My Experiences Abroad: Hello From the Other Side (of the Atlantic)

Tristan Kuehn - 3B Systems
Posted on: January 14, 2017

I am currently a little more than halfway through an academic exchange term in Germany. It has been an interesting, rewarding experience, and I would like to share a little bit about what it has been like. While I will try to keep it as general as possible, some of the things I discuss will be unique to Germany’s system, so keep that in mind.

When I arrived in town, my first goal was to find a place to live. I wasn’t particularly proactive about looking for a place before I left, so all I had to start was a room for a week. This posed a bit of a problem, because it’s hard to get anything administrative, like opening a bank account or registering for school, without an address. While my German isn’t perfect, I didn’t find it too hard to pick up the vocabulary to look through ads. Eventually, I found out that one of the recently renovated student residences had a few free rooms, so that was that!

The rest of the stuff I needed to do to get settled in was pretty easy. There’s an organization here dedicated to welcoming and helping international students, and I met someone there who was very friendly and helped me get through everything properly.

When it came to register for school, the stark differences between the educational systems in Canada and Germany became pretty clear. To my surprise, it’s a lot less organized in Germany. You don’t sign up for lectures, you just show up to the ones you’re interested in then sign up for exams toward the end of the term. Another key difference is that my entire mark for the courses I take here will come from the final exam. This led to pretty stress free experience for the first half, but now the pressure is on.

The lectures themselves are pretty much the same as what I would expect at Waterloo, just in German. You have lectures where the professors go through the course material, and tutorials where someone goes through example problems.

Socially, it’s easy to find other international people who are new in town and are looking for friends. Brunswick is a fairly small town, so I see a lot of friendly faces around town now. There are a lot of interesting things to see and do in the region, too. A lot of towns have old castles that you can see, and the transit is really good, so it’s easy to travel the region and take in the sights. There are also a lot of places to sit down and grab a drink, which also tends to be a little cheaper than in Canada.

Stay tuned for next month, when I’ll talk a little more about my experiences!