International Exchange: Freiburg, Germany 2010

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1 Preparing for my Exchange: International Exchange: Freiburg, Germany 2010 I was accepted to study on international exchange at Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg for the summer semester 2010 in March of Having a period of one year to prepare myself before going on my exchange to Germany benefited me in numerous ways. In that time I was able to work to earn and save extra money, which helped a lot while I was abroad. During this time I was also able to prepare myself culturally and linguistically to live in Germany. I studied the very basics of the German language using tapes and workbooks, something that benefited me in my German language classes at Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg. This time also allowed me to research German culture, including customs, formalities, and even simple things such as day-to-day life, which helped to all but eliminate the culture shock once I arrived in Germany. Studying these areas of German culture in books, on the Internet, and even through students who had previously studied in Germany made it very easy for me to adjust to living with my German roommates in residence, and when I met people in my classes. Being a student of history, with a special interest in politics and foreign relations, I took this period leading up to my exchange to study and educate myself a little more about the political structures of Germany, and Europe as a whole, as they differ from the structures of Canada, a sovereign country 143 years old yet still closely tied with the British monarchy and influenced by the United States of America. It was very interesting for me to experience up close the work of the European Union, and the ways in which it has changed Germany since its creation. By studying this aspect of German politics, I was able to better appreciate the history and the reasoning behind the things that I did including using the Euro currency and crossing freely across the German-French border. Having had a year to prepare myself before going on exchange, thanks to an efficient application and acceptance process on behalf of both Nipissing University and Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg, made my transition seamless. I felt culturally aware and somewhat even culturally enriched before I had even left Canada, but mostly I was prepared and ready to enjoy my time on this amazing experience. In the end, with only a little extra reading and preparation, my transition and adaptation into German culture and every day life could not have been easier or more enjoyable.

2 Studying in Germany: My four-month exchange at Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg was both personally and academically enriching in ways I am only now able to express looking back on what was the most amazing experience of my life to date. Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg is an amazing University, and was the right choice for me. Located in Freiburg, a city in the Black Forest region of the southern part of Germany, in the state of Baden- Württemberg, this University gave me the perfect blend of German language, culture, activities, and academics that I needed to be successful. The staff and the tutors at the International Office of the PH, as the school is commonly referred to, went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and at home in Freiburg. The first week we arrived, we were guided every step of the way, through the whole registration process, getting to know the city, and all of our administrative tasks we had to do to become citizens of Freiburg. I cannot thank everyone in the PH International Office, nor the staff and tutors from the Studentenwerk Freiburg enough! The University itself was all it advertised itself to be and more. The campus is situated on the outskirts of the main part of the city of Freiburg, but still easily accessible by train, tram, and bicycle. With a view of the hills of the Black Forest in every direction, the buildings of the PH are new and modern. There is a central courtyard area in the middle of the buildings, which are right beside each other, and only a two-minute walk from the residence building called Kunzenweg. There is a Mensa, or cafeteria, on campus as well, located in the main courtyard area. The campus was beautiful, well kept, and clean, which made it a great place to study. The staff and professors at the PH were all very welcoming and accommodating to all of the international exchange students, accepting us into their classrooms, which were already full in most cases. The PH is an education university, thus all students studying there have the goal of one day becoming teachers, such as myself. This idea was something new, because in Canada, there are faculties for education students in most universities, but not an actual school just for them. At the PH, since I spoke hardly any German when arriving, I enrolled in English classes, but ones with historical, religious, and geographical subjects. I ended up taking four very interesting and enjoyable classes, which were United States Cultural Studies, Christian Theology, African-American Experiences, and European Studies. Each of these classes was 1.5 hours a week from April-July, which was a little different than the 3 hours a week per class that I was used to in Canada. The classroom sizes were about the same as I was used to at my home university, each containing somewhere from 20 to 35 students. The classes were structured fairly similar to those at my home university, with students being expected to attend and participate in lectures, complete assigned readings, and write a final exam or essay. One thing that was different was that in Germany there were a lot more oral presentations rather than essays, which is something that I was not used to since writing up to four essays for one class is not uncommon. It was nice to be able to have a mix, and being able to practice my presentation skills while still writing essays for a course. The workload in Germany seemed to be lighter at first thought, but once you take into account the fact that these are classes in the second language of the German students, thus as a native English speaker they would seem easier. The teachers were aware of this, and because I needed more credits per class to equal one whole class at my home university due to the difference in credit systems, I was expected to complete

