat next to me. They were all speaking English with various different accents and I figured they must also be exchange students. One of them asked me where I was from, and if I would like to join them. I of course agreed. After our coffees, two of the guys, one from Ireland, one from America, asked me if I’d like to come and play basketball with them. I thought to myself, this can’t be real life? Basketball is my favourite sport, which I’ve been playing since I could walk. So played I did, and continued to hang out with these guys, who have since become two of best friends, for the rest of the semester.

Playing my favourite sport

In addition to the busy university scheduled, the following six months were filled with countless nights out, parties and weekend trips to Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Prague. I met so many people from all over the world, fell in love with a girl from Norway, and just had so many great experiences that I will never forget.

Exploring with friends

I think it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and experience different cultures sometimes. I am so happy with my decision to go on exchange and with my time in Mannheim. I learned so much, not just the about world, but about myself. As cliché as it may be.

Living, Studying, and Sightseeing in Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia

Jonah K., Bachelor of Science/Mathematics
University of Münster, Germany (Semester 2, 2018)

Living, Studying, and Sightseeing in Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia

The greatest challenge of going on exchange is successfully integrating oneself into the local culture. The prospect of waking up one morning in a completely foreign land and totally different culture or even language can be a daunting one. However, it is a truly thrilling experience and one that every university student should consider as an option for them to pursue throughout the duration of their studies.

Porta Nigra – Ancient Roman gate in Trier

Münster is a city of many possibilities. It is a place with big city conveniences, but a small city feel and has plenty to offer everyone; including its proximity to major German football teams, immense historical significance, and – most importantly of all for exchange students – a vibrant university culture. Also, who wouldn’t love the idea of attending a university whose central administration is in an actual 18th century palace?

The University building – an 18th century palace!

The university faculties are spread throughout the centre of the city, so a short walk from wherever your classes are and you can find yourself right in the centre of the Altstadt (old city). As the bicycle capital of Germany, transport from campus to wherever you need to be is quick, easy, and an excuse to get some exercise!

The historical centre of the city!

Before I even arrived in the city, the University’s exchange service was already helping out, giving me plenty of resources to explore to prepare for my accommodation, insurance, and everything else I could expect to have to organise. They gave me the materials to apply to various student housing associations – as accommodation in Münster can be tight – and soon enough I found myself staying in an accommodation house with several local students. My specific accommodation was all I could have hoped for – centrally located in the city, and breakfast and lunch prepared every day in the house cafeteria. The perfect opportunity to try some local cuisine every day.

Impromptu outdoor Physics lecture

The extra advantage of studying in Germany is the connections many of the universities have. For me particularly as a physics student, the opportunity to learn particle physics from an actual Large Hadron Collider physicist as my lecturer was a real standout moment. For many years Germany has been an academic hub of Europe, so no matter what you study, you’re sure to find yourself learning from some of the best in your field.

The biggest culture shock a university student can expect in Germany is something that is fundamental to their university culture. At the end of a lecture, you can expect to hear raucous knocking on the lecture desks, as a gesture of appreciation for the lecturer. Germany is otherwise quite like Australia, but make sure to keep your wits about you, they do after all drive on the wrong (or right) side of the road!

The historical centre of the city!

The highlights of my time in Münster were definitely the relationships I made with the people I knew, and the activities I did with them. From going to the local football derby or Christmas markets with fellow students in my accommodation house, to visits to nearby attractions and museums with fellow exchange students, the relationships and experiences you forge and share while on exchange are those you’ll never forget.

Exchange doesn’t come without its own struggles of course, and finding yourself in a completely different country with a completely different language can be scary. However, this provides you with the perfect opportunity to grow. I was worried I didn’t speak good enough German or fit in well enough, and that kind of cultural apprehensiveness is something only overcome by taking the plunge into the deep end and realising that everyone is much more accommodating, and you’ll do just fine. All it took was that one success, and all of a sudden I was confident enough to speak German to anyone who’d listen!

My dorm room

The best advice I can give for those going on exchange or even considering it is that good planning can enhance your experience to the next level. However, at the risk of contradicting myself, once all the important stuff is planned, go nuts! The great advantage of Europe is that there’s so much to do in such a small area. Maybe one day you feel like taking a trip out to a completely different city. Do it! Take advantage of your opportunities while you’re away and you’ll come back much happier for your experience!

