Germany

Understanding Germany

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Written by Jonathan Bannick, Foster undergraduate

I returned to the US with tremendous respect for the German people and a deep admiration for the country. While Germans are culturally quite similar to Americans, I believe that there are many things that we can learn from the German people. Specifically, I want to discuss the concept of national identity.

Over the summer while I was preparing to study abroad, Germany won the World Cup. I watched this historical event with excitement. I anticipated that when I arrived in Germany there would still be signs of celebration. I expected to see people wearing Jerseys and flags flying throughout the cities. What I found upon arriving was quite different. German flags were virtually absent from every city that I traveled to and citizens were almost reluctant to bring up the topic. Over time, this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon began to make more sense.

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My first clue emerged in a conversation that I had with another German student. I asked him whether he was bothered when Americans and other foreigners attempt to speak German. He responded that instead of being frustrated, he was flattered. He went on to explain that even as a German living in the 21st century, he still feels a tremendous amount of guilt for his national identity.

Upon more research, it becomes very clear why many German citizens would be cautious about showing national pride. Every student is required to visit a concentration camp at least once throughout their education. The capital city of Berlin is filled with reminders of the struggles of many people at the hands of German rulers. The cautiousness to display pride in the national soccer team is deeply rooted in the history of the country.

The main point of this message is not to be self-critical. Rather, the point of this lesson is to acknowledge that we all must learn from our past. While there are few events in history quite as horrific as those that occurred in Germany during WWII, every country must reconcile with the fact that there are dark times that occurred in previous generations. I walked away from this experience with a tremendous amount of respect for the German people because they seek to fully understand the events of the past rather than to ignore them. I believe that all countries could learn greatly from this example.

My passion for the country developed even further as I traveled more within it. Many Americans would be surprised to know that Germany is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. The culture is extremely rich and there is so much to learn in every city. I feel very lucky for the time that I spent in Germany and I look forward to the next time that I return.

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Traveling throughout Europe

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Written by Jonathan Bannick, Foster undergraduate

One of the best parts about living in Mannheim was the accessibility of other cities throughout Europe. Germany is centrally located on the continent and well connected to many different places. Through a variety of planes, trains, cars and buses, I was able to see 10 different countries and create memories that will last a lifetime.

My journey to Germany passed through London initially. My parents and I spent three days here and we all felt that we could have spent a year. This sprawling metropolis is packed with history on every street. I had the opportunity to visit the city a second time when I went again in November. Both times, I loved the city and learned a tremendous amount.

Of all the countries in Europe, Mannheim was extremely close to France. After just a three hour train ride, I found myself exploring Paris. While I had been to the city six years prior, I fell in love with the grand boulevards and the path along the river. From Paris I was also able to travel north to visit Normandy.

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Mannheim also stood relatively close to Switzerland. On one weekend I was able to travel south to the Swiss capital of Bern and spend the day exploring the city. From Bern, I was also able to make it deeper into the country to a small town called Interlaken. The peaks of this small town offered some of the most beautiful views in all of Europe.

Mannheim was also just a short plane ride away from the Frankfurt Airport. This airport allowed me to go to the cliffs of Ireland, the islands of Stockholm, the Beaches of Barcelona and the bridges through Prague. From Prague I was also able to take a train further to Budapest.

Traveling proved to be one of the best parts of my time abroad. I feel very privileged for the opportunities that I had and I also believe that this experience has created a passion for travel that will last a lifetime.

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Traveling In Germany

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Written by Jonathan Bannick, Foster undergraduate

In addition to traveling to other countries, living in Mannheim allowed me to travel to many different cities throughout Germany. Below I have highlighted the different trips that I took.

I first arrived in Germany with my parents in the middle of August. We started our journey in Munich and from there we saw several of the surrounding areas. Bavaria is one of the most famous regions in Europe because of all that it has to offer. The city of Munich is vibrant and full of culture. To the south, countless mountains offer breathtaking views and extraordinary castles. Also the region is very close in proximity to Austria and we were able to take a day trip to Salzburg. From Bavaria we were able to travel North through Germany along the Romantic Road. Our final destination that day was a town called Rothenburg. The small village is surrounded by a medieval wall and feels historic and magical. From Rothenburg we traveled north to visit the city of Siegburg where my grandfather had been nearly 70 years before as he fought to liberate a German town. From Siegburg we traveled south into the Rhine Valley region. Here we spend two nights in Bacharach. Like Rothenburg, this small town felt magical and full of old world charm. Bacharach remains one of my favorite cities in Germany. By the time we made it to Bacharach, we were relatively close to Mannheim, where I would eventually end up. We took several days to make our way through Frankfurt and to get moved into Mannheim. By the end of August, I was ready to begin my time at the University.

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My next opportunity to explore Germany came in the middle of September when my friends and I traveled north to Berlin. This German capital city is filled with history and culture. I only had several days here but I felt that I could have spent months simply exploring.

