Economics major, studied abroad in Mannheim, Germany for an academic year
Reasons for Going
My choice to go to Mannheim, Germany, for a year was a culmination of several factors. I had always had an interest in going abroad, and I had known that I wanted to study on exchange since I entered UNCG. Until I landed on German soil, I had never been off the east coast of North America. I had always loved German culture and the German language but had never studied it. When I discovered I could go to Germany with limited German proficiency (ie. practically none whatsoever!), my mind was made up. I chose Mannheim, because I wanted to greatly improve my German language while still taking subject-area courses in English. I felt Mannheim had a good mix of both German language courses as well as course offerings in English.
I lived in a university-owned residence on Hafenstraβe, which housed a great deal of international students and was located beside a canal. I could see the Neckar River as well as the city of Mannheim from my bedroom window and the city of Ludwigshafen as well as the canal from my kitchen window. I shared my double room with another international student and our flat (consisting of a kitchen, two toilets, and two showers) with nine other students, German and international. Hafenstraβe was less than ten minutes by bus from most university buildings, though I could also walk to class or into the city center.
Upon arrival, I took a German proficiency test that placed me into a certain level of German. For the next four weeks I was in an intensive German language course, called Sommerakademie. During this class, and then during my two semesters in Mannheim, my German language skills vastly improved. Within my year abroad I was able to take seven more German language courses after my Sommerakademie course. These courses were designed for international students, so I was able to meet many students from all over the world.
I met German students through the subject-area courses I took at the University of Mannheim. In some courses I was the only international student, and I found many German students were particularly interested in my viewpoint. I also met German students through joining a student organization called VISUM that aimed to bring together Germans and internationals.
I lived in the international dorm at UNCG the year prior to studying at Mannheim and made many friends from Europe while living there. I was able to see them several times throughout the year (and got to do a fair bit of travel as well!!) I used a Eurail pass to see Antwerp in Belgium. Air travel is very inexpensive, so I traveled to England and visited London, Manchester, and Liverpool. I also visited Paris, Salzburg, Austria; Dublin, Ireland; and Barcelona, Spain. At the end of the year, I toured Italy with my family (going to Rome, Florence, and Venice). I also traveled all around Scotland, including Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh,Glasgow and Stirling.
Within Germany, I was able to travel to Hamburg (a trip I helped organize through the VISUM program), as well as Schwetzingen, Berlin and Frankfurt. I also attended several rock concerts, including Rock im Park in Nuremberg.
Studying abroad was the most rewarding experience of my life. I was able to forge and maintain relationships with so many wonderful and different people. While in Mannheim I met so many wonderful people, both German and international, who I became incredibly close to. My world is now a great deal smaller; going abroad is no longer a question of whether or not I will do it again, but if it could come any sooner!