Host University: Friedrich-Schiller-Universität

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1 Student s Name: Ruth Conlon UL Course: BA Psychology and Sociology Academic Year: 2014/ 2015 Semester: Autumn Host University: Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Host University Code: D JENA 01 1 P a g e

2 Student Experience As part of the exchange programme, I spent the winter semester 2014/2015 studying in the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität in Jena, Germany. Integrating into the university was easy enough as they have a great ESN (European Student Network), which held mixings for international students a few times a week from the beginning of the semester. During the first few weeks of the semester, there were also plenty of orientation sessions. They had orientation sessions on how to get around the city and campus. They also held them on how register for modules on the university website. Mixing with local students was difficult because of the language barrier. I only have Leaving Certificate German and considering I had not spoken it since I was doing my Leaving Certificate three years ago, that just was not good enough to hold a conversation. Most of them do speak English however, but it was easier to mix with the other international students. I took a German language course but it was the A2.2 beginners class so there was international students in that class again and we would speak English after class. Getting to know local people was difficult and all the Erasmus students would more or less stick together, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are lots of other Erasmus people to interact with and who are there to make friends like you, so they are just easier to approach. Erasmus people tended to stick to other Erasmus people for the pure reason is that we were all there to make friends. If I ever had problems with classes I would either go to the lecturer of that class and for more general problems I would go to the International office in the University. For problems with my accommodation I would go to the Haus Master or the Studentenwerk, who help you in obtaining your room in an online process. The Studentenwerk people were easier to talk to as my Haus Master only spoke German. They were all happy to help in any way that they could. Thankfully, I did not have many problems. Institutional Practices & Support Before I left, the university sent me an about a mentor/mentee programme that I could sign up for, which I did and she was extremely helpful. I landed in Jena on the 1/10/2014 after flying from Shannon to Berlin and then I got a train to Jena. She met 2 P a g e

3 me and my friend at the train station in Jena and brought us to our accommodation. We met our dorm advisors and were shown our apartment and separate bedrooms. Classes themselves did not start until 20/10/2014 so we had plenty of time to explore and settle in our new surroundings. There were orientation days up to the 22/10/2014 on campus. My mentee also brought us to register as a citizen of Jena, which was helpful because she could explain everything in German as they all say they have little English there. She also brought us to register in the university and then we could get our THOSKA, which is your student card. You put money on it and you can pay for your washing and drying with it, along with food in the Mensa, which is the campus cafeteria. You also have free travel throughout the provenience of Thuringia. This means you can travel for free on the buses, trams and regional trains for free as long as you have your THOSKA, which was extremely helpful. There is an online registration for accommodation. It s called Studentenwerk Thüringen. You can try and find accommodation by yourself but it would be more difficult as Jena is a student city. It is very straight forward and easy to use, once you translate the website. I applied for the service package, which meant that everything was paid together and I got food tokens for the Mensa. It probably worked out more expensive but it was a lot easier as otherwise I would have to pay rent monthly and everything separately. Living in Germany is a lot cheaper than Ireland. The accommodation was not that expensive in relation to Ireland or the Netherlands, for example. The bedrooms were bare enough but had all the essentials. I wrote on the form when applying for accommodation to live with my friend coming on Erasmus with me and we shared an apartment with three other people. I only lived about a fifteen to twenty minute walk away from the town and campus but there are other accommodations that had trams right outside. Any accommodations are good but the apartments in Lobeda are the furthest away from the town and campus. I found Jena to be an extremely safe city and at no point did I feel uneasy in the city, at any time even walking home in the early hours of the morning. Registering as a student was easy, even if you do not opt to get a mentor. You just go to the International office and make sure you have all the required forms which they you about. Since the semester in Jena ends in February, I had to talk to each of my 3 P a g e