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At the end of September, I had the opportunity to return to Munich for the legendary Oktoberfest. I traveled with a group of students from my university and we were able to spend several days exploring the city and the festival. Our first day there, September 26th, happened to be my birthday. This was the perfect place to celebrate.

Nearly 30 years ago, my uncle also studied in Germany and his experiences were part of my inspiration to participate in the exchange in Mannheim. At the end of October, he was able to visit me in Mannheim and we traveled throughout southwestern Germany. Along the way we saw many beautiful cities including Freiburg and Tübingen. Additionally we visited a small town outside of Stuttgart called Aidlingen. For the first time I was able to meet my German relatives that lived here. We had a great time sharing stories and looking at the family tree.

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Looking Back

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Written by Davis Brown, Foster undergraduate

When I first arrived at university in Germany I didn’t really know what to expect. I had attempted to prepare for study abroad as much as I could, but there comes a point when you just have to let go and learn things as the experiences happen. This leads into the biggest lesson I learned while on a Foster Exchange; prepare for the unexpected. Throughout studying abroad I ran into my fair share of unexpected situations, both the good and the bad. Things don’t always work out as planned and that is where flexibility and preparation come into play. When things don’t work out, you must be able to go with the flow or resort to “plan B.” At first, the culture shock makes it difficult to figure out what to do next, but as you begin to adapt to a different way of life things slowly come together. By the end of my study abroad experience I was able to find solutions to these unexpected situations and sometimes those solutions were better than the original plan in the first place. All it takes is looking on the bright side of life.

As I look back on my study abroad experience I’m just amazed at how lucky I was to have met such amazing people and learned so many things along the way. I cannot wait for my next chance to visit a new country, learn from their culture, and widen my horizons.  Lastly, going on the exchange was probably one of the best decisions I have made as an undergraduate and I can’t imagine my junior without this amazing experience.

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International Collaboration

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Written by Davis Brown, Foster undergraduate

One thing I was looking forward to at WHU in Germany was having the opportunity to work alongside German students through group projects in university classes. I have always enjoyed group projects as they give students the chance to work through problems, analyze situations, and provide solutions to the question at hand. Additionally, group projects give you the chance to meet new people and learn from their prospective and experience. Every person brings something new to the table and it’s great to learn from my business peers and tie the groups’ strengths together.

Bringing things back to study abroad, group projects were both great and challenging because I got to tackle complex global issues and really learn from the experiences of my international peers. The international aspect is something that really made things interesting and kept me engaged throughout. At the Foster school I’ve been exposed to international business topics in the past few years, but it is completely different interacting and discussing topics with students who have grown up with a completely different perspective than myself. I really took advantage of their knowledge and learned something new everyday while still solving the task of our group case. I look forward to the chance of having more international exposure and learning more about global business.

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Time Flies at WHU

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Written by Davis Brown, Foster school undergraduate

 

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It’s almost been two months since I left the University of Washington and arrived in Germany at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management for my study abroad exchange. Time has truly flown by. In the past 7 weeks I have met some amazing exchange students from all around the world, traveled to 4 different countries, and gained an international perspective through my business classes. WHU is very different from UW in many ways, but I think that is what makes it a great university (I still love UW). WHU is a private university with around 1,000 students located in a small town near Frankfurt. It is strictly a business focused university funded by companies throughout the region. These attributes are what made WHU appealing to me. After going to such a large university for 3 years, it has been a very nice change of pace to attend a smaller private university. Walking around campus everyday you run into familiar faces and the small population of the school gives exchange students a real opportunity to get to know people inside and outside of the classroom. The school does an amazing job of integrating exchange students with the rest of the student body, which makes being at another university much easier. From day one, school faculty and student leaders focus on getting exchange students involved, whether that be in clubs, exchange tours, school government, or extracurricular activities. Below are some pictures of the university and my travels so far. Cities include Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, and Cologne. Cannot wait for the next half of my exchange. So much to look forward to.

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Guten Tag from Germany – The International Winter Academy

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Written by Kat Li, Foster School undergraduate student

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Since the course schedule of the University of Mannheim is not really in sync with that of UW’s, I had the opportunity to arrive a month beforehand and participate in the University’s International Winter Academy. It’s basically an intensive German language course (4 hours per day, 5 days a week!) lasting the entire month of January. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take it at first (instead of traveling around Europe for a month), but it turned out to be a great decision.

Because of the sheer amount of hours spent each day in class, my German improved dramatically. I went from only being about to understand really basic phrases to being able to understand, speak and read significantly better. In addition to the classes in the morning/afternoon, there were optional seminars we could attend in the evenings. Their topics ranged from grammar and phonetics to German history and literature.

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And no, it wasn’t all work! There were excursions 2-3 times a week to neighboring cities and attractions within Mannheim. One memorable trip I went on was to Heidelberg, an old city completely un-destroyed during WWII. We took a tour of the ruins of the castle there, which was destroyed by the French in the 17th century. Inside was the largest wine barrel I’ve ever seen, with a capacity of around 220,000 liters!

