A Whirlwind of New Experiences

It feels like it was only yesterday that I boarded a plane headed to the US, but today, half of my stay at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa is already over. Time flies! These past five months have been a whirlwind of new experiences and feelings. I’ve learned new concepts and new skills, met people from all over the world, visited ten different states, enjoyed breathtaking views in the mountains and seen impressive national monuments in the capital. I’ve discovered American culture in its various facets.

When I arrived in Tuscaloosa, I was overwhelmed by the help and support from all sides. Everyone I met during my first few days and weeks was eager to help me get settled as well as solve any kind of problem that could possibly occur. I would even go as far as to say that people’s kindness, politeness, and readiness to help others are what I like best about the time I have already spent here.

My first week was full of orientation, and already I met some amazing people during that time. The orientation for new international students as well as the one for new graduate students brought me together with a social-work student from Uganda, a civil-engineering student from Jordan, two marine-biology students from Italy and a geology student from India! We still meet up regularly to have dinner together. I really enjoy being surrounded by such diverse, interesting and nice people.

Everyday college life in the US is very different from college life in Germany, at least in the graduate program I am enrolled in. I am studying in the master’s program in German, together with twelve other graduate students. This is already a huge difference, as I am used to studying alongside 300 other students in Germany! Naturally, the relationships among the students and also between them and the instructors and professors are much closer here. This was something that I was very unfamiliar with and that took some time to adjust to. However, I have really enjoyed getting to know my professors this semester. As I have a graduate teaching assistantship, I am also employed at the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. My major duties are to tutor German undergraduate students and to assist my professors in their work. This has been a very interesting experience so far.

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies in Hamburg last year, and when I applied for the VDAC student exchange I was hoping to be able to enroll in the English department at the American university I would be sent to. However, studying at the German department and working as a teaching assistant there were requirements to come here. Though this is not exactly what I had originally envisioned and it sometimes gets a little challenging, I do enjoy my studies here. I find my literature classes to be the most fun. During the first semester, I took a class that dealt with German literature after 1945. This semester, I am enrolled in a class on early modern literature as well as in another one on 19th-century literature. I still wish I could take additional classes outside of the German department, but lack of time and the conditions of the exchange unfortunately don’t allow for that.

Because of my work and studies in the German department and due to various cultural events, I have quite a lot of German friends here in Tuscaloosa. As it is the tradition for VDAC students, I am the director of the German House, in which I live with nine American students who are enrolled in German classes. My roommates and I spend a lot of time together, and I’m very glad to live with them. And as I said above, I’ve also made some new international friends, so all in all I have a very diverse circle of friends here and I am so thankful for that. The many unique people I’ve met here have really opened my eyes in so many ways.

I’d to express my gratitude for the exchange op- portunity that I was given by the German-American Women’s Club of Hamburg, the VDAC and by the De- partment of Modern Languages and Classics here at the University of Alabama. Without the generous organizational and financial support I’ve received, I would never have made it here and would never have had this enriching experience, which I will value for the rest of my life. Thank you!