Roswitha B. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
" I learned how to balance the challenges and responsibilities of independence with freedom and fun."
Exchange student at Heidelberg University, Germany
Studying German as a minor
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
I really learned a lot about myself and the world. Daily challenges brought struggles, but figuring out how to deal with them made me a wiser person.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
There are many similarities between Canada and Germany, and I didn't personally struggle with the culture, however a huge difference in Germany are business hours! Most shops, stores, services close quite early on weekdays, and many are closed completely during the weekend! (which means no weekend grocery shopping)
- Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your exchange?
I visited many cities within Germany, such as Berlin, Cologne, Mannheim, and Freiberg. It is quite easy to travel with local trains and busses. My favourite place in Germany has to be the Allgäu - a region in the southern province of Bavaria near the mountains. From countryside pastures, to quaint historic towns, everything there is very beautiful and picturesque.
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
I knew it would cost a lot to study abroad, and even though I was frugal, things like conversion rates can make adventures in Europe expensive for Canadians. Save up as much as you can for your time abroad and make sure to have a good plan regarding banking abroad.
- What was your best learning moment?
Over the course of my exchange I learned how to balance the challenges and responsibilities of independence with freedom and fun. It isn't really something I can teach you through words, rather it is something everyone needs to discover themselves, all I can do is tell you that it IS possible if you give it a TRY!
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
My dog. Unlike people, you can't really text, video call, or even explain to an animal that you will be going away for a while. When I was in Germany I really missed being able to go for walks with my dog, which made me feel quite stressed. So I started to just go for walks beside the fields nearby my residence which helped me relax and remember my dog.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
Heidelberg is a university city dominated by exchange students from around the world. In one of my classes I met a student from China and we ended up becoming really good friends. Her and I are still in contact today and strangely enough we still communicate with each other in German, since we don't speak each other's native languages.
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
The reward of studying abroad comes from what you make it, you'll never know what it could become until you try!
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
Of course learning German will make your life easier if you are in Germany, but most of the university staff, as well as most of the other students (and many German citizens too!) speak English to some degree. So don't worry if you have no, or limited, German language skills.
- Did you live on- or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
In Heidelberg there isn't really one 'campus' since the university buildings are spread out across the city. However, I lived in a student residence provided by the student services from the university. I recommend doing this because it ensures safe, affordable housing in a reasonable location compared to finding your own housing.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
Personal savings, summer job, travel scholarship. I also recommend adapting your lifestyle to agree with your budget, for example I almost never ate out at restaurants and made lunches at home EVERYDAY to save money so I could afford travelling on weekends.
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
Since German is only my minor degree, I don't have much opportunity to take fun courses. However while I was abroad my favourite course was "Creative Writing" (in German of course)! It was super interesting, because we didn't practice boring grammar and language structure, rather we got to read, write poems and stories which helped enrich my vocabulary in a new way.
- How are you including exchange on your resume?
I believe an exchange counts as some form of experience, if you are learning a language as well that is another valuable skill.
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to provide to future study abroad participants?
You can do it!