Walking across campus on the last day of school I was filled with mixed emotions. I was happy that I would be home soon, but sad that I would not be with my friends anymore. I missed my family and friends back home, but spending three months with fellow students lets you to get to know each other and become close friends. Friends that tell each other what they think, how they feel and have fun together. I felt that at the end of the semester everyone was my friend. As a student in Business courses group work is a major part of the assignments, in performing group activities we all realized each other abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, when we were assigned specific tasks we all knew who would be the best candidate for the job. This is important skill when working in the business environment to be able to recognize the best person for the job. Standing and presenting in front of the class can be intimidating, but by presenting daily it becomes more natural and not as nerve racking. I used to be nervous standing in front of the class, but this experience has helped me to overcome my fear.
The last day of school we had two exams in Money and Currency and Macroeconomics so I was also very nervous, I had studied a lot but exams always make me nervous. It was a two-hour time frame for both. When the exam was over I was relieved of my stress and I could feel a weight lifted of my shoulders. At that moment, I realized that this was the last time I would be at school, the last time I would see my friends and the last day that I would be living in Germany. I had become a custom to living there so leaving it all behind made me very sad. I think that it just takes time to adjust to any new surroundings in order to adapt to change. Adapting is a good skill to have, to be able to adjust to change because not everything stays the same, things are always changing. Coming back home I also had to adapt to change even though I am from the United States and have lived here all my life, I had been living in another country for three months and became a custom to everything there. For an example walking everywhere, I did that in Germany but now that I am home I don’t walk as much. I enjoyed walking you can see, hear and smell a lot more when you walk vs drive and it is healthy to walk. It was convenient to walk in Germany because almost everything is within walking distance, that is not the case where I live, everything is spread out. The train is something that I don’t experience anymore because we don’t have them where I live. I miss taking the train because I don’t have to drive and I save money, the train costs less than driving. Also, while you are on the train you can read, listen to music or talk to someone new. I also don’t see as many bakery’s here in America, I think there is only one bakery in my hometown, there are around six or seven in Bad Mergentheim that have good bread and donuts. (yum)
The last few days in Germany I was reflecting on everything that has happened in the past three months, all the school work, activities and trips. The school provided us with many fun and educational trips such as Berlin, Frankfurt and a local brewery. I still just can’t believe that I lived in Bad Mergentheim, Germany for three months, I never thought that would be possible. I used to think that Europe was a different world out of reach, now I think it’s the same world with just distance between them. Of course, the U.S.A. and Germany have different structures, laws, customs and language but we are all in the same world. We are all similar people that were just raised in different parts of the world.
My fellow students had some of the same interests as me even though we grew up in different parts of the world. They liked riding bicycles, dancing and listening to American music just like me. I used to think that Germans listened to German music so when I heard them listening to the same American music I did I was surprised. All my classmates were nice and respectful to one another and I learned from them. They would tell me some of their customs, how they celebrate holidays and tell me why they do certain things. In American schools, we clap at the presenter, but it Germany you knock on the table, this was different for me but fun. The professors all had a unique style in which they taught the lessons by, but they were all great teachers that truly cared about the students and encouraged learning. I like a variety of teachings styles because I learn different information that way. All the faculty at the DHBW will help the students in any way they can, this is comforting to an international student when they don’t know where to go or how to do something. I just want to thank everyone at the DHBW for making this experience so great for me.
My German professor had us play a word matching game by pairing up two words that were opposite such as Heiß (hot) and Kalt (cold) which is supposed to help you remember the words. It was fun and I do think that it helped me remember the words and their definitions. Our Marketing professor showed us some funny advertisement and commercials from the past, this was fun and broke up looking at PowerPoint slides and group activities. Our Money and Currency professor took us to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany this excursion was an enjoyable inside look on how the bank operates, we sat and listened to the bank representative with other college students and could ask questions. When in Frankfurt we also went on top of the Main Tower building and took pictures and we went on a bus tour of the city. We had some free time so me and my friend went shopping and I bought some Birkenstocks, they are more affordable in Germany then at home.
On the last day of school after the final exam, I had one hour to grab my things and get on the train to Frankfurt then fly to Madrid, Spain. I had planned my trip a few months before I went and have always wanted to go and visit Spain. On that day, I wanted to go but at the end of the three months I was so exhausted I just wanted to relax. As you may know traveling is fun but very tiring with the many lines you stand in, carrying all your heavy luggage with you and taking different forms of transportation such as trains, buses and planes. I was going alone because everyone else had different plans. Being solo is not as much fun because you don’t have someone to talk to and go places with. Yet, I think that traveling alone is something everyone should do at least once, I feel that by doing this it makes a person aware of their fears, strengths and abilities. I used to be afraid to travel alone even though I am an extravert and can start a conversation with anyone. By stepping out of your comfort zone a person can realize what they enjoy doing because they have never tried it before. This experience has also made me more self-reliant and less dependent of others. Living in a foreign country and not being fluent in the native language you can’t always ask questions, so you are forced to figure it out by yourself. When I did that, it built up my self-confidence and felt good that I figured it out with nobody’s help.
