Technical University of Ambato
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.
Thomas C. Begin
Fitchburg State University
Fitchburg, Massachusetts, United States
My Time Abroad
Five months, one hundred forty seven days, 3,528 hours. This is the amount of time I spent abroad in Germany. But my experience can’t be put in a numerical sense, it doesn’t feel right and I don’t think it accurately sums up the time I spent here. When people ask me how long was in Germany I find it to be more appropriate to say long enough to make connections with people that span across the globe, long enough to not feel like a tourist, and long enough to say that my favorite thing to do didn’t involve bars or clubs but a little café where I regularly went to enjoy a book. Not only is that how I would accurately describe my length of stay in Stuttgart but it is also what I’m most proud of.
Before I started my journey abroad I didn’t really have any big expectations. I knew very little about the country along with the city of Stuttgart. Because of this I was able to arrive with an open mind and everything seemed so new and fresh and I was bewildered by it. Some of the friends I had made here told me about how they had been to Stuttgart before their time abroad here and had gotten the feel of the city and surrounding. For me being 4,000 miles and an ocean away that wasn’t an option, and even if it was I wouldn’t of chosen to do that. Part of why I decided to go abroad was to fully immerse myself in an unknown environment and put myself in an immediate sink or swim situation. I craved and looked forward to that challenge. This is why I made no assumptions, no expectations, and came in hitting the ground running. Since I came here with this approach I got the challenge I was looking for, and a challenge it was. With more cultural differences that I can count I quickly had to learn to adapt to this new and different way of living. Such as having to shop for groceries every day, cooking every day for myself, and to learning how to read and use the tram transportation system.
Although the main focus of my time abroad was to study abroad, there was so much more to my time here than just that. Life outside of school was thrilling with a new adventure every day. When I first got here it consisted of exploring the city center in the heart of Stuttgart, going to local restaurants, and of course checking out the many car museums. After I went through the initial “tourist” phase I begin venturing outwards. Going down the less popular roads without the big flashy shops and signs, enjoying biking through the many near by fields, or meeting up with recently made friends to barbeque need a small pond. As I stated before one of my favorite things to do was to grab my book and head to small out of the way café and sit outside for as long as I wanted and just relax and read. Being independent here and going off on my own gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment in that I was able to do so in a new country. It was these things that I enjoyed the most and made me realize that I wasn’t just a tourist here any more.
When it came to the actual “study” part of study abroad I was excited to see how another education system worked. In comparison to what I was used to the education I got here felt so much more organic. Back home classes worked by reading information out of a book and then talking about it or listening to a teach talk at you for and hour and a half or sometimes longer as you try to retain as much as possible. Here it was much more natural than that. My classes here were based on group discussion and questions that any of us had. There would be a loose program for that day but it would mostly be about what we as students would ask to learn about, which made so much sense to me and fascinated me. Something that I was most impressed with was one of my teachers in my Visual Effects class. My teacher the first day of classes explained this was his first time teaching a class and said how much he disliked the same class when he took it years ago and he was determined to make the class about us learning not about him teaching which blew me away. He had told us how he worked for a very well known visual effects company and had worked on movies such as Transformers and The Avengers and explained how he worked on the movies and what it was like working in the real world. Never before had a gained so much experience and knowledge through what just felt like casual conversations, and in this style of teaching I learned so much about my field. Something else I enjoyed was how grading was all work based instead of the usual standardized tests. So instead of having some huge test that you cram study for a few nights before and then forget in time after the test I was graded on my work and projects which I found to be a much better way in assessing my knowledge and what I was taking away from my classes. One last thing that amazed me was how the school set up events allowing the students to proudly show off and display their work to fellow class mates and whoever else chose to attend these functions. During these nights I would go around and see student’s work from all types of classes and mediums from graphic design, to print media, video game design, and many more. It made me proud to see what bigger group I was a part of and made me thankful for being at HDM.
