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From Wings to Beer: Coming to Germany

Nathan is a current Master's student of European Studies enrolled at the University of Passau, located along Germany's border with Austria.

Why Germany?

When I spent a semester abroad in Germany two years ago in Dortmund, many thoughts entered my mind. Not only did I find the very, very university fees particularly attractive for my graduate studies, but I also appreciated the German university ethos of independence and efficiency. Such characteristics have yet to be implemented in the United States, where advisors take charge of schedule making and university studies generally follow a prescribed curriculum allowing for minimal academic freedom.

Unfortunately for me, though, I still had another year left of undergraduate studies in the United States.

"I've had it," I said, after my first week of post-Germany undergraduate studies back in the United States. Within one week back in the United States, I had already had three quizzes, over 200 pages of reading for my five classes and an upcoming test on the way.

It was there and then that I sent my mind on pursuing a dream of mine: studying in Germany.

How I made Germany a reality

Enraged after a full week of classes, working and busy work the United States falsely calls "homework", I grabbed my laptop and began to look up graduate programs in Europe.

Germany was not my first choice when it came to studying in another country. The United States has a fantastic scholarship program which facilitates cross-cultural exchanges for United States citizens abroad, as well as foreigners coming to the United States, called the Fulbright Program. Something offered through this program was the opportunity to study at a Dutch university...and get paid for doing so!

Unfortunately, I did not earn the scholarship. Yet that did not discourage me from pursuing my dream of studying in Europe, and definitely facilitated the next step in making my dreams a reality: Applying to graduate school in Germany!

Pack your bags, you're going to...Passau.

While applying for the scholarship to the Dutch university, I made a friend who attended my college as an exchange student from Germany. We became super close friends, and one day, I was telling her about how I was feeling and she began talking about the university where she completed her undergraduate studies.

Everything sounded perfect! A quaint city with a beautiful university campus located right next to a river. What was not to love?

"Oh, you're talking about Munich, right?" I bluntly asked, attempting to mask the fact I had no idea what city she was talking about.

"No, I'm talking about the University of Passau," she responded instinctively.

"Passau? Where is Passau?" I immediately inquired. I had so many other questions, but for some reason, that was all that came to mind.

She left me with that and told me to do my own research. Not one to let my dreams go to the wayside, I did exactly that. In no more than five minutes, I was completely sold on this university. Being able to complete a degree in two languages had always been a goal of mine. Completing this goal is actually trickier than you would think, English having become the primary (and oftentimes sole) language of instruction for graduate studies in much of Europe. In a matter of days, I had completed my application.

In two months, I had an answer: I was on my way to Passau to start in the Summer Semester (SoSe, short for the German ,,Sommersemester'') 2019.

Nächster Halt: Passau Hbf

Just two weeks ago, I arrived in Munich Airport with everything ready to go. I had all the required documents needed from the United States. I had already found an apartment on the private market. I felt confident, in some cases, but also very nervous regarding the commute from the airport to Passau.

Overall, Germany has a very efficient transport system. But sometimes it can become a hassle when all you want to do is crawl into bed, but you can't, because you have a three-hour train ride ahead of you. Eventually, after having to make an unexpected stop at Munich Central Station (München Hbf), I made it to Passau Central Station (Passau Hbf).

I truly had no idea what lay before me until I got there. I had never visited the city, which proved to have its drawbacks by not knowing where anything was, so I was very clueless about what to expect here in Passau, specifically.

An example: I had researched how long it would take to walk from the train station to my new apartment. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps said it would take approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, which I didn't anticipate to be too bad, especially considering my German railway app told me to go a roundabout way to get to Passau.

I learned the hard way not to trust estimated walking times from either app. It took me nearly 45 minutes - almost three times the estimated time - to walk to my apartment. In comparison, a bus would have taken only five. But when I finally arrived to my apartment, my flatmate Joe was there to greet me with open arms (and hands: one of my suitcased weighed close to 23 kg).

Within a matter of days, I have gotten used to things here in Germany. As long as you can handle independence, cheap groceries and the Bavarian dialect of German, you can handle Passau just fine!

© 2019 Nathan Baumgartner


Thelma Alberts from Germany on April 16, 2019:

Good luck to your studying in Passau. All the best.

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