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Mannheim Exchange 2014 Semester 1 – by Elise Crichton

I’ve been back in Adelaide for two days now and it already seems strange to think that not last week I was having dinner with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. Exchange is hard to sum up in words. I could say that it was the most amazing experience of my life, but that doesn’t seem to do it justice. It’s like a window into another world, filled with people from all walks of life and all areas of the world. I’d never met a person from Finland, Poland, Mexico, Czech Republic or Colombia and now I am lucky enough to call people from those countries my friends. And the list goes on and on – those are only a few examples of the nationalities that I was able to live with and get to know while on exchange. Possibly the strangest part of meeting so many people from different countries and of different ages was the fact that in so many ways, they were the same as I am.

The people are only one part of exchange though. The subjects that I was able to study were like a breath of fresh air. Not that studying law in Adelaide is uninteresting, but the international perspectives I was able to gain from studying subjects such as International Arbitration, International Petroleum law and an Introduction to German Civil Law (Einfuehrung in das Deutsches Zivilsrecht) have been invaluable. I now have the opportunity to undertake an internship with the SA Government thanks to the connections I made through one of these courses. It is very difficult to explain what I mean by an “international perspective” because it’s one of those wonderfully overused and clichéd phrases thrown around by aging secondary school principals attempting to be “hip” and “cool”, but I use it here with almost complete sincerity. I suppose what I mean by “international perspective” is that I have a new insight into how law works on an international level, and by extension, how the world works, politically, economically and socially.

It must be said that there is no way I could have gained the perspective I have without the combination of materials and people within the classes that I attended. Imagine sitting in a lecture with a lecturer from Thailand between a girl from Poland, a boy from Russia, with a Mexican boy in front and a Spanish girl behind. This was a reality, and it allowed myself and an entire roomful of people aged between 20 and 25 to understand more fully how interconnected and accessible the rest of the world actually is, and how important it is for us all to take advantage of how young we are, the time we have, and the way we can influence and learn from each other.

So when people ask me about exchange, and they already have in my two days back, I am still lost for words, and I think I will never have the words to explain how important this experience was for me. It is some comfort that though the people I met at Mannheim University spoke different languages, with words with different meanings, and even different alphabets, they will find it as hard as I do now to put into words how much their exchange meant to them, and how much it changed them. I can only stress now that it is an experience that cannot be underestimated, and one that every single student from every single nation across the world should have the opportunity to take part in, regardless of their area of study, colour, language, religion and economic background.

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