4 lecturers and ask if it would be okay to either do an earlier exam or term paper, which they all approved. This means that I did not have to register for exams but just had to get my course card signed and stamped by all of my lecturers when I passed the exam or paper. I got the course card from the international office. Choosing courses was the most difficult part. Many of the courses were in German. All of the undergraduate psychology courses were in German but the master psychology courses were in English but I decided not to do them. I eventually found enough courses to make up 24ECTs. The website which has the courses is Friedolin and it is rather hard to navigate but you will eventually find your way. All of the lecturers were quick and helpful to respond to any queries. The classes were a lot smaller than the classes I attend in UL, which made it easier to talk to the lecturers and I thought it made them more approachable. There is also a fantastic library available. Cultural Differences The main language in the university is German, but there are enough English courses to choose from to make up enough credits. The majority of people spoke English once you asked, however. I took a German language course and studied it for my Leaving Certificate but my other friends started in the very basic beginners German class and did well. You do not necessarily need German, I spoke English the whole time apart from maybe ordering or in my German language class. I had no problems as an Irish citizen to access the local or national authorities about local registration. You get a THOSKA, which I have explained above and that acted as your student card and an identity card, when required. I did not need a birth certificate or passport photographs. I sent all the paperwork about the THOSKA before I went over as they you and ask you for it sometime in September. The transport options are a lot better than in Ireland. They have regular trams, busses and trains. All of which you can travel for free on with your THOSKA. There are close cities in Thuringia, such as Erfurt and Weimar which are just as beautiful as Jena and there is plenty to see. Living in the East of German as opposed to the West is relatively cheaper but living in Jena is cheap in general. Food, going out, accommodation are all cheaper than in Ireland. There is a café called Immergrün in the city which was 4 P a g e

5 one of our favourite places to go to chat and it has great coffee and cakes. The food is a lot different and all the readymade sandwiches are not exactly the nicest but the cakes and pastries are divine. I did miss Irish food. Going out in Germany or any of the cities I visited, is not like going out in Ireland. Everyone dresses very casually and nobody wears sky high heels. I really enjoyed that aspect as it made everything more laid back. There are plenty of places to go out in Jena. They have a street that is full of bars called Wagernergasse Strasse, which I loved. There s also a place called Havana s which located on the street just between Wagnergasse and the University, which was good for dancing and normal music. Rosenkeller was another place that was one of my favourites and was just by the shopping centre called Neue Mitte. Adam and Eva club was another place that had lots of events and ESN nights. Basically, you will not be short on places to go out in and enjoy your nights if you choose to go to Jena. Hints & Tips I was lucky enough to be going on Erasmus with a friend on my course. We flew to Berlin on the 29 th of September and stayed there for two nights and then got the train to Jena for the 1 st of October, as this was when our accommodation told us we could move in to the apartment. Jena is mainly built up of students, which makes finding accommodation a difficult task. There is, however, a website that solves all your accommodation problems if you sign up for it in March. I opted for the service package, which was probably more expensive, but at the end of the day, worked out a lot easier as everything was paid up front. This saved me the hassle of opening a German bank account to pay rent every month or worrying about extra charges like internet or electricity, as these were all included. You also get about two hundred Euros worth of food tokens for the Mensa, which is the cafeteria on campus. The deposit was not included, however, which was three hundred Euros. I got all of my deposit back and have not heard of anyone who did not theirs back. Make sure you bring home comforts like Tea and something to make your room yours like photos, as the walls are very bare. The best accommodation that I saw is 5 P a g e

6 Spitzweidenweg, as there is a tram stop right around the corner and it is very close to the city. Germany doesn t seem to believe in elevators, so you could be going up about five flights of stairs with all of your luggage. I lived in Johann-Griesbach-Strasse 8, which was fine but it was at the top of a very steep hill so I would try and avoid living there or in Johann-Griesbach-Strasse 7 but Friesweg was okay as it was not at the top of hill. I really enjoyed my time in Jena and I now have friends from different parts of the world that I can visit. You definitely get what you put into your time abroad so no matter how tempting it may be to binge on Netflix some days, as you do have a lot of free time, I always made sure I got out and met up with friends whenever possible. Time there flies. I enjoyed it all and would say that take the opportunity to travel when you are there because you ll have the time and you will be so close to such magnificent cities. 6 P a g e

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