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Paola Hidalgo

Paola Hidalgo

Technical University of Ambato, Ecuador

Studying a semester abroad in Germany has meant to me the opportunity to gain enriching experiences in every way. Stuttgart Media University (HdM) allowed me to get involved in the program of Packaging Technology which has some interesting modules that helped me to improve my academic training in Biochemical Engineering, career that I am currently studying at Technical University of Ambato, Ecuador. Being part of a completely new educational system fully committed with the students, allowed me to develop leadership skills and critical thinking that I'm sure will be very useful in the future.

Moreover, as a South American student, the decision to study in Europe and particularly in Germany was very important; I traveled far away from home in order to seize this unique opportunity in my life. Thus, the experience of living for the first time in a foreign country became a long road full of learning. The constant interaction with people from different parts of the world allowed me to enrich the cultural differences between countries and beyond that, between continents, and also it was very pleasant for me to share information about my origin country, my cultural identity, my language and traditions and through it, contribute to the wonderful experience of participating in a multicultural environment.

In addition, I consider that one of the main advantages of studying abroad is to develop language skills which results very useful for the habitual communication. During this semester I was able to improve my English skills because all the modules that have studied were in this language, and moreover I could start learning German which is definitely an important step in order to understand the surrounding environment and which can serve as a basis for achieving a high level of this language in the future.

Furthermore, one of the most important qualities that I liked about Stuttgart Media University (HdM) is definitely the organization that it has as an institution, and in addition, the atmosphere of support and collaboration that is constantly kept between teachers, other servers and students. During the orientation week, I received a lot of help to choose the most appropriate modules for me. Several teachers guided me in this way. They explained me the content of the different subjects which was really helpful at the beginning. As a result of those suggestions, I got involved in an important project: the development of an energizing candy using a native plant of Ecuador; this project allowed me to apply knowledge related to my career and to work at the same time with cooperation of teachers of my home University.

I would like to mention that one of the best things of this exchange is the buddy program. It provides a clear example of the spirit of hospitality that is part of the University. The student volunteers are an essential part for international students who come from around the world.

Particularly, my buddy guided me all the time and she answered all the questions I had about the operation of the University and about the life in Stuttgart. However, it is important to mention that out of her obligations as a volunteer she helped and supported me in moments of sadness, nostalgia or other problems that go beyond the academic area. She became my first friend in this place and she was responsible for building the wonderful image I keep about Germany and its people.

Living in Stuttgart was from the start a welcoming experience. Multiple coordinated activities for international students, such as the tour around the campus and around the city, led to the unification of international students and moreover it allowed us to be familiar with the German culture, places and useful information we learned about this place. Additionally, other activity such as the visit to Heidelberg city was an amazing experience that showed us the typical architecture of the country and at the same time we learned about the history of that place.

The student residence Filderbahnplatz became my home shortly after I arrived because I started to feel comfortable and safe very soon. I had the opportunity to share the flat with two other international students of the University of Media and we built a good relationship very quickly, we used to share all of our questions, thoughts, ideas and dreams and that is why they went from being called flatmates to be called friends. Coexistence within the residence facilitated the development of emotional ties and now I can say they were a real family for me during this time. Currently, I am still in Germany, enjoying my last days in this wonderful country, and these last times make me feel nostalgia for the past. Every meeting not planned in the kitchen with friends, every conversation about life, studies, family, future expectations and others, every memory shared, every hug and demonstration of love will stay in my heart forever and will be always a reason for smiling no matter how far we are from each other.

"What is essential is invisible to the eye" says a well-known quote from the French children's book "The Little Prince" and is only now that I fully understand the meaning of it. The love of new friends, the gratitude to the university, the satisfaction of having been here during this period, the happiness of simple things like sharing a cup of tea on a cold winter evening or seeing snow for the first time and feel as excited as a little girl, all these things fill my soul, they make the big effort of my parents for having me here completely worthwhile. Growing as a person is priceless, keeping the good things of the people I have met is a gift of life and I am completely thankful for this experience.

Finally I want to say that the economic support of Baden-Württemberg Stiftung allowed me to fulfill a dream that changed my life in many ways, and now that I am very close to return home, I feel the desire encourage new students from my university to take the lifetime opportunity that this exchange means.