Finally, because only about 80 international students attended the Winter Academy, we became a pretty close group. We were able to become good friends before the huge group of about 600 international students arrived in February. Participating in the Winter Academy was wunderbar and now I’m looking forward to starting the semester!

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ROA at WHU

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

written by Dane Johnson, Foster School undergraduate

Brain exanding during group project1I’ve come close a few times during my academic career, but never before studying abroad at WHU in Germany had I worked completely through the night and up until class the next morning to finish any assignment or study for any test. My Real Options Analysis class at WHU led me to do this twice and something close to this on three other occasions. Even though the class was very tough for me, I liked the feeling that I had learned more in this six week period than during any other comparable amount of time. Because the course was based on group case studies, I also got to know a few new friends who helped me sharpen my quantitative skills and taught me some really useful skills on excel. Our group members represented China, Canada, the US, France, and Germany- meaning I gained an international perspective that you can only find by building personal relationships. While I am happy to be home again, leaving my other home in Germany was a struggle. If someone asks me about ROA or working harmoniously in a multicultural setting, I’d like to think that my term abroad gave me a solid thing or two to say!

CHID Study Abroad to Munich

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Written by: Antonio Ortoll

It would be extremely difficult to resume my study abroad experience in one page. However, there were a few things that really changed the way in which I originally perceived the German culture. One of them would be the differences between Bavaria, and the rest of Germany. Germany is advertised to tourists in a very distinctive way. As a tourist, I expected to see most German people wearing a tracht at festivals, eating oversized pretzels, and drinking large amounts of beer. While this was true for Munich, places like Berlin were not as traditional in that aspect. In fact, not only the overall costumes were different, but also, there was a bit of a language barrier between Germans from Berlin and Munich. When our program director communicated to waitresses and waiters at restaurants in Berlin, a few things had to be repeated or clarified.

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Aside from that, I had the opportunity to interact with many locals. And for the first time, I experienced a low-context culture, where communication is usually taken at face value. Throughout my life, I have lived among cultures where non-verbal cues are subject to multiple interpretations. Learning about these differences will help me cope well in multinational businesses in which I intend to work in the future. Along with that, it was interesting to learn about their views on customer satisfaction. I had always believed that most people had the same customer service expectations, regardless of what part of the world they were from. I was wrong, Germans don’t value or identify with a charismatic server, but instead, they expect efficiency and perfection.

This sense of efficiency and perfection is very-well projected and the way German cities are constructed and organized. The public transportation is simple to use and extremely punctual for departures and arrivals. This punctuality in transportation, always allowed us to visit many places in one day, despite the fact that we were travelling long distances. Throughout the month, I had the opportunity to visit many holocaust monuments, which transported me back to times of political conflict and hardship. And also, I visited King Ludwig’s castles that transported me back in time just by looking at their well-constructed medieval structure. Every day spent in Germany was unique and exceptional. Travelling abroad has definitely changed my outlook on life. I’m very grateful to have been welcomed to be part of this incredible program. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Last Day In Germany

Friday, January 11th, 2013

By: Devin Kim, Foster Undergraduate

“Farewell, fair cruelty.” Shakespeare said in his famous quote. I actually didn’t feel that cruelty until I had finished all of my packing and cleaning up my room because I had returned from Rotterdam late yesterday. After everything was set ready to leave, lying on my couch, I felt that void I was expecting to feel.

The first things that crossed my mind were my dearest landlords, who were all supportive and very warmhearted. I remember the first day I landed at the Frankfurt International Airport and took the train to Koblenz Hauptbahnhof (main station). My landlord Hardy, came to the station to pick me up. As we arrived at his house, I met his wife Gitti and 2 French guys that were staying there until the next day. We had dinner together, which is something I heard rarely happened with the other Tauschies (Exchange students) who moved into private apartments. The next day, Hardy even took me on a ride to introduce most of the parts of the town and helped me shopping some basic household items and food. He even paid for all the stuff because my credit card was not working in the store. I paid off with cash after we got home of course. Thanks to Hardy and Gitti, it was not hard for me at all to settle safe and solid in Germany.

Another thing was for sure the Tauschies. We shared such great times together and it’s hard to pick one specific event that was the best. As some of you reading this will experience later on, building friendships with these folks is one of the most exciting and valuable things you will experience during the study abroad period. I would describe them as companions who take part of a journey taking place in a dream. In a totally different place, environment, culture, and so on, they were really the ones I could rely on. As a relatively small group of 150 students, we got to know each other very well and going on trips with some of them is the most fun thing to experience as you are study abroad. Of course, getting along well with your fellow exchange students can make your exchange life extremely richer. In my case, there was Cynthia with whom I celebrated Thanksgiving together and also studied together for the exams. I really thank her for all the great memories we shared in Germany.

Besides, there are plenty of other things I would like to mention, but I sorted out the previous two because I thought they are really the most important assets and values I got from the program. But have no worries about the farewell. The return makes one love the farewell.