It’s been a month of challenges, opportunities and plenty of learning experiences! Moving to Germany for my third year of university has had its ups and downs, but I’ve learned many lessons along the way,. Between the bureaucracy, moving into my new residence, travelling, meeting new people and trying to fit in time to stay in touch with friends and family at home, I have been very busy settling into my new life.
I arrived in Munich on the morning of September 25, 2018 where I spent a week completing many bureaucratic steps with the help of my mom. Looking back, arriving a week early was very helpful, as I was able to complete my bureaucratic process without being too rushed, while also enjoying visits to Oktoberfest and tours around Munich. On September 4, I moved into my Studentenwohnheim (student residence) in nearby Augsburg, explored my new city, registered for classes and started school on October 15. I made a little extra time so I could travel to Füssen, Berlin, Dachau, Oberstdorf and some other small towns in Southern Bavaria.
Since beginning school in Augsburg, I’ve noticed that my transition into German culture was not as difficult as I expected. I find that this is due in large part to German culture and its similarities to my own personal values – efficiency, sustainability, family and work – all of these things are of utmost importance to the German people and it translates in everything they do. However, living abroad has come with a series of challenges that I have never encountered before. I have therefore tried to remain mindful of some things as I venture through my new surroundings:
You will never be fully prepared for every situation, and that’s okay!
I’ve always believed in the idea that “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Since Bavarian school starts in early October, I used my free month to plan every last detail of my German bureaucratic process. I purchased a large file folder where I kept all my required documents to easily access during all of my meetings, I spoke to former exchange students about their experiences and I watched nearly 50 Youtube videos about bureaucracy and life in Germany. A lot of this preparation ended up being very helpful in many ways, but there were many instances where I had to accept the fact that I was no longer in control and really had to “play it by ear.”
Recognize your accomplishments
I remember my first week in Augsburg, I would get so nervous when ordering a meal at a restaurant, that I would often try to revert to English just to avoid embarrassment (which didn’t always work in my favour as most people speak solely German). Reflecting on that and realizing that small tasks like buying groceries and ordering coffee don’t make me so incredibly nervous now are little accomplishments I pride myself on.
Take advantage of every opportunity
At Uni Augsburg, all international students are involved in the “Tutoren Program”. This is an incredible opportunity to help incoming students settle in to their new settings. International students are paired with “tutors” (which are German students that have recently completed an exchange abroad) to help incoming students navigate the bureaucratic process, course registration and overall adjustment to life in Germany. I can wholeheartedly say that this program was absolutely amazing and I can’t imagine my first few days here without my tutor. She gave me a tour of the city, helped me move in to residence, assisted me with applying for my residence permit and so much more. Having that support in such a stressful time was amazing, and as the semester progresses she is still always willing to help me out.
On a similar note, seizing opportunities to make friends while abroad has been a vital step in building my support system. Making friends for me was a direct result of going out and trying my best to meet new people. As most students at my university live in single room dorms, it’s very important that I step outside my comfort zone and take advantage of all social events, sports teams and invites that were offered to me.
One thing I learned is that making an effort to seek out every opportunity and engage with other students from all over the world is one of the most eye-opening and endearing things you can do for yourself. Each day on exchange affords the potential to learn so much – whether that be from your new friends, your classes or even the environment you’re living in! It’s so important to take advantage of these unique opportunities to widen your perspective.
Ask for help!
During my first week of orientation, I experienced bouts of homesickness and overall sadness that I thought would never go away. It often seems easier to keep these kinds of feelings inside, but when you realize that everyone is going through the same thing, it becomes much easier to share your struggles. For example, the day after my mom left Germany, I felt completely lost as she was my last connection to my “normal” life in Canada. I ended up meeting up with some new friends that evening, and we were discussing our first few days at school. Little did I know, their moms had left the same day and we were all going through the same thing! Chatting openly about these feelings helped us understand that we were all in this together.
Another thing I found very helpful was to communicate with friends at home when you’re feeling down. I often found myself feeling so much better after chatting with my family and friends over the phone, as it serves as a reminder that there’s a community of people back home prepared to support you.
As students, we have embarked upon a unique experience realized by few people our age. As is always the case when one does something unusual, there will be high and low moments, some so low you will ask yourself why you ever thought this was a good idea in the first place! In these moments, it’s important to think about what an amazing accomplishment it is to be living this experience, and be mindful of the unique happiness one can only derive from an experience where they conquered uncertainty and challenged their normal way of life.
I am looking forward to sharing more as my school year progresses! Tschüss!
Christiana is a third-year Bachelor of International Business student studying abroad in Germany.
More News Posts
Sprott faculty awarded promotion and distinguished appointments
Several members of the Sprott School of Business faculty have been recognized by Carleton University for their important contributions to teaching, research and their profession. Congratulations to the following faculty... More
MBA Shanghai students compete in race across remote desert in China
A team of 13 students and alumni of the Sprott MBA program in Shanghai raced through the Tengger Desert of Inner Mongolia in the eighth annual Asia-Pacific Business Schools Desert Challenge.... More
In the Homestretch
Student Blogs/Alex in Spain At the end of September, I remember being astonished at how long one month on the other side of the world felt. I was experiencing culture... More