I am an outgoing person; I can just start talking to strangers that soon become friends. On my flight to Spain the plane was late taking off, so I started talking to the young lady sitting next to me and before I knew it we were instant friends. She was a student from Paris, France but worked and lived in Frankfurt, Germany. We talked about our family, careers and shoes (yes shoes), she told me that she liked them a lot and owned hundreds of pair of shoes, it was fun I had never known anyone with that many shoes. I was very glad to have met such a nice person on the plane. Because the plane arriving in Madrid two hours late I was not able to get the rental car since their office was closed for the night. Me and my new friend were still walking together, she had booked a hostel in Madrid for the night, she called and they had a bed available for me. We shared the cost of the taxi which was 30 euros from the airport, which I thought was expensive but I don’t take taxis very often so I don’t know the going rate. The taxi driver tried to charge us more money, but a lady from Spain had told me earlier that the cost is 30 euros from the airport. When he said 38 euros, I said no it’s only 30 euros, so that is what we paid him, he was just trying to get more money from us. The taxi experience was not a great first impression of Spain, but that was just one person. The hostel was nice but the best part was the service, the owners were very hospitable helping us with our luggage and giving us a bottle of water, which is like gold when you are in Spain in July -it is very hot. The next day I took a cab back to the airport and got my rental car, it was a little yellow five speed European economy car. It was fun to drive, I drove from Madrid, Spain to Seville, Spain. This is about 532 Kilometers distance, thank goodness the car had air conditioning. It was around 32 degrees Celsius. The drive was nice but you only see the highway. I got to Seville and went on a tour of the Cathedral of Spain, it was very beautiful. While in Spain I walked a lot, one of the photos is me standing in front of the beautiful Canal de Alfonso on a pier above the water. People are nice in Spain, I asked a lady walking by if she would take my picture for me, then a little bit later a couple asked me to take their picture. I was glad that we could all help each other. Something that I am going to miss in America is all the beautiful Cathedrals and old buildings that are in Europe. After the Cathedral, I got some lunch and went to my air B&B that I booked, it was nice but far away from the main part of town. Location is very important especially when walking around. I parked the car in a parking garage because finding a parking place in Spain is very challenging. A little advice when traveling, make sure where you are staying is not too far from what you want to see. A lot of time is wasted walking to and from when you can be looking at new and exciting things. Planning is also very crucial when you have a small amount of time, making an itinerary is a good idea. For me each new place that I visit is an adventure to experience unfamiliar places.
I have noticed that since I have returned home I am more organized in my daily tasks and faster at making decisions. Sometimes in life and work a decision must made right away, so having the ability to think quick on your feet is a good skill to have. I have been applying for jobs and they usually ask what types of skills and abilities that you have, so this process has helped me know what I am good at and the things that I need to work on. My experience in Germany was a very good one, it allowed me to live and experience a different part of the world.
After returning home, I have realized that the way of life in the United States is different than in Germany. The work vacations in Germany are amazing, if I remember correctly I think they get approximately six weeks of paid holiday per year. The most I ever received in the United States was two weeks a year. I think this is a well-thought-of idea for an employer to do because it lets the employee have time to relax and spend with family so when they come back to work they are fresh and ready to work.
I am so appreciative that Oregon State University is partnering with the DHBW in Germany, living and going to school in Germany was a life changing experience for me. I was able to enhance my cross-cultural communication and gain learning from a diverse student body culture. If anyone is considering being an international exchange student I would say, “go for it” you will not regret it. You will have great experiences and gather lifelong friends. I am so glad that social media like Facebook exists so I can keep in touch with my friends in Europe.
What I miss
Now that I am back home I miss my friends there; I miss going to school, I miss the beautiful architecture and I miss the beer in Germany. I met a lot of wonderful people in Germany and the other countries that I visited. I am happy that I took this opportunity in becoming an international exchange student. It has opened my eyes to the differences in the countries and culture. Intercultural management was one of the courses we took during our ten-week long semester. I think that it was my favorite course because it was easy to relate behaviors and situations to. It was also the best grade that I received while attending the DHBW probably because I liked it and was eager to learn more about culture. Going to school from 9-5 can be exhausting but I enjoy learning and experiencing new things. There are some holidays in Spring where everything is closed including school. There is a reason that Germany is known to have good beer. I drank some beer while living in Germany and I must say that as a person that enjoys the taste of beer, Germany is by far the best tasting beer. I also drank it warm which at first I thought it would be gross but it was good, I even got to the point where I thought it was better drinking it warm. In Germany, you can have a beer at McDonalds with your Big Mac, but I didn’t do that because I went there on my lunch break from school. I am going to miss the sound of the bell at the church next door to the campus; I never hear bells going off where I live. I am glad that I took a video of the bell, that way when I miss it I can just play the video. My experiences that I have had at the DHBW and in Europe are going to be remembered and cherished for my lifetime.