3 extra work and an extra essay to obtain my credits. This was something that I did not mind at all, since the professors were being so accommodating in the first place by offering to let me have this chance to obtain the credits I needed. While studying at Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg, I also enrolled in a beginner s German language course, which was graciously run for the small group of ten non-german speakers by the International Office of the PH. Three different professors, each teaching for a little over a month, taught the course, and the class was 1.5 hours three times a week for the entire duration of the four month semester. Originally the class was only supposed to run for half of the semester, however the International Office of the PH, and our professors amazingly managed to allow it to continue for the whole semester, something that was much appreciated by all of us in the class. My German language skills are still lacking, however I learned so much in such a short time, and I plan to keep up learning the language now that I am back in Canada. From the beautiful campus, to the interesting courses and amazing professors, to the helpful and accommodating International Office, and finally to the amazing opportunities presented to me, Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg is an amazing University, and the perfect choice for me. My Stay in Germany: My stay in Freiburg was amazing! My first impression of Germany, and of Freiburg in general, was that it was a culturally rich and exciting city to be in. Everyone I was meeting was just as excited to meet me as I was to meet him or her, and everyone was eager to help me with anything I needed to ensure my time abroad would be the best possible. The country is beautiful, historic yet modern, and its citizens are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever met. The moment I boarded the train at the Frankfurt airport headed to Freiburg, I felt safe, secure, and at ease. Germany really became a home for me, something that is quite amazing since I was unfortunately only there for four months. Back in Canada now, I miss Freiburg and everyone I met there terribly, but the amazing memories I have made have inspired me to finish my degree and go back to what I can honestly call a second homeland. During my four months abroad I experienced so much, in an extracurricular activities sense of way, but also in a personal way. I feel that this opportunity revived me, inspired me, and helped me grow as a person. I come back home more mature, motivated, and as I like to think, more worldly than I ever have been. I learned a lot about myself while I was abroad, and I learned to appreciate more than ever just how fortunate I am. All of the things I learned about myself came in part through the activities I participated in, such as international barbeques and get-togethers where I made some amazing friends, as well as through the traveling I did. I traveled a lot with other international students whom I met at PH Freiburg, but I also traveled to Milan, Prague, and Basel with the international club of the Studentenwerk Freiburg. This club, run by the Studentenwerk offered the most amazing trips all over Europe at the most reasonable rates. It was a great experience traveling with this group, and I highly recommend taking advantage of their great trips!

4 Participating in Workshops and University Sponsored Events: During my exchange in Freiburg, I was given the opportunity to participate in many workshops and school sponsored events that were academically enriching, and very enjoyable. One of the most interesting workshops I attended was a discussion of the various school systems present in such countries as Turkey, Canada, Germany, the United States, Sweden, and many more. One of the senior level education classes invited myself, along with numerous other international exchange students to attend this group discussion where we were asked to share our experiences in the education systems of our home countries, and in turn we were given an insight into others. It was nice to have people interested in hearing about the education system in Canada, and I really enjoyed learning first hand about education in other countries. It was a great opportunity to meet new people, and to exchange information that will benefit me as a teacher in the future, as I hope to travel and teach in foreign countries once I graduate. Another amazing opportunity I was given through the University was to experience the inside of a German classroom. Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg, as previously mentioned, is an education university for future teachers, and after hearing that myself and nine of the other international students were studying to become teachers but we were unable to complete a placement in Germany due to the language barrier and guidelines from our home universities, one of our professors Dr. S. Heinz worked her magic. Every Wednesday morning Dr. Heinz supervised a group of five PH students as they took turns practice teaching at an elementary school in Emmendingen, a town only a short train ride from Freiburg. She invited us in pairs of two to join her and the other students to observe a lesson in the classroom, so we could get a first hand look inside the German school system. She even went as far as to accompany us on the train, or have one of the other PH students accompany us to Emmendingen so that we knew where we were going. It was a great experience for me as a future teacher, and I cannot thank Dr. Heinz enough for all the she did for us. As a student at PH Freiburg, and as a recipient of the Baden-Württemberg STIPENDIUM, I was also invited to participate in a scholarship holders trip to the city of Konstanz, Germany, located on Lake Constance in the south of Germany. There were a few other students from PH Freiburg on the trip and a couple of students from the University of Freiburg, which was a great chance for all of us scholarship recipients to meet one another. We all took a coach bus to Konstanz, approximately a three-hour drive from Freiburg, where we were given a fantastic city tour. After the city tour, we had a wonderful lunch at a great restaurant on the pier overlooking Lake Constance. Once lunch was over we took the ferry across the lake to Meersburg Island where we toured an 11 th century castle before getting back on the bus and heading back home to Freiburg. It was a great day and a fantastic experience!

