How A Semester Abroad Changes Your Studying Habits
I went to Germany from Ukraine. Maybe that is why the list of differences in the everyday life and educational approaches kept lengthening with every new day and study assignment there. What I find the most useful is the ability to understand and evaluate those differences. I no longer find studying boring. I’m indeed addicted to it; I love the process and I adore the consequences.
One can never understand how different the lives of people could be without integrating into a couple of universes. The word ‘universe’ here applies to everything – from normal routines like shopping and using public transport, to studying principles and the approaches used. And all this varies so much among different countries.
Nine months ago, I was given the chance to be the one who comes to understand a second culture. I applied for a semester abroad at European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. From the very beginning I knew that even though the semester may be difficult, in the end the experience gained will be priceless. And that is exactly what has happened.
Let’s start with everyday life.
I was completely delighted to use German infrastructure. All of us have heard of ‘German punctuality’ at least once – and the great thing is, it’s true! This makes it much easier to be that much precise with timing when you know that your tram leaves at 12:03 in the afternoon and the ride takes exactly 11 minutes. That is what I lacked in Ukraine.
Additionally, all the habits of Germans are worthy of respect, such as garbage sorting and the return of plastic bottles in supermarkets. Living in such a community meant adopting all the routines and enjoying comfort and ease of life.
As to educational system, Ukraine still has a lot to learn from countries like Germany.
I was at first surprised with the level of automatization in education and how much you are indeed independent in your timing and interests. There are so many platforms and websites that make studying easier, help the communication between students and professors and create far more efficient information distribution network, which lowers the administrative burden of university stuff.
Apart from level of automatization, Germany kept surprising me with its infrastructure ‘built’ for making studying more comfortable and attractive. I remember the library of European University Viadrina being the best place I got a chance to work in – it is the place where all the thoughts come together and motivation doubles; the place where, in a break, you can meet your friends, drink coffee and then get back to studying with the clearest ever vision of why you are doing it.
There are also some specificities I noticed in Germany that are caused by a different outlook on life. For example, the level of tolerance. Whatever the professor asks you and whatever you answer, a disapproving glance will never be a reaction. Even if you say something stupid, you will receive a “I can fully understand why you thought that” phrase as a response. Such behavior motivates you to participate in class activities and