It is hard to know where to start when trying to describe the experience of studying abroad. From the start there were so many things to take in, process, translate and get used to, and living in a foreign country instead of just holidaying takes some getting used to. When I decided to study for a semester at Augsburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, along with 6 other Falmouth students, I knew what to expect from the country as I had been to Germany many times and knew the language. However, A Level German was 3 years ago with little practice in the meantime. Still, it was exciting to be able to be able to go to a country which would be hotter in the summer and nearer to all the sights of Europe while actually getting given money for going.
On the surface, Germany doesn’t seem all that different from England. The differences, however, become apparent in daily life. We can get trams everywhere in the city, and you are never waiting more that 5 minutes for the next one. There are bakeries literally everywhere, and kebab shops are not the late night establishments we are used to, they are a regular feature in German fast food culture. The insecurity of whether or not we are allowed to cross the roads if the green man is not showing is still an issue, with our common sense saying the road is clear, but our inexperience with Bavarian culture making us question it.
The biggest and most obvious difference of all, however, is the language. As the only one with any knowledge of German out of the six of us, it was often left to me to try and get us through awkward language situations in various shops, restaurants and public transport. Luckily the local people are very helpful when it comes to struggling English students, as my unpractised German was quite limited. At the same time as feeling ignorant for not being fluent in the language of the country you are living in for half a year, there is also the sense of relief and security that the German people are much more proficient with English than we are in their language. This especially has come in helpful when starting our classes for the semester, as only 2 out of 5 of my classes are in English, however, the visual nature of studying Graphic Design means that this is not as much of a problem as it might be in other subjects. The classes themselves are of an entirely different makeup to the Falmouth course, which took some getting used to. The large choice of classes that we could take was overwhelming at first, but it opened us up to possibilities that wouldn’t have been as readily available in Falmouth. None of us have chosen all the same classes, so we are all experiencing different ways of teaching, working and workshops. This new way of approaching our studies has been refreshing and it has been exciting to think of the new skills we can acquire by being here.
There is another element of studying here that I hadn’t given much thought to before we arrived; the other Erasmus students. These are the people we live, drink and we explore Germany with. We have been to beautiful places like Munich, Ulm, Blautopf Lake and Neuschwanstein Castle. We experienced our first German beer festival together (it was amazing) and have learnt our favourite places to go in Augsburg. We have got used to German culture together, as well as learning about each other’s cultures. I have friends now from all around the world, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, America, Egypt, China, Korea as well as the slightly closer to home, Northern Ireland. A month and a half in I can definitely say I will be truly sad when it comes to leaving many of these people, but with a trip to South Carolina already in the works, hopefully it won’t be too long before these new holiday locations can be enjoyed.
This whole experience so far (with 3 and a half months left to go) has been unforgettable and entirely the right choice for me, and I can only hope that the rest of my time here will bring as many good memories as my time so far has.