When it came to interacting with people outside of school, I found them be very welcoming and very eager to ask about and to here about my trip in Stuttgart and about Germany. It seems at least 3 times a week I would be on the tram and someone would hear that I was from the United States and would ask me about my time here and I would be more than happy to discuss it with this stranger. Besides just friendly talk people were always very happy to be of help if I was to stop them in the street for directions or to enter a store and ask for help with something. One of the most memorable moments with this was when I was looking to apply for my visa and I was walking in circles for the better part of an hour looking for the building. I asked a near by worker at a restaurant if he could help me and with a smile not only gave me directions, but lead me himself to the building. I told him that I was applying for a visa and he told me how he came to Stuttgart and did exactly what I was doing over twenty years ago and never left. It’s the small connections like this I made with so many people that made me feel so welcomed and happy to be here.
It’s amazing to see where I am now thinking back to when I was going through the steps and motions to get here; it was not an easy task. I spent countless ours filling out application after application and dealing with multiple challenges such as the different school semester schedules, setting up housing, and class selections. It was surprisingly difficult on my home school’s end to line everything up for my trip while the school abroad was very helpful and simple to get my trip in order. At home though I did have a very informative study abroad councilor who gave me everything step by step that I needed to get done. I also have her to thank for telling me about the BWS-World network and stipend. The application process for BWS-World was incredibly simple and easy. It was easy to navigate, straight forward, and kept track of everything you had completed and had yet to complete so you always knew your progress level when it came to finishing. If every other part of my preparation were that simple it would have been amazing. The HDM School in Stuttgart also has a very helpful study abroad coordinator who was more than helpful and went above and beyond to fix any problem that arose during my time here, in and out of school. If I ever had question or a problem from as small as translating something from Germany to English to helping me set up my visa she was always there with a smile to make sure everything worked out. When it came to my own responsibilities on preparing for my time abroad I was very eager to get everything done. I made sure to meet every deadline with time to spare, was constantly asking if there was anything else I should be getting prepared to both my home and host school, and just making sure everything was in check and in place overall when it came to applications and paperwork. It all seemed surreal when it cam down to it though. I never thought that I would be booking flights to and from Europe and looking into housing and into getting visas to stay for so long somewhere. As someone who rarely has an opportunity as big as this to leave my small bubble of a world it was very exciting.
As I stated about the level of ease when it came to joining the BWS network, joining it was one of the most important steps I took when it came to my trip abroad. Not only was the generous stipend extremely helpful for me, but also the network I became a part of was extremely valuable. Reading testimonies about other’s experiences and travels was very easing and reassuring when it came to my initial arrival here. Seeing what others had done and accomplished through and with the help of BWS-World was exciting as well to know that I was a part of that network and had those same opportunities. Upon my arrival home I plan on sharing my experiences and stories of my amazing time abroad with the hopes to get others from my school to study abroad as well. With that my first word of advice will be to join the community of BWS-World and not just for the stipend but also for the connection and be a part of something so big and useful. Other tips I would give to those choosing to study abroad and scholarship recipients would to be to just take every day one day at a time during their journey. If you focus too much on everything that has to get done you’ll be tripping yourself up and quickly feel the pressure of becoming overwhelmed. Look at each day as a day to achieve something new and explore and everything else will fall into place.
As comes the near end of my trip it seems like my time has past in a blink of an eye. I was told before I left that this trip would change me. I took that as just meaning I would see the world differently and become a worldly traveler, but it was much more than that. I now see myself different and see myself stronger and with more ambition to utilize throughout life. I have a new sense of pride in myself that I was able to make it through this journey, and not only survive here but thrive. It didn’t take long for me to get past that sense of feeling like a tourist or being on vacation and that’s something I’m also proud of. Forever after this trip I will be able to say to myself, “I did it.” I broke out of my bubble and took on the world. Which is something that I will be able to carry with me wherever I go.
Cristina Ruiz Moreno
University of Barcelona
ERASMUS in Stuttgart
If someone asks me about my Erasmus experience in the Hochschule der Medien - Stuttgart, I couldn’t be more happy to talk about it.
1. arrival: first days and impressions:
2nd March - I came for the first time to Germany and I have to confess that I was kind of afraid about it. This has been my first experience abroad being relatively far from home and I did not know what was going to happen within the next months.
