April – Exchange to the University of Heidelberg, Germany
Semester 2, 2016
On the 4th of October, after weeks of travel, I ventured to my university host city. Coming from Belgium I took a bus to Frankfurt where I would take a connecting bus to Heidelberg, the destination of my university. Frankfurt took me by surprise. While I was only there for a short amount of time, my first impressions of Germany were not quite what I expected. The part of the city I took the bus from was very industrial with many concrete buildings, not the typical Germany scenery I had prepared myself for. While it was beautiful in its own way, I began to worry about whether I had chosen the right host country after all.
On the bus from Frankfurt to Heidelberg I was filled with apprehension. However, quite pleasantly, my initial worries were proven wrong. Heidelberg is something out of a fairy tale. From the old style buildings in the old part of town, to the majestic 800 year old castle overlooking the city, I have truly never seen such a beautiful place. Unlike other parts of Germany most of Heidelberg’s infrastructure survived the damage of World War 2. Consequently, the buildings and architecture are stunning and quite traditionally German style. I can already say I am very much in love with this city.
Despite the beauty of the city, arriving in Heidelberg was still quite overwhelming. I arrived in my student accommodation without any house supplies besides a mattress, a desk and a bin. While I was exhausted from the journey here I had to quickly furnish my apartment so I could survive the night. Despite this unexpected difficulty, I was able to quickly adapt to the bus system to and from the town center and university. I am lucky enough to have an Aldi and REWE (German supermarkets) only two stops away from my apartment, as well as the Heidelberg zoo! These supermarkets stock all the things I will need to survive in Germany.
My initial thoughts on the food in Germany was love. One look around and you quickly learn that the Germans put sausages in everything and sell them everywhere possible. For example, when looking for a vegetable soup at the supermarket it was impossible to find any soup that did not contain bits of sausage in it. Another common cuisine is a Bretzels, a very salty, but delicious, bread pretzel. I’ve also fallen in love with strudel –a common pastry treat with berries, custard and biscuit pieces on top of pastry. I have also found that German beer is very different from beer back home, yet very delicious! All in all, it has not been hard at all to adapt to the German way of life.
In terms of the people, I have received many favorable comments because of my Australian heritage! Many people love Australia and are very curious about our culture and are keen to practice their English. However, it has not been the easiest process navigating and getting organized for University not knowing much of the German language. Most people will speak English but prefer to speak German, understandably. Germans are also very direct and efficient, which I am getting used to. Nevertheless, I have met some amazing people (not only from Germany) who I already know will be friends for life. I hope to quick pick up the beautiful language after studying it at University this semester.