5 Hands-On Tips: The experience of studying on an international exchange is one that is unique to each person that is lucky enough to go on one. After spending four amazing months in Germany I am by no means an expert in the area, but I did learn some things that I found helpful and would like to share with anyone going on a future exchange. One of the first things I recommend is to bring with you things such as pictures or flags to hang in your room, because the new people you meet on your exchange will be very interested to see your pictures and learn about where you come from, and at the same time it will help your new room feel like home. The point of an international exchange is to experience other cultures, so I recommend living as the people do! There was nothing I loved more than waking up on Saturday mornings and going into the Münster market to buy fresh fruits, flowers, and vegetables, but also to mingle amongst the locals. I also highly recommend taking advantage of the events and trips offered to you by friends and by organizations such as the international club at your university. Check with the local Studentenwerk as they always have amazing travel opportunities on weekends that are very reasonable in price. Make sure to participate in the first week orientation events at your new university since it is here that you will meet other international students and some of the staff that will be there to guide. You should travel as much as you can, especially if you are like me, coming from a country that is quite isolated compared to Germany. Traveling in Europe is quite cheap cost wise, and since Germany is in a very central location in Europe, it is also very easy. Check out good budget airlines such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet, and make use of what was my favourite mode of transportationthe train. Deutsche Bahn has an amazing rail system that makes it so easy to travel. Get out and explore on the weekends, whether in your own backyard, or in another country! Perhaps the most useful hands on tip I can share with you is something that you hear all the time, but trust me, it is something that you will never truly understand the meaning of until you have an experience such as this one. Step out of your comfort zone, try new things you normally wouldn t, and be outgoing. It is easy to go to class all day and relax on the weekends, something that is typical of a North American university student s life, but it is truly amazing when you do something that you are scared of or nervous about. It is an adrenaline rush, and it will make you very proud of yourself. You have already taken a huge step by signing up to go on an exchange, so experience it all to the fullesttrust me it is worth it!

6 My Evaluation: This experience can be summed up in one word- unbelievable. It was by far the most enriching and amazing experience of my life so far. I can honestly say without a doubt that it was one hundred percent worth it, and my only regret coming back home was only staying for four months instead of one year. Everyone at PH Freiburg was so welcoming and accommodating, and I had no problems at the school, nor have I had any problems transferring courses back and getting my credits. Germany truly is a beautiful country, and Freiburg is a fantastic city that I would recommend to anyone! In closing I would like to thank everyone, both in Canada and in Freiburg who helped make this experience possible for me. I cannot thank you enough! I would also like to thank everyone at the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg for awarding me the Baden-Württemberg STIPENDUIM this past semester. Your generosity is greatly appreciated, and without your support all of this may not have been possible. It is with my sincere thanks and gratitude that I say it was an honour being a scholarship holder and studying at Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg.

04.2015 07.2015. I agree to the publication of my personal report on the website of the International Office of Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg.

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