One thing I really appreciated about HdM is this “buddy network” of HdM’s students who offer themselves as volunteers to introduce the university, the campus and the city of Stuttgart to the newcomers as well as help them with bureaucracy stuff. Getting used to my new town and lifestyle was much more easy thanks to Pablo, my buddy.
Although the lectures did not start until the 16th March, I came two weeks before to do the so-called “welcome weeks”. It was basically a couple weeks when I had time to meet the other internationals, arrange bureaucracy stuff, purchase train ticket, get used to my new 6-dorm-WG and, of course, know Stuttgart’s best clubs for partying.
It is true that the first days were kind of hard to me and I suppose it was the same for all the other internationals, but getting used to Filderbahnplatz and Möhringen did not take as long as I expected.
• Kaufland was the supermarket where I bought almost everything I needed to survive. It was like a second home to me and was right next to my WG in Filderbahnplatz, and the U-Bahn station as well.
• The public transport network here in Stuttgart amazed me. I was only 15 minutes far away from the university campus/ city center taking the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn. Málaga, which is a city in Spain that can be compared with Stuttgart because they have similar number of inhabitants, only has buses to connect different parts of the city and it takes long time to arrive to your destination.
• But one place I will miss so bad is Riedsee: the fields right next to my student dorm, where I used to go jogging in order to avoid getting fat and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It felt so good being in a big city but at the same time having some peaceful and natural place to enjoy the views and breath pure air, that I do not think I will find something similar back home.
It is difficult for me to “rate” german people because I spent most of my time in Stuttgart with internationals. I really like german politeness. In my opinion, germans are really well educated people and I felt identified with them as long as they are surprisingly efficient doing their work and they work really hard in order to do their best and achieve their goals.
But I could feel the differences between german and spanish people. Germans in general avoid physical contact like kissing on the cheeks, they do not speak or make noises at all while using public transport; and they are quite shy compared to south europeans or latin people. I did not do it on purpose, but afterwards I realized I had missed my country in that way because most of the good friends I made in Stuttgart come from countries where people are more “warm”: Spain [David, Oihane, Jorge, María, Josemi], Italy [Tonia], Croatia [Kristina], Mexico [Ive, Ana], Turkey [Melis], Venezuela [Aitana], India [Vignesh, Shams], Brazil [Ravy] and so on.
2. THE “hochschule der medien":
I was truly impressed by how professional and modern my host university looked like. Well, it is not only that it looked professional but that it was a full-equipped place with talented and hard-working people teaching and studying in there. Since I come from a faculty with less resources and my studies are theoretical instead of practical, I was amazed like a child when most of my classes took place at the HdM’s own theater, when I realized that they had their own radio and TV/photography studios or that they used professional RED ONE cameras to shot videos.
I was studying a regular english taught course called “Audiovisual Media” and my lectures were: Film history I & II, Introduction to media analysis & history, VFX class, Studio production and a german course [level B2.1].
• Mr. Lowry, who always had a smile on his face and tons of patience listening students’ presentations, taught us a lot about Hollywood and the Star System. I really liked the subjects he taught even if sometimes it was really hard to keep myself awake at his 3-hours lectures starting at 8:15 am in the morning. In “Film history I” & “Film history II” I did for first time such long presentations in English. Even thought my english was not perfect, I felt really proud of my work. I have improved my english skills during these months abroad.
• At VFX class I had the opportunity to learn how to manage “Nuke”, the software that professionals use for VFXs in films. But furthermore, I really admired my teacher Andreas. He was once an HdM student and had been working for well-known companies like “Industrial, Light and Magic” until he felt overwhelmed by such amount of work and deadlines. His personal experience not only served me as an advice on how to deal with work in the future, but it turned human and warm such technical lectures.
• Studio production was kind of an opportunity for me to do something different from what I am used to. Since it is a huge subject I was enrolled in a theater project to take the play “Feuersee Zero Hour” to FEATS Festival in Hamburg and to Theaterhaus in Stuttgart. The script was written in german and english by my teacher Mr. Marlow and my role in the crew was “production manager”. I had to organize meetings, keep all the members in touch with the others, book the hostel for our trip to Hamburg and so on. Of course, I travelled to Hamburg to help in whatever I was required with. I remind it as a nice experience despite of the trains strike that almost leaves us at home.
