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Consider A Semester in Germany

Marienplatz

Marienplatz in Munich, Germany

Where can you go to drive without a speed limit, legally drink beer on the sidewalk, and split a cab with a hedgehog? Munich, Germany, that’s where. I spent 10 weeks in Munich this summer, taking media classes and interning at a software development company making infomercials and logo designs.  This was made possible through a study abroad opportunity offered by E-Media and UC International known as the Munich Summer Curriculum or MSC. 

Somewhere between the unpolluted fresh air of Germany and the beer vending machine outside my office, I had a very good time. There were many trips as a class, including a tour of the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle and a trip to the Dachau Nazi concentration camp. One of the most eye-opening parts of my time in Munich was the visit to the White Rose Memorial at Ludwig Maximilians University, a commemoration to a group of anti-Hitler students at who were killed by the Nazis for speaking out. It’s truly an honor having learned in the same halls as those individuals. I’ll forever have memories of my experience in Europe, like the time I was shocked by an electrical fence while photographing sheep or the night I found a wild hedgehog and took him back to my dorm in a taxi after I missed the last subway.

Attending the MSC is surprisingly inexpensive, too. Not only is this one of the cheapest study-abroad opportunities available to students, but it also offers 9 credits applicable to the Electronic Media major or a number of other majors. Most programs grant students less than 9 credits, and many of them only 3. It’s a unique program, because it pairs 5 weeks of classwork with 4 weeks of an internship. Most programs offer classes or an internship, but never both. It’s also unique in that it is the only program offered through UC International that doesn’t require students to pay both the institution abroad and UC. Rather, LMU is the only school that students have to pay, which is really nice. But wait, there’s more! On top of all of this, UC International gives a scholarship to anyone studying abroad, as long as they complete a small project reflecting their experience. The amount of the scholarship depends on the quality of the student’s scholarship application essay. With all these reasons to go on the trip, it’s hard to say no!

With each passing day I had to learn something new the hard way, so here are some tips so that you can be more prepared than I was:

·       Consider not buying a temporary cell phone.

Almost everyone in my group bought a cell phone that could work only in Germany, but I didn’t. There were only a few times when it could have been useful, and others in my group regretted buying theirs.

·       Use ATMs to get cash. Don’t pay with a card.

ATMs will charge a flat fee, but most banks will reimburse the money. With international credit charges, however, a percentage-based fee is applied to the purchase cost, which is not reimbursable.

·       Don’t expect anything like American bars and clubs.

Some of the girls in my group really wanted to drink and dance at clubs. Germany is great for drinking, but the girls quickly discovered that Europeans don’t act the way we do in bars and clubs. In short, there is no dancing at bars, and clubs are virtually non-existent.

 ·       Use your laptop as a wifi hotspot.

 Your dorm will have ethernet access, but no wifi signal. Laptops have the ability to connect mobile devices to the Ethernet wirelessly, which is especially useful if you don’t have an activated phone.

 ·       Use the Viber app.

 This app lets you call or text anyone in any country using wifi, and it is actually a very well built app. I still use it to talk to friends I made while in Europe.

 ·       You can rent a car at 18 in Germany.

 I did it. I was 21, and I was able to rent a car and drive on the autobahn to a concert in Nuremberg. It was exciting to drive as fast as possible legally, even though I wasn’t allowed to rent any of the fast cars because of my age.

 ·       Drink lots of water, it’s hot.

 There is no such thing as air conditioning in Germany. Apparently, the summers there are not normally hot enough to need them, but it can still be pretty rough from June to August.

 ·       Don’t start a conversation in German if you can’t finish it.

You'll learn a small amount of German language when you arrive, but you might as well just forget it. If you try to speak in German, Germans will either speak so fast that you won’t understand a word or they’ll just speak English anyway because they can tell you’re having trouble.

·       Say goodbye to spice.

If you’re like me, you like spicy food. Well, Munich has none. In fact, even hot sauce over there is bland and weak. If you want real spice you’ll need to buy pure habanero sauce from a large grocery store, just so you know it will actually have a kick.

I assumed that living in a new country full of new people with endless things to talk about would be cool, but I never realized just how much I’d learn about the rest of the world, and about myself. Common things like buying groceries, driving (if you get the chance), getting a haircut, and even using a public restroom are so different that each simple task is a life-changing event. Everywhere you turn, you’re forced to adapt to a different way of thinking than your own, and after a while, you start to notice that some of those ways are much better than yours. They say that being cultured is important, but they aren’t completely right. Immersing myself in a handful of other cultures in Europe showed me that it’s not enough just to have culture; you need to experience as many cultures as possible. The real benefit of studying abroad is adjusting your ways of thinking to radically different ones, ultimately improving your own.

For more information about the MSC, please email Dr. Manfred Wolfram, E-Media Professor Emeritus and Head of MSC at wolframk@uc.edu.

Written by Tyler Harris, posted December 2013