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/

 

 

Friends from every continent!

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

Josef is currently studying abroad at the University of Tubingen with hisHenley Business School degree at Reading. Read on to find out what he’s been up to mid-way through his year abroad.

It barely feels like two minutes since I had just arrived and was writing my first blog post. Erasmus so far really is flying by and I’m sure it will continue to do so. Since the last time of writing the main difference is the weather, which has gone from t-shirt weather in mid October to near constant freezing temperatures and a lot of snow. Thankfully I missed the coldest period of weather over Christmas when it dropped to -13 causing the River Neckar, which runs directly through the middle of Tübingen, to freeze completely over.

Whilst being here, I have been attempting to make the most of the fact travelling around Europe is so easy, partly helped by friends from all corners of the globe wanting to make the most of their time in Europe by travelling around and dragging us Europeans with them. We had a weekend in Munich (only 3 hours by coach) which involved a lot of walking before deciding to go to one of the cities many beer halls, before moving on and settling in a quieter bar followed by a night out. Also I have had many trips to the city of Essen to visit family and be fed like a king by a Nan who thinks students don’t eat, not that I’m complaining. Although these trips did mean I missed out on weekends away in Paris, Hamburg, Switzerland and hiking in the Black Forest (being a city kid, I was quite glad I missed out on the hiking though). Last weekend, we visited Strasbourg for the day, just over the French border from Germany and only took around two and a half hours and 10 euros by train (a much quicker train is possible, but it is almost twice the price of my flights back to the UK). We did all the usual sights in Strasbourg such as the Cathedral and European Parliament, before getting the train back and getting ready for a friend’s birthday night out. There’s already a couple of future trips planned such as Berlin, Aarhus in Denmark and hopefully Italy to visit some fellow UoR Erasmus students.

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

In front of the Strasbourg Cathedral (left) and around the EU parliament in Strasbourg (right)

On the work front, lectures continue to tick over and I still can’t get used to the 8am lectures. Another big difference with uni over here is the term structure which I’m still finding a little bit odd. The winter semester here goes from mid October to mid February with exams at the end of February and just two short weeks off for Christmas. After exams have finished in February, I will be off until mid April when the summer semester begins, which then runs to August. Having the whole of March off does somewhat make up for the very short Christmas holiday and gives me a chance to go home to visit family and friends as well hopefully giving me a chance to get down to Reading as well. The work aspect is a big part of being here in Tübingen and getting a German perspective on my course is fascinating and I’m sure will prove beneficial by the time final year comes around or even, dare I say it, the world of work that comes after. But by far and a way the biggest thing I have taken out of my time here so far is the social aspect and it is the same for just about every exchange student I know or have met. Having friends from every continent around the world isn’t just interesting, it also means I will have somewhere to stay should I ever visit Australia, China, Russia, etc. Nights out also prove to be interesting as well as funny, as all the different cultures surrounding nights out clash like the Russians genuine hate for beer but love of spirits; the Danes’ love for drinking songs; and the Australians and Kiwis drinking from shoes (this really is as grim as it sounds).

As exam season begins to approach here, the whole uni seems to be slowing down a little and preparing, so roll on the end of February when exams are out the way and then roll on mid April and the start of the summer semester.

Josef

 

Already half way through!

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

Angelina is currently studying abroad at the University of Tubingen with her German and International Relations degree at Reading. Find out about what she’s been up to before the festive period. 

I can’t quite believe that I am over half way through my semester here in Tübingen!

Lectures and seminars have been going well although sometimes they are quite challenging, as a languages student all my lectures and seminars are in German. As with many other things lectures here are also a bit different to lectures in Reading. All of my lectures and seminars are at least two hours long and the earliest time a class can start is 08:00 mornings and one of my classes even finishes at 20:00 in the evening which took some time getting used to. One of the nice things about studying here is that I have no compulsory modules and I could choose modules on subjects that I am interested in. At the end of a lecture or seminar it is common for students to knock their knuckles on the desks which I found really bizarre.

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

Probably one of the best things about studying in Germany during the Autumn/Winter semester is that Germany is probably one of the best countries to experience during the festive season. As soon as late November hit all anyone could talk about was the ‘Weihnachtsmarkt’, or Christmas market in English. Almost every German town will host a Christmas market of some sort and in Germany especially in the bigger cities they go all out. Christmas decorations and impressive light displays everywhere, lots of stalls and wooden huts selling crafts and German Christmas foods such a roasted sugared almonds, ‘Lebkuchen’ (gingerbread), sausages and of course it wouldn’t be a Christmas market without ‘Glühwein’ (mulled wine). In late November, early December for one week Tübingen is home to Germany’s largest chocolate festival. Chocolatiers and chocolate companies from around the world and Germany present their products and quite a few stalls even offer free samples. I was even able to take part in a chocolate workshop where I could make my own chocolate.  As well as the chocolate market, Waldenbuch a town nearby has a chocolate factory too. If you really like chocolate Tübingen is a great place to spend study abroad. Another town about a 40 minutes train journey away from Tübingen called Esslingen has a really unique Christmas market. The Christmas market has a medieval theme and it is presented really well with fire dancing shows, people dressed up in medieval clothing and they served mulled wine and beer in clay cups. If you end up studying here next year I would definitely recommend it.

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

Since my last blog post I have also had the opportunity to visit some of Germany’s larger cities, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Munich. Tübingen is well connected to the rest of Germany by train via Stuttgart. It is also relatively inexpensive to travel by bus to various cities in and around Germany. Even though the temperatures can drop quite a bit around this time, all the festivities make it worth it and if your wrap up warm it’s really not too bad. At the moment it’s currently snowing here and the town looks even prettier under a white blanket.