Furthermore, I was also specially surprised to know that HdM has a budget for exchange students in order to pay expenses for the trips we make regarding HdM’s projects. So I had no need to spend my own money for that. I have to say it was always a pleasure to deal with german effectiveness.
• The german course helped me to keep in touch with german language since the university lectures were in english and most of my international friends did not speak german at all. The lectures were kind of recreational and we had “viel Spaß” while learning. Thanks to this course I was able to pass my official german exam at the EOI back home and I obtained a B2 level. Specially good was my oral exam mark, so it proves that train and speak a language helps you to improve your skills significantly.
3. my life in stuttgart:
I have never been a party animal but this semester abroad has been crazy for me. I will specially miss “kitchen parties”. Since we had no living room in our WGs, kitchen was our place to meet and party. This is something that only people who live or have been living in Filderbahnplatz will understand. Unfortunately, the Erasmus stereotype about partying can not be denied this time.
As a good exchange student I have been traveling around Germany during this semester. I visited cities like Heidelberg, Ulm, Bamberg, Nürnberg, Hamburg, Berlin [of course!] and Konstanz, with its beautiful lake Bodensee in the borderline with Switzerland.
Specially nice was the experience I had with some internationals and Andrea. She was one of the buddies and became a good friend after she took us to her home in Rentweinsdorf, a little village in the region of Franconia, Bayern. We spent Easter holidays with her lovely and warm family and I had the opportunity to taste “Franken" wines and eat some typical and tasty german food like “Sauerkraut”.
But not everything was partying and travel. Here in Germany I got my first job as helper for Primark. Even if it was only a couple days, it was enough to help me find out how things work and to practice what I call the “real German”: the language spoken on the street - fast and sometimes incomprehensible. The clear and noise-free “Hörentest” I had to listen to in german language lectures is nothing compared with that.
As the semester went on the first “closing parties” came and I could enjoy the work my colleagues did during the semester at the “MediaNight”. There I could proudly print my own “Irgendwas mit Medien” bag in order to feel like a fully integrated HdM student.
Back home my faculty is located next to Barcelona’s main train station and there is no place left for grass, chill or campus. Just one old grey building situated right in the middle of an urban chaos. That is why I enjoyed so much Vaihingen campus, the people there, the sun the days it shone and the parties that took place like Straussi or Almandrig. They remind me the typical parties everyone can see in american movies and I felt like being in one of them.
4. DEPARTURE: LAST days and impressions:
I had lots of doubts about sharing flat with other five more persons. This could be crazy if something did not work properly. I know some friends who had troubles with their flatmates and coexist was a nightmare. Thanks God, I was blessed with such a nice flatmates who helped me on my firsts days and who became like a family for me in this place. We had dinner together, we had fun, we shared our experiences, we ate a lot, we helped each other, I invaded their rooms to talk with them until late night… even if sometimes the WG wasn’t as cleaned as it would be desirable I really can not express how much I will miss them and the little moments of happiness I had there when I am gone. Listen to the others is also a way of learning and one learns a lot about other cultures and ways of living just by sharing some moments in the kitchen cooking together. I definitely will never forget Kurdo (Kurdistan), Vignesh (India), Oihane (Spain), Shams (India), Hamdi (Tunisia), Fermín (Mexico) and Fran (Spain).
This semester abroad has been something new for me: stressless and full of enjoyable moments. I did not regret about the decision I took coming here. It was a positive choice but furthermore, I had time to think about what I like and what I do not like, what I want to do in the future, how I will continue my studies and how I will focus my professional career. To sum up, I had enough time to forget about other issues that always distract and worry me to focus on knowing myself better.
I would like to finish this report saying a big “Thank you!”: to all the people who welcomed me/ helped me during my time in Stuttgart [International Office/ Sue: I am really sorry for bother you all with so many E-mails, but you are worth it!] and to all the people I met there and made this semester abroad such a really nice experience. I had the time of my life.
There is a portuguese word I learned from a friend. This term can not be exactly translated into English, German or Spanish and describes perfectly how I feel right now about this time abroad in Stuttgart:
“Saudade". It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.
It is also described as "the love that remains" after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. […] It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.”