Today, June 1st, marks the two month milestone of when I came to Germany as an exchange student. Two months can be considered a short or long period of time depending on the person, but I want to tell you about my experience in Germany so far. I came to Bayreuth University not as a normal exchange student, but through the Local Summer Semester System that Hanyang University’s German Language and Literature Department offers. Seeing as this would be my first long distance flight experience, I double checked basic things such as how to transfer between flights. Before I knew it, living in Europe had become comfortable and second nature to me.
Bayreuth, the city I am studying in, is a peaceful and rural city. Every year, many people visit this city for the Wagner Festival. Recently, a local beer brand, Maisel’s Weisse, had their annual festival here. I wanted to closely observe the lifestyle of those living in a different culture and experience it firsthand. There are so many things I want to learn such as enjoying sunbathes on the grass on sunny days and having natural fluent conversations in German. I could see myself reacting the same way as the foreigners who come to Korea. I had to learn basic things like the Pfand system and how to eat the school lunch. Every time I faced with these situations, I felt like I had become a child again. Exkursionen time, a unique characteristic of our Department’s Local Summer Semester System, allows us to learn German history and culture by going on field trips to the museum or the suburbs. This Exkursionen time was very interesting and it felt like I was experiencing the past firsthand. This was all possible because I came to Germany.
However, being an exchange student, you have to start a new life in an unfamiliar place, away from family and your typical comfort zone. From grocery shopping to managing your daily life, it is not easy to understand things that are explained in a language completely foreign to you. Your daily routine becomes an endless cycle of looking up words on your cell phone and comparing them to the ones on the products in front of you. Luckily, racial discrimination is not that much of a problem here in Germany but it does rarely happen. However, for those who are planning to study abroad as an exchange student and are worried about racial discrimination, I want them to remember just one thing. If you have a sense of self-respect, there is no need to dwell on such matters.
Nevertheless, I think that going abroad as an exchange student for a semester is the best opportunity that one could come across as a university student. Getting away from familiar surroundings and immersing yourself in an entirely new environment is a fun and worthwhile experience, helping you gain a sense of maturity. I heard that the best way to learn a new language is to actually go to that country, and I think that is really true. Once you get there, you find yourself wanting to study hard and speak fluently in that language.
Two months have already passed since I came to Germany, but I am looking forward to the days that remain. I wonder how I am going to feel on my flight back to Korea. I hope to return to Korea reminiscing about the pleasant time that I had in Germany in addition to a tremendous improvement in my German. I imagine that I’ll be sad to leave Germany when the time comes.