Tschüss Tübingen!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Semester

Angelina is studying abroad at the University of Tubingen with her German and International Relations degree at Reading. Her semester abroad has come to an end, so we catch up to see what she has been up to!

The saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ is so relevant when you’re on your year abroad. My semester in Tübingen is already over and it still feels like it was yesterday when I arrived at my halls with two big bags in tow. Now my room is empty and my flat has been cleaned and then it finally hits, that this time I’m leaving and not coming back.

Unlike the British three term system most German universities follow a two semester system, Winter and Summer. At the end of each Semester students in Germany get around two months off, one starts in August and the other starts in February. This is often the time where many students spend time writing essays as well as travelling. February in Tübingen is exam season just like in Reading the library was very full. Here to be able take part in an exam you have to register for it online which is very different from exams in Reading as well as this during my exams there were no invigilators but this might be different depending on what course you take.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Semester

During my semester here one of my modules was a German film seminar. In this seminar we watched a wide range of different Germans throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century. After we had all finished our exams for our last film the lecturer had arranged for us to watch a film in one of the small independent cinemas in Tübingen. The cinema itself was very different to the big commercial cinemas that exist, small, quaint and quite old fashioned and was connected to a little bar where we could buy drinks to take with us into the cinema, it was a really nice experience especially for our last class together.

When you go on a study abroad, it is really worth it to try and fill your weekends with lots of different things and to see lots of different places. On one of my weekends I met up with some friends from Reading who are also on a year abroad in Germany. We met up in Düsseldorf which is in the Rhineland region of Germany where one of my friends was studying. Düsseldorf was also a really nice place to visit and we spent the day catching up and eating German food. A lot of German cities have notable television towers but not all of them are accessible to the public. Fortunately the one in Düsseldorf is, so we went to the top and the views were amazing. At the very top of the television tower there is a restaurant where we had ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ (coffee and cake) which is kind of like the German equivalent of a cream tea. What was really special about the restaurant was that whilst you were sitting down the restaurant actually slowly spun around so within an hour you had seen 360 views from the tower. That was something that I’d never experienced before.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Semester

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Semester

Some of the other places that I have recently visited which are a bit closer to Tübingen is a small town called Bönnigheim. Bönnigheim is a wine producing town and it was unusual for me to see all the vineyards covered in snow because you don’t really associate vineyards with colder climates. Talking of colder climates I finally made it to the German mountains and Neuschwanstein Castle which had been on my bucket list for quite some time. Neuschwanstein Castle looks like it is straight out of a fairytale but unfortunately the bridge to the side of the mountain where most of the famous pictures are taken was closed because it was too icy. Not too far away from Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Bavaria is Germany’s highest peak which you can reach by a cable car that goes all the way to the top, as expected the views were incredible and made up for the freezing temperatures. Definitely a good place if you happen to be a skier.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Semester

And with that I’m on the train leaving, thanks for having me Tübingen, it’s been a pleasure. Till next time.

Angelina

Missed Angelina’s last post? Catch up here: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/reading-abroad/2017/01/14/already-half-way-through/

 

 

All the Highs and the Lows

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Tom is currently studying abroad at the University of Geneva with his French and Economics degree at Reading. We catch up with him half way through his year abroad in Switzerland! 

So much has happened in the past 5 months that I don’t think it’s possible to capture it all in writing. It’s been a semester that’s had some serious highs and equally some serious lows, but ultimately my time here so far has been an experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.

It would be best to start off with the university; I have found the learning dynamic to be far different from Reading. Sure enough the classes and lectures follow a similar format to that of back home, but the feeling of a unified student community is lacking. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that the University of Geneva is not situated on a campus – the buildings are instead spread out across the city. This means that as you head to a lecture it feels as if you are going to a job, this is amplified by the general hard-working attitude of Swiss students who are reluctant to socialise before and after class. Lastly there are very few societies that students can join making it difficult to branch out past the Erasmus group. In general the courses are quite demanding but also very engaging. Learning in French has proven difficult, as although I’m able to understand the material the problem is being able to retain information in French.