Angelina

Missed Angelina’s first blog post? Catch up here: http://bit.ly/2ig8lgl 

The Myth of German Efficiency

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

Josef is currently studying abroad at the University of Tubingen with his Henley Business School degree at Reading. Read on to find out how he settled into German life for his third year abroad.

Around one month ago now, I packed my case and woke up at 3.30am for my flight. Once on the flight, in between attempting to catch up on some much needed sleep, I was full of mixed emotions from excited to straight up scared. Then after a long day of travelling, I finally arrived at my flat… only to be greeted by nobody. Unlike Uni at home students don’t have to move out of their rooms at the end of each year, this means that many stay in the same rooms for their full degree. This also means that there is no specific moving in date like at home.

A few very unhelpful emails with the accommodation team here in Tübingen followed where I was told most students would be arriving from the start of September to the middle of October. I decided to arrive bang in the middle of those dates. Big mistake. Over a third of the population of Tübingen are students, so when those students aren’t here the place turns into a bit of a ghost town.

However, I thought I’d make the most of the quietness and enrol at the university and open a bank account. But this leads me on to the second thing they don’t tell you about moving to Germany and that is that German efficiency is largely a myth. Where as in Reading, you receive your university card within 5 minutes of arrival on moving in day; here it required going to 6 or 7 different buildings and to make that even more complicated it has to be done in a specific order and most of those buildings are only open between 9 and 11.30am.

My first three weeks here could be described as unremarkable, dull and very lonely as I only had one flat mate who would occasionally be in Tübingen to do something with and get some much needed social contact.

Then it all changed. The students arrived. On the first official day of university in October, I attended a Meet and Greet for other internationals and a few German students too. An awkward event to begin with, but the awkwardness soon left and the event ended with a group of us going out for drinks afterwards. Since that day, study abroad has genuinely lived up to all expectations.

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

 

A lot of fun has followed with the most diverse, if not random, friendship group I have ever been part of, including Germans, Australians, New Zealanders, Russians, Danes and Americans. Since meeting we have explored this beautiful university town by day, but mainly by night. Thanks to all the students, Tübingen has the youngest average age of anywhere in Germany and so it’s fair to say we aren’t short of bars or clubs. The second bonus to going out here is that most regular bars have prices more similar to that of the Union at home and the uni-owned bars here are usually about half that price. So win win all round.

When it comes to the academic side of things, it’s more difficult to say what it’s going to be like as lectures only started last week. Although I have noticed a few things they do differently here already. After my first lecture last week I began packing my things away, only to be given the fright of my life when all the other students started bashing on their desk. I later found out they do this as a way of showing their appreciation to the lecturer; but when you’re not expecting it, it sure does make you jump! Another thing is if you find 9am lectures too early at home, try an 8am start where you sit in class and watch the sunrise.

All in all, after a difficult first 3 weeks here, the last 2 weeks have made up for it. The main things I’ve taken from the experience so far is to take the rough with the smooth as any negative experiences are soon outweighed by the many positive ones.

Joe

Picturesque town of Tübingen

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

Angelina is currently studying abroad at the University of Tubingen with her German and International Relations degree at Reading. Read on to find out how she’s adjusting to life in Germany!

I have been in Tübingen now for three weeks and it has already been an experience and a half to say the least. The journey to Tübingen itself went very well. I flew from London to Stuttgart, and then took a direct bus from the airport to Tübingen which was very handy. Once in Tübingen I made my way by bus to the housing office which is right on the top of a big hill. This is where you sign your housing contract and pay your deposit. As soon as that was done I had to get a bus all the way back down the hill to my halls of residence which are on the outskirts of town to pick up the keys to my room from the housemaster. The halls where I live are very different to halls in Reading. In a way they are more like residential flats, with the building consisting of 3 and 4 bedroom flats (I only have two ‘flatmates’) and even a Kindergarten. They are also much more into recycling here, the flat has four different bins, one each for paper, glass, metal & plastic and then one for food waste and things that aren’t recycled.

My first impressions of Tübingen were very positive, it’s a picturesque town in the German ‘Bundesland’ of Baden-Württemberg in the south of Germany and it even has its own castle. One third of the people here are students which it makes it a pretty student friendly place with lots of places to have lunch or go for a drink. When you matriculate here you have to do a lot of paperwork which takes you all around the town to do. The University of Tübingen does not really have a campus, hwever there is one road where most of the important university buildings are located which makes finding your way around much easier.

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

Colourful houses seen from the ‘Neckarbrücke’ , Tübingen (left image)
Main university building, the new Aula, Tübingen (right image)

For international and Erasmus students the university hosts a welcome week unfortunately however due to illness I was not able to participate. There is a really great student organisation here called StudIT which organises and offers trips and experiences for international students. Since I have been here I have already participated in two of their activities. The first one was a Swabian dinner, or ‘Schwäbisches Abendessen’ as they would say in German, where they served a local dish called ‘Maultaschen’ with fried onions and potato salad. ‘Maultaschen’ resemble ravioli except that they are a bit bigger and filled with meat. The story behind them is that Cistercian monks weren’t allowed to eat meat during lent and so in order to hide the meat from God they created these ‘Maultaschen’. Then more recently StudIT organised a trip to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is about a two hours drive away from Tübingen and is famous for having the oldest university in Germany, its castle and baroque architecture. We had a tour around the city, had some lunch and then made our way up the castle which is located on a hill, once at the top the views were amazing. I’ve settled well in Germany, I’ve met lots of really nice people and have had many opportunities to practice my German. Lectures are starting this week so I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re like. I’ll let you know about them in my next blog post.

Angelina