Romy - Humboldt University of Berlin

B. Arts
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

At Humboldt, I took part in a program called 'Berlin Perspectives', which offers a selection of subjects specifically for exchange students. I took 3 classes (the maximum allowed) from this program, all of which were very interactive and fun, and quite easy compared to other subjects offered at HU. Included in this program is a language course at the Sprachenzentrum. I also took a supplementary German grammar class and attended an art history lecture.

My course timetable ended up differing greatly from my initial study plan because aside from the Berlin Perspectives courses, I found out I was restricted to subjects within the Art History Faculty. These were coincidentally only offered in German. Whilst my German is not terrible, I definitely felt uncomfortable with undertaking entire subjects in a foreign language, in case I fell behind. Nevertheless, I was happy with the final outcome and managed to earn all of my ECTS fairly easily. Suffice to say, it's good to be as flexible as possible regarding your choice of subjects - be open to the fact that your initial study plan will almost definitely change in some way or another.

I would advise everyone coming to Humboldt University to take part in the intensive language course, which takes place about one month before the start of the semester. It was a good way to make friends and quickly adjust to some of the language and cultural differences, plus it counts towards the total study points needed for a semester abroad.

Personal experience

My semester abroad was a challenging, rewarding, fun and unforgettable experience. 

But, be prepared for the homesickness! Living in one place is significantly different from the excitement that comes with even a long period of travelling, so feeling out of place or missing friends back home is a very real and totally normal part of the experience. I learnt a lot about myself during my time abroad - some level of personal growth is to be expected. The language barrier was difficult at times, and even though Berlin is not the best place to exponentially improve your German (pick a smaller city!), my German skills improved recognizably since first arriving.

I met some great friends in Berlin who I hope to keep in contact with for many years to come. There is such an international community in the city - everyone comes from somewhere else, and everyone is accepting and friendly. I also did a lot of travelling over the Christmas break: I travelled extensively around Germany (buses are gloriously cheap!) and made weekend trips to Prague and Istanbul. I chose not to leave immediately at the end of the semester and gave myself the opportunity to travel, namely to Spain and to Iceland. I also had quite a few visitors from Australian friends whilst in Europe, which was very special, and I can now say that I have friends from all over the world!

Accommodation

I chose to find my own place rather than live on campus, as I'd heard that living on campus meant a decent commute to uni and wasn't prepared for that. In Berlin, it's quite hard to find a place as everyone else (EVERYONE) is looking for a room, too. But luckily, I had a friend in Berlin who allowed me to stay with her until I found myself a more permanent place, which worked perfectly. I really got lucky and found a beautiful apartment with 5 other people, most of whom I got along with very well. I found that the people I lived with became my closest friends, so try to live with at least 2 other people to maximize friendship possibilities! 

Most of all, don't stress. It's really hard to find a place before leaving Australia as most share houses want to meet you in person before letting you move in. Don't worry! You'll find a place - just keep searching and applying.

Budget

Berlin is super cheap. Once you've had your matriculation and paid the fee, you'll receive a BVG student pass. This makes transport around the city significantly cheaper - it works out to be about 10 euro per week, and you can use it as often or as much as you like! And, if you're going in the summer semester, buying a cheap bike is the way to go.

Rent can vary widely but on the whole, is very reasonable. It all depends on your budget. Food is really cheap too and I still can't figure out whether it's cheaper to eat out or buy groceries to cook at home! It's a very livable city, and a great central base to choose if you want to do lots of travelling on your exchange.

Professional development and employability

I'm definitely more confident in new situations now; studying overseas forced me into many unknown and uncomfortable circumstances through which I had to blindly navigate. I learned things by doing, and even though it was scary at times, it showed me how capable I was.

Most of all, my semester abroad taught me great lessons in gratitude. Even though I really didn't want to come home, I realized all the home-related things I had taken for granted or overlooked, and all the things that make me so blessed...
Well, I now have a fresh view on so many things that had started to get stale before I left!

Highlight

Karaoke!
Karaoke!

The highlights of my exchange semester include: experiencing an amazing German Christmas and a real European winter, travelling (!!) and being able to meet up with friends all over the continent, dancing with champagne on New Years Eve and watching the crazy fireworks, and riding my bike through beautiful Berlin in those warm few weeks before October!

Top tips

  • If you're up for an adventure, or just feeling like a change, GO!
  • The organising and paperwork is so worth it, so don't miss the opportunity as it may never come around again!
Romy - Humboldt University of Berlin