Rachna - Eberhard Karls University Tübingen

B Arts/Law (Hons)
Semester 1, 2019
My exchange experience allowed me to not only learn more about German culture, but also myriad others from the friends I made.

Academic experience

Given that I needed to do 30 ECTS, I chose to do six political science subjects, two of which translated as general elective subjects back home due to their content. Political science is extremely popular for exchange students given there are so many offered in English, and I was able to make a lot of friends through these courses. 

The classes are also a lot more self-directed, but the interactive nature of the seminar makes learning a lot more engaging. The subjects available are also extremely interesting and cover a breadth of topics. Another important detail is that the number of credits for each subject is decided by how much assessment you decide to do for the class, ranging from purely attendance and/or participation at 2 ECTS, to including a presentation/short paper and long paper/exam at 8 ECTS. This makes the whole semester a lot more personalised.

Definitely one of the challenges in attending the university was the enrollment process after arriving. There are a lot of bureaucratic steps to take, and while the International Office here is very helpful, a lot of these steps involve offices that are only open for limited hours on certain days. I would definitely suggest arriving in Tubingen at least a week prior to Orientation week so that you can have everything done in time. For me, I did not receive my login details till two weeks into classes beginning, meaning I had to email all course coordinators to let them know I was interested in participating in their class. Most coordinators are familiar with these issues, however I suggest emailing all of them and attending the first lecture/seminar to secure your position, as often the classes will already be full.

Personal experience

As most people will tell you, one of the most valuable aspects of any exchange is not only learning about the culture of the country you live in, but of all the other international students you become friends with. With those I stayed with, we had fortnightly dinners where people cooked food from their culture, and we talked about living in their home country etc. With the friends I made, our cultural differences were always a source of intrigue and amusement. 

Tubingen's locality means that it is ideal for travel within Germany - especially hiking and viewpoints - and throughout Europe. Strasbourg is only a two hour train ride away, and Switzerland and Austria similarly close by. Being situated in central Europe meant that any destination in Europe was not more than a three hour flight from Stuttgart, which was only a 50min bus ride from Tubingen.

Accommodation

I lived in the Prinz Karl dormitory in Aldstadt (old town/city centre), which mostly constituted of exchange students. I shared bathroom and kitchen/dining room facilities, which I had no problem with because it got me out of my room and engaging with those around me. I also had my own sink in my room, which was very useful. 

I would strongly recommend applying for the Baden-Wurttemberg Stipendium and then applying early to stay at Prinz Karl, because of its locality and convenience. The university, main bus and train station, and numerous bars, clubs and restaurants are within a ten minute walking distance. If not, I would recommend staying at the WHO, where most of the student population lives. It is quite a popular location for nightlife and while it is a bit of a distance away in Tubingen standards (15 minute bus ride from university), it is an ideal location to get a feel for the student culture.

Costs

Exchange in Germany is definitely one of the most affordable in Europe, and most things are cheaper than in Australia. Rent is definitely very manageable, at 200-300 euros per month, and most groceries are of equal or cheaper pricing than back home. When it comes to eating and drinking, restaurant prices can vary but there are definitely various cheap options like the mensa (at 3-5 euros). Beer and other drinks are much cheaper in Germany, not only at the various student bars but the supermarket as well. Travel is also fairly cheap given the location of Tubingen, meaning that cheap Ryanair flights from Stuttgart can start at 20 euros return, and group train tickets in the region from 10 euros. 

Luckily, I received the Baden-Wurttemberg scholarship, meaning I received 500 euro a month from the state, from which my rent was automatically deducted. I would suggest budgeting around AUD$10,000, depending on travel and other necessary expenditures.

Challenge

I think the biggest challenge for me was definitely the starting enrollment process and bureaucratic steps, as there were a lot to get through whilst also attempting to meet people and engage in student life. However, by sticking to the list provided by the university, talking to those at the International Office and others in my situation, I was able to work through it.

Professional Development

Before my exchange abroad, I had never lived outside of home. Suffice to say doing so in a country where I don't speak the language with people I have only just met definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but left me with more independent and confident in my self-sufficiency. Meeting people of different cultures and backgrounds was also extremely eye-opening, and I know I have made some lifelong friends through this experience.

Highlight

When your semester abroad is in Europe, one of the highlights is bound to be the travel you do. For me, travelling around Europe with people I met at the university, whether through classes or orientation week, was one of the greatest highlights. However I think just immersing myself in the German culture in Tubingen itself cannot go unsaid. Attending events that are German to the core - like the Football championship, Stockerkahn boat competition, Frulingfest - made me fall in love with the country and the region. And doing all of this with a diverse group of friends made it all even better.

Top tips

(1) My biggest tip is applying for the Baden-Wurttemberg scholarship, as it not only provides you with a 500 euro a month stipendium, you also have access to a network of international and local students who make the experience much more memorable.

(2) Take the time to learn German. Before arriving in Germany, my German language skills were limited to the few weeks I had spent on Duolingo beforehand. I would definitely recommend doing at least a German elective before attending, and applying early for the German classes on offer in Tubingen (I missed out because I was too far down in the waiting list). Otherwise, make the effort by purchasing a self-teaching book (as I did) or talking to Germans and German-speakers. No doubt by the end of your semester you will have at least picked up key phrases and sentences, and greater comprehension. 

(3) Attend and participate in all the orientation week activities, as this will help you put yourself out there and meet people from across the world. I would also suggest arriving a week before the orientation week, as that allows you to become familiar with the town, and complete all the administrative tasks so that you are not stressed about enrollment.

(4) Travel as much as you can, but make sure to explore everything Tubingen and Germany has to offer as well.