While I am sure to many Münster is an obscure place you’ve never heard of, I cannot recommend the city more passionately to those considering an exchange in Germany. The unique opportunities and experiences you can find in a place like Münster will be sure to give you plenty of stories to tell, and the atmosphere of both the university and the city in general is unlike any other you’ll ever experience.

Never a Dull Moment: A Semester Abroad

Joseph W., Bachelor of Information Technology
TU Darmstadt, Germany (Semester 2, 2016)

Figure 1: Autumn sunset in Darmstadt – from campus main entrance

It all started one day when I was at home thinking about how cool it would be to go overseas to Europe. I thought how cool it would be see and experience the Alps, European cultures, the different languages and, well, whatever else! I thought, “What the heck? I’m going to apply for exchange”, and so I did!

I had some exchange student friends and had often seen the stalls set up for Study Abroad but had always thought “Nah, that’s not me”. I hadn’t travelled much. I had been overseas when I was very young and had more recently travelled for two weeks with my family in Canada and so I was by no means a seasoned traveller. I contemplated the idea of going on exchange for about three weeks and so I knew I could and yet I just keep putting the idea to the back of my head until it could stay there no longer.

Fast forwarding six months later to my arrival in Darmstadt, Germany. The first month was at times challenging as there were so much to do to become registered in the TU Darmstadt and in Germany as well as making financial arrangements. During this time, the TUD exchange team were taking very good care of us to help us sort out everything we needed to do and were hosting social events and parties for us. With over 200 exchange students from everywhere around the globe and the exchange team to meet, there was never a dull moment.

The university exchange team arranged a two-day trip to a beautiful old town in Germany called Rüdesheim along the river Rhine. After a night’s stay in a hostel, tasting local wines, we woke up bright and early the next morning for a boat ride along the river Rhine viewing the many castles that marked what was once a border separating France and Germany.

Figure 2: Tenerife, Spain – Lookout on the way down a narrow two-way road barely wide enough for one car

Figure 3: Rüdesheim, Germany – Looking out over the town, River Rhine and the vineyards

As the Semester started and I settled down to a relatively stable routine, I went on several short trips around Germany and Europe. Laying almost in the very centre of Europe, Darmstadt is a great place to travel from, especially for me, coming from Australia which is far away from everything. Some highlights would have to include a hike through the foggy Black Forest while trying not to take the wrong track, the Miniature Museum in Hamburg, Mount Teide volcano in Tenerife, Spain and my first experience of a snowfall in the beautiful town of Salzburg!

Finally, after an incredible experience overseas, came time to go home. The Last two months had some challenging moments doing a lot of last minute study, getting ready for the final exams. However, without a doubt, the most challenging part about leaving a semester abroad is saying goodbye to friends that I had spent so much time with and done so many cool things with. But it’s okay. I will be back!

Figure 4: Black Forest, Germany – Fighting through the mist trying not to get too lost!

Figure 5: Auerbach Castle, Germany – Enjoying a sunny day with an evening hike up to the Auerbach Castle

Making the most out of my Mannheim Exchange

Emma K., Bachelor of Law
University of Mannheim, Germany (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed my year abroad at the University of Mannheim, Germany. The campus is the 2nd largest Baroque Palace in Europe and is an absolutely beautiful university to attend. The university itself had two cafeterias on campus with cheap meals for students, but was also ideally located in the city so it was easy to find a café elsewhere.

University Life

Every Thursday the university would host an event called ‘Schneckenhof’ which is an open air party with a DJ, stage, bars, photo booth and usually a theme. It was one of my favourite events to go to and always had hundreds of students there. You’re guaranteed to bump into a lot of the international students.

Education

Academics wise, I found the subjects I undertook (Public International Law, Introduction to German Private Law, Commercial Space Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Labour Law and International Criminal Law) to be challenging throughout the semester, but I was still able to travel nearly every weekend without worrying about failing. Overall, I achieved great grades at the end considering how much traveling and partying I did in between.

