Universität Mannheim / Forum / Schwerpunkt / Ausgabe 1/2016: Internationalisierung / “To study in Germany was a childhood dream”

“To study in Germany was a childhood dream”

At the moment, there are around 2 000 international students from 96 countries at the University of Mannheim. The FORUM Magazine spoke with two of them about their experience.  The 27-year-old Mexican Javier Castro Gonzalez came to Mannheim a year ago to start his Mannheim Master in Management. Ralla Al Hamwi has also been living in Germany for a year. The 28-year-old Syrian is in her Master’s program in Business Informatics. 

German Version

FORUM: Why did you decide to study in Mannheim? 

Ralla: For me it was a childhood dream to study in Germany. I had already started my Master studies in Software Engineering and Information Systems back in Syria and completed all courses. Only my thesis was missing. But due to the situation in Syria, I had no chance to finish my Master’s studies. I had to leave Syria. I knew that Germany and the University of Mannheim were my only opportunity not only to finish my studies, but also to start a new life. Preparing my migration to Germany and the application for the University of Mannheim was very difficult. For example, I had to travel to another country to take the required language qualification test. All in all, it took me one year to save the money I needed, fill in all the papers and prepare everything else.

Javier: Before I decided to study in Mannheim, I made the decision to study in Europe. My next step was to decide in which country I wanted to study. It was supposed to be a non-English-speaking country because I wanted to learn another language and a country with a stable economic situation as I wanted to gather some professional experience. That’s how I got the idea to study in Germany. As the University of Mannheim is highly ranked and one of the best universities for Business Administration, I decided to study here. 

FORUM: What were your biggest fears before you started to study in Germany?

Javier: To be honest, going back to university. I finished my Bachelor’s studies in Mexico in 2010. Afterwards I worked for a few years. During that time I didn’t have to study for exams or go to lectures. After my work day, I had free time to do whatever I wanted.  When I started my master’s degree, I first had to get used to student life again.

Ralla: For me everything was frightening at first.  Living in Germany meant learning another language and living in a new culture and society. I was afraid I might have problems to integrate. The moment I arrived, all my fears were quickly forgotten. All the people I met were so nice and helpful. And in Germany everything is really organized. I didn’t have to worry anymore because everything was clearly regulated and followed a fixed procedure.

FORUM: What was your first experience studying in Mannheim?

Javier: Being a bit older than the other students, I was afraid of having problems to make new contacts. Yet the opposite was the case. I met very nice people from Asia and Germany who made it easy for me to get used to my new life.

Ralla: First of all, student life in Germany differs quite a lot from student life in Syria. Because all my courses are in English, I could directly start with my studies. Furthermore, the great variety of courses offered in English attracts a lot of international students. It is easy for me to communicate with them and to make new contacts. I met students of different nationalities and gained new insights and perspectives. In addition there were many events where I had the opportunity to make my first contacts. Thus, it was easier to take the first steps in the German society as well. 

FORUM: What were your biggest difficulties at the beginning of your studies?

Javier: Studying in Germany is different to studying in Mexico. Here in Germany, it is more about self-study and theory-focused, while in Mexico is more project-focused. Therefore, I had to change my approach a bit. Outside the university, the language barrier can sometimes be a problem. Some people are a bit reluctant to speak English and my German isn’t very good at the moment. I successfully completed the first language courses. Next I will take an intensive German language course.

Ralla: The biggest difficulty for me is the language for sure. Until today, my German isn’t fluent. It’s hard to find time to take language courses beside studies. I did nine courses in the last semester and in the next semester I will already begin to write my Master thesis. Probably, I will only be able to complete the German language courses after studying. In my daily life, outside the university, I gained the same experience as Javier. At university everybody speaks English, but in everyday life little knowledge of German is sometimes a barrier. For example, to speak with older people or to manage banking matters can be a bit difficult. 

FORUM: What do like at the University of Mannheim? 

Javier: I like the international flair of the University of Mannheim. Here are so many international students. And it’s such an enrichment to learn from other cultures. In Mannheim, I don’t only have the opportunity to get to know the German culture but also the cultures from the other international students. We show each other pictures and above all share our experience to come to Germany to do our Master’s degree. This quickly creates strong friendships.

Ralla: I like the internationality as well. It was easy for me to find my place. Mannheim itself is very nice as well. There is so much to discover, all the little cafés and restaurants.  I feel really connected with Mannheim.

Author: Sina Buschhold I Pictures: Claus Morgenstern  I May 2016