Exchange at the University of Mannheim – By Ching Yang Ong

Before even realizing it, it is already the middle part of the semester. Looking back, I can still remember the complex feelings I had when I first arrived into Germany as an exchange student. Germany was the first non-English speaking country I have ever lived in, coming here was both equally exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had no clue whether I will be able to adjust into the German lifestyles quickly.

Now after a few weeks into the semester, I have pretty much settled in to my new home. Although different aspects of how Germans handle various daily situations sometimes still puzzles and frustrates me, I am gradually starting to understand how they handle things differently.

As a university student studying in Adelaide, I must admit the German university timetables are quite intense at first. Instead of 12 teaching weeks each semester, they have 14, with no breaks during the semester. The attendance requirements are also higher than back home, we are only allowed to miss two sessions for each subject. No credit points will be given to any student who missed more than two sessions. Another different thing of studying here in Germany is that sometime around the middle of the semester students have to register for exams, only students who registered beforehand will be able to sit in the exams. Late registrations will cost a small fortune. Failure to register for the exam not only means that you are not allowed to sit for the final exam, it also means that the course will not even show up in your transcript. I guess it is this way in Germany as unlike Australia, students are allowed to take the same course as many times as they wish, even if they have previously passed it.

Even though there are no breaks during the semester, it is not going to stop my plans of traveling to as many places in Europe as possible. Located virtually in the center of continental Europe, the city of Mannheim is great for traveling. Almost every weekend I signed up to student trips to different cities in neighboring countries. For instance, I went to on of the most popular themed parks in Europe, the Europapark; spent a nice day in the Swiss city of Zurich; saw the lion carved into a cliff in Lucerne; spent an entire weekend in the beautiful capital of the Czech Republic, Prague; meeting new people and making new friends in Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava, while admiring their old castles and architecture; tasting different traditional Swiss cheese and chocolates in the Swiss capital Bern and city Basel; cruising around the romantic canals of Venice; trying Italian pizzas in Florence; taking selfies with the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa; looking at fashion in Milan; or just taking a leisurely stroll along the streets of Mainz or Frankfurt… the list of my travel adventures goes on and on, it is going to take me weeks just to tell all the stories and funny things I have seen in all the places I have been to.

All in all, although a semester in Europe will definitely wipeout you entire savings, it is definitely worth it. Money spent on acquiring happy and unforgettable memories is money well spent. People can take away your money, but never your memories and experiences. To all my fellow students who are thinking about a semester abroad, stop thinking and apply now, Europe is definitely the best place to go.

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