By: Cynthia Chiou, Foster Undergraduate
If you want to be sure you’ll have a satisfying experience abroad both academically and culturally – I can sincerely recommend WHU in Germany. I cannot speak highly enough of the experience I’ve had so far! I am one of the first students to participate on the UW exchange with WHU, and I am proud to be a part of it.
To give you a little introduction of myself, I am a junior in the Foster School of Business studying finance and marketing. Having always heard past graduates talk about their regrets of not studying abroad, I knew I had to grasp the opportunity while I still could. I ultimately chose to study at WHU in Germany for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve always been fascinated by German culture and was interested in learning more. Second, WHU is highly regarded as one of the top schools in Germany with an intimate academic setting and world renowned professors. Third, I was blessed enough to receive the Dufey Scholarship which has helped me tremendously with expenses.
Description of the Area: Vallendar & Koblenz
WHU is situated in the small town of Vallendar which is just along the Rhine River. Before studying abroad, I thought my hometown Kenmore was small – well, let’s just say Kenmore would be considered a metropolis compared to Vallendar. The area consists mostly of WHU students and retired German families. It was a challenge adjusting at first since I’m used to so much activity around the UW, but I’ve begun to treasure the peaceful walks to school along the Rhine and the simplicity of the local culture. If you want to enjoy more nightlife and shopping, it’s only a short 10 minute bus ride to Koblenz which is a slightly bigger city.
The ‘Tauschie’ Community
I would say after spending a little more than a month here, I have really appreciated the university’s efforts to make us tauschies (German for exchange students) feel welcome. During the first couple of weeks, the international relations and VIP student team organize several events that allow all exchange students to get to know one another better. The team takes you on a regional wine tour nearby and you end the day feasting on a traditional German meal at a beautiful brewery. The VIP also organizes a rally in Koblenz where tauschies run around the city completing silly tasks in order to get to know the area better. Our team was called ‘The Bamm Bamms’ as you can see by the blue diapers we made for our costumes.
After the first few weeks winded down, there were plenty of events to still keep me busy. Every week, tauschies organize a ‘Tauschie Tuesday’ at the nearby bar, Korova. It’s usually thematic by country and tauschies of the chosen country prepare food and drinks of their culture. In addition, every Thursday evening many students go to Palais which is a local club in Koblenz. Apart from the events put on by WHU, tauschies are always organizing dinners and hang-outs. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed dinner parties with other tauschies and discussing cultural differences and similarities.
Courses at WHU
Classes here have been similar to that of the UW but also different in a few ways. Before signing up for a course, you can view all of the various times the course meets throughout the semester. Instead of having classes the same time each week, you could have anywhere from twenty hours of class one week to only five the next. This has turned out to be pretty convenient for planning week long trips. Otherwise, day trips around Germany have been just as interesting. Since the semester is split into two quarters, there is a lot of material to learn in a very short amount of time, hence I’ve been cramming for finals which are in about two weeks.
As far as traveling goes, exploring the various regions of Germany has been very exciting! The country is divided into sixteen different states in which each part has its own distinct feel. It’s only in a country like this where you’ll be able to visit the hippest parts of Berlin one minute and then experience traditional Bavarian life in Munich the next. Outside of Germany, I will soon be paying a visit to London, Ireland, and Prague. The great thing about Germany is it’s situated right in the heart of Europe which makes traveling to neighboring countries extremely convenient. I’m surprisingly less homesick than I thought I’d be. Of course, there are things about Seattle I miss, such as friends and family, but there is so much to explore here that I simply feel obliged to discover everything. If there’s one thing I’m learning about myself throughout this experience, it’s that I am too curious for my own good. The world is so beautiful and I hope to return to Europe another time. No, no. I must return to Europe soon to see the rest!!
All in all, I can’t wait to continue building lifelong memories while learning about our world and my place within it. Studying abroad obviously comes with sacrifices and well, points of confusion (did I really just buy German yogurt or is this sour cream..?) All joking aside, you’re confronted with a lot of ‘unknowns’..from the big to even small things. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you’re put in a unique situation that you’d never find yourself in at home. Being isolated in a foreign country forces you to question why you do the things you do, whether you have a good reason for why you do them that way, and in the end makes your mind all the stronger. On a practical level, you learn to roll with the punches and find alternatives in the right places. I already know my time here will fly by. I’ll be trying my hardest to appreciate every moment before it’s all over!