Mays Business School, March 11th, 2015
March 3, 2015
So I’ve been here in Germany for a little over two months now, whoop! It didn’t take very long for me to begin calling this tiny town in Deutschland my home.
Getting here, however, was quite a struggle because I brought WAY too much stuff. Note to future exchange students: while there will be differences in the products and they may not have exactly what you prefer, you can buy most necessities once you get here! This includes clothes and toiletries etc. so don’t try to stuff your life into two large suitcases like I did…
I arrived at Frankfurt airport burdened with stuff but thankfully met up with another Aggie so we could travel together the rest of the way. After about two hours of lugging everything across the region by train and bus, we were finally standing by a grocery store in Vallendar. Here is a view of our little town of Vallendar from a bridge on the Rhein, on one of the few clear-sky moments:
My first impressions of the Rheinland were very positive. Everything is so lovely and rich with history. Castles dot the hills along the river and the villages and towns are bright with colorful homes. Beautiful cobblestone streets and decorative architecture make it easier to forget this cold, wet, wintery weather.
And we were off to a quick start! I arrived January 2 and we began classes the next week. First, we had our exchange welcome event where we spent the day doing not-so-fun administrative stuff like registering for classes, applying for a residence permit and learning the rules/common courtesies for our housing arrangements. And then classes and various events that allowed us to integrate better into our little community. [more details about classes in the next blog]
A few observations:
– Business hours are so limited as compared to the U.S. Not only the fact that nothing is open on Sundays (even grocery stores) but that shops and supermarkets close so early on every other day of the week. If I get the munchies at 10pm and forgot to go shopping that day, I’m out of luck. So it took some time to get used to planning out my food options ahead of time.
– Everyone speaks English so well (or at least all the students do). It can be difficult for me because I wanted to practice speaking German but many students prefer to use English when speaking with us Tauschies (nickname for exchange students J ).
– Transportation: I really like that everything is relatively close. Despite living in this tiny little town on the Rhein, I can just hop the bus to Koblenz (which is still pretty small!) for shopping and nightlife etc. Of course, the transportation costs begin to add up so getting a Banh card is worth it. As a native Texan, I am accustomed to traveling 6+ hours to visit family or go to the beach. Seeing as Germany is actually about half the size of Texas, everything is within reach. Even traveling to another country seems easy and convenient! So far I’ve been to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain and various cities within the country such as Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Cologne, and other smaller towns along the Rhein.
Homesickness and Making Friends:
That first week was a roller coaster of emotions! I went from being completely amazed and excited about being in Europe, to being depressed about the differences in culture and missing my friends and family. I think the key to adjusting quickly is finding a group of people with which to hang out and talk about it with!
Honestly, it took me a good two weeks to really figure out how to integrate myself here. Because I live farther away from campus than many other Tauschies, and I do not have a roommate, it was harder to make friends. Going to the exchange events that first week really allowed me to meet people and discover common points of interest. We went on a pub crawl, did a sort of activity-scavenger hunt in Koblenz, and went on a tour of the Rheinland region. These events were so much fun and also allowed me to make friends with native Germans!
Best highlight so far:
I have the chance to interact with other exchange students! I have already learned so much about different countries, languages and cultures from around the world and formed some wonderful friendships. The different worldviews that I have discovered are truly amazing and I cannot wait to continue growing and learning from my universal peers.