Accommodation

I stayed at a student residence known as Ulmenweg. If you are attending Mannheim, I highly recommend Ulmenweg if you are a sociable person as many international students live here and it’s fantastic for meeting people and always having someone to hang out with.

My room had everything I needed, plus a sink and then a shared shower, toilet and kitchen area. The only downside with Ulmenweg is that it is considered to be in the “countryside” as it is a 15-minute tram ride from the city. The tram stop is right out the front of the residence and if you have a bike it’s also a mere 15-minute bike ride. So, really not an issue at all.

BBQ at Ulmenweg

Ulmenweg also has outdoor bbq’s which are great in warm weather, a music room and a party room which has party’s every Wednesday and Sunday night. For groceries, there are 3 nearby supermarkets within a 10-minute walk of the residence and also very very cheap.

Cost of Living

Mannheim is INCREDIBLY cheap. Travel wise, Mannheim has a major bus and train station so it is unbelievably easy to travel from here and being centrally located in Europe it’s easy to get to anywhere from here.

The highlights of my exchange were all the friendships I made, how much I got to travel because it was SO easy and how cheap it was to live in Mannheim. I felt like I got to experience so much more because of how cheap it was and how easily I could catch a bus to the next country and spend the weekend in Paris.

Tips and Advice

A struggle I had to overcome was having an extremely messy and inconsiderate housemate. Unfortunately, you cannot choose who you live with if it’s a student residence so hopefully the odds are in your favour.

If you’re deciding on whether or not to apply for exchange, just do it. After spending a week in Mannheim I had made the decision to extend my exchange from one semester to two. It was the best decision of my life, the experiences I’ve had will have an impression on me forever and I’m so grateful for all the amazing friends made.

Overall, without a doubt the best year of my life so far. I have so much love for Mannheim and I could not recommend it more highly. The people, the crazy events and parties hosted by the university are what made it such a fun and unforgettable experience. I made so many friends, traveled 18 countries and passed all my subjects with only a little concern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living like a Local in Kassel

Xaythavone Phommachanh, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Doing exchange abroad is one of my favourite opportunities that I could do while being in university. On July 2018, I took a journey to Germany to participate in an exchange program called International Summer University (ISU)– Kassel. This was my very first trip to Europe and Germany and I was excited and looking forward to it. Eventually the very first day arriving Germany came, it took some time to travel from the Frankfurt airport to the city of Kassel where the exchange program took place.

The city of Kassel is a small city where everything is pretty much easily accessible by trains, trams or foot, for example, stores, cafes, restaurants, museums, parks and so on. The University of Kassel, main campus, is situated not far north from the city centre. There are many tram stops around the university so it is very convenient to travel to study from the city and also outer suburbs. The main campus is large in terms of area. There are many buildings, namely the library, central canteen, study areas, etc. and my most favourite building of them all is, and I think you know what my choice will be, Zentralmensa or Central Canteen. This is because they serve cheap and good food, but you need to know how the Zentralmensa works so that you will get all the benefits.

Cheap and good food on campus

Throughout the program, I found that it was very well organised, educational and enjoyable. Staff and other participants were very kind, caring, cheerful and friendly. The program offered a German language course and a variety of seminars for participants to choose. Along with all those on-campus components of the program, the participants were also offered off-campus and extracurricular opportunities, for example, field trips in order to improve participant understanding about the chosen seminar topics and movie night or BBQ gathering to maximise the cultural experience of all participants. Furthermore, there are also recreational trips like a trip to Berlin, Fritzlar (a small historic town) and hiking trips, to name a few.

Recreational trip to Berlin

The cultural experience of the trip was maximised through extracurricular activities.

As the time of applying for this ISU program in Kassel, there was one aspect of the program that stood out and interested me to participate, and that was the opportunity to stay with a German family, they were really great at helping out with transitioning to the German culture. By spending time with them, I learned a lot about them and also the things that only the locals know best. I have to admit that I did little research about Germany before actually going on exchange, but because of them, I felt that I did not miss many things that are expected to do in Germany. Fun Fact: they like Tim Tams a lot!

I recommend that everyone join this program.

Overall, the program is so good. I recommend everyone to join this program, International Summer University – Kassel. I am sure that you will have a good time here. 😊