The bulk of the “lows” that I have faced are thanks to my accommodation. When I arrived I was renting a room in a house that was simply too far from the centre/university, a 30-minute uphill cycle ride home each day put me in great physical shape but left me feeling disconnected from everyone. After a month and a half I moved to a room that was perfectly situated but then I shortly realized that living there was not an option – an old and smelly single mattress tucked up in the corner of a room in an apartment owned by a heavy pot-smoker who had the TV on full volume until 2am most nights made me feel very uneasy and it took a serious toll on my studies. I was then able to sub-let a room in the student residence whilst I awaited the move into my official room there as of the next semester – this came as a relief as I was surrounded by students in a comfortable and secure atmosphere.

My favourite part of this YA so far has been the sheer amount of travelling that myself and friends have been doing. So far I have visited Zurich, Lyon, Budapest, Rome, and Barcelona as well as day trips to other neighbouring towns in France/Switzerland. This has been wonderful as you are with a group of people who share the same enthusiasm to get out there and discover things. To fund all these activities I have secured a job as a babysitter for a Swiss family; the children are exhausting, but they often (indirectly) help by correcting my French which is something that adults refrain from out of politeness. At the start of January I volunteered in an independent film festival called “Blackmovie”, it was really fun to take part in something that I usually wouldn’t consider doing in the UK and I was able to make a connection with a few of the locals.

With the coldest days of winter behind me and a new semester on the horizon I am thrilled to see what the next few months will bring.

Tom 

Missed Tom’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/reading-abroad/category/switzerland-study-abroad/

 

 

Just the start of Studying Abroad in Denmark

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

Lewis has just moved to Denmark to start his study abroad Semester at Aarhus University as part of his English Language and Literature degree at Reading. Just a week or so in, read on to find out how he’s getting on!

Aarhus has recently been declared the cultural capital of Europe, and this is evident in the mass portrayal and acceptance of many different countries cuisine. This is apparent in the Aarhus “street food” market which contains all different types of food, ranging from ‘Jamaican Jerk Chicken’, ‘Mexican Burritos’, ‘Chinese Duck’, curries and French Crepes. This is a really wide variety of food that shows the wealth of culture present in Aarhus. But to top off this creativity the whole market is built inside an un-used bus station. The stalls themselves are built and set up inside old ship yard containers. This means the theme of the Aarhus “street food” market is to not only re-cycle but to re-use old things and provide back for the public. The food as well was really cheap about 30 krona which exchanges to roughly £3.00. This makes it an ideal place for a student to grab a quick and easy lunch and when you are done, you have to wipe your own table with the disinfectant and towels dotted around the seating area.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

This is me outside my house in Denmark, the houses here have a cottage feel as they are small and are packed with essentials from the university such as pans, plates, cutlery to chopping boards and cups. I did not need to buy anything apart from food as it was all provided by the University! It’s not as cold as you think it is here, all though many will disagree but if you come prepared like I did by bringing a thermal coat, hat and scarf you can easily survive the cold weather. There are many nationalities that come to Aarhus to study but in my house I have 2 Canadians, one Australian and one American. So the university put me with fellow English speaker which made it easier to talk and joke with each other.

My lectures at the university were not what I was expecting. I thought I would be in a class of all international students, and this belief was further enforced by the fact my lecture was in English, so I assumed the class of 24 students in my literature course had different nationalities and they were learning in the common language of English. So when I got put in a group I asked them if they were German as I heard them speaking to each other. They looked at me shocked and one of them said “no, we are Danish”. I was, and still am, shocked to learn that I was in a Danish majority English Literature class, with only 4 other international students. The fact the students were all conversing with the lecturer in English for an English literature module shows the high level of language skills many of the Danish actually possess.

This is a short blog of my time so far in Denmark, I have only been here for one week but I have already learnt so much about the culture of Denmark and its history. I expect I will learn much more in my weeks to come.

Lewis

Whirlwind end to Study Abroad

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

Ellis is studied abroad at Aarhus University in Denmark as part of his Psychology degree at Reading. Although Christmas seems a long time ago already, he looks back on the end of his semester abroad. 

My last month of studying abroad has been a whirlwind; as I approach the end of term and the holiday season, I’ve been overwhelmed by an array of social and academic activities.

Christmas seemed to start early in Denmark, with the holiday season being marked by the release of the Christmas beer (which happens on the first day of November). From this point onwards, you could see the arrival of the Christmas market and can expect to receive invitations to traditional Danish Christmas dinners. I had no idea what to expect from a traditional Christmas dinner, all I was told is to bring my own dish and expect to get very drunk… At these dinners, there was an array of different foods: meatballs, pickled cabbage, fish, potatoes and breads, to name a few. For desert, it was a kind of rice pudding with a twist – in the large bowl of pudding was a single, whole almond. Whoever found the almond first would win a prize, but the only way to find the almond was to eat all the rice pudding. Everyone was desperately polishing of their plates and asking for another, keen to find this sacred almond – it was rather amusing! Another key feature of this tradition was ‘Schnapps’. This is a strong alcohol that everyone shots throughout the evening; by the end of the dinner everyone feels so bloated and drunk. But alas, the evening is not complete without playing different games and dancing off all the calories that have been consumed earlier. To sum it up, it was a fulfilling (mentally and physically) tradition, with plenty of laughter and some great company – which can only be described as ‘hygge’.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

As December arrived and the end of term approached, I was set all my university assignments. For each of my three classes I was required to write a 3000 word essay based on the material covered throughout the term. What I liked about these assignments was that the subject of the essay was relatively flexible – you could choose to write about whatever interested you most that term.  This is something which I hadn’t previously been able to do in my degree, and I really liked this as it allowed you to develop your own interest further and come up with original and creative ideas.

Although the end of term was a lot of fun, I was hit by one of the hardest things about studying abroad: saying goodbye. Over the past 4 months I had met the most amazing people and had unforgettable experiences that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Facing reality and leaving it all behind was emotional. I knew that my friends were all going back to different parts of the world and that I wouldn’t be able to see them again as easily as just hoping on the number 13 bus. However, I found solace in the quote: ‘don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’.

Ellis

Missed Ellis’ first blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2jzJBF1

Learning Danish on the Football Pitch

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

Simon is studied abroad at Aarhus University in Denmark as part of his Psychology degree at Reading. It’s been a while since his semester abroad ended at Christmas, but here’s his final blog post from his study abroad experience. 

The 18th of November started much the same as any other day; I woke up, had breakfast and brushed my teeth. I sat down, opened up my laptop and ping an email arrived from Study Abroad with the subject, ‘Coming to an end’. Time had flown by and this email began the long goodbye.

The next few weeks were full of work, goodbyes, Christmas celebrations and promises to stay in touch. A particular highlight was the Julefrokost (Christmas party) with my football team. One of the first things I did when I arrived in Aarhus was to sign up for the university football team. I knew this would be a great opportunity to meet lots of people and get a closer insight into Danish life. It was everything I’d hoped for. Almost everyone on my team was Danish, there were only two international students including me! This meant that everyone spoke Danish all the time. It was difficult at first, although they would easily translate for me. However, by the end of my stay I could (pretty much) understand what was being discussed in the tactics and knew basic phrases to use during games. I was trying to learn Danish in class, but I’m sure I picked up more of the language on the football pitch!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

At the end of the season we had a Julefrokost, which is a traditional Danish Christmas party. This consists of an extremely long meal and copious amounts of schnapps (one of the worst drinks I’ve tried).  It was brilliant and incredibly Danish. The first dish consisted of pickled herring, curry salad and of course rye bread. Each person had to stand up, give a speech and then afterwards everyone had a shot of schnapps. Bearing in mind that there were 30 people at this event it’s safe to say my memory blurs towards the end of the night. The overriding feeling at the end of the night was a sense of friendship and gratitude that they had welcomed me into their traditions so readily.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Denmark for a Semester

More Christmas parties and more goodbyes followed. This was interspersed with the need to try and do some work to make my deadlines. Aarhus is a beautiful city in general; around Christmas it becomes even more alive, draped in Christmas trees and lights. I tried to fit in all the sights before I left, saw my first Handball game and celebrated the Danish Queen. Then, the last week came around. This was a difficult week, as each day another friend would leave for a different country. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to study in Aarhus and meet so many different people. I would encourage anyone if they get the chance to study abroad to take it. I now feel that I have contacts all throughout the world that I hope to make use of at some point!

Simon

Missed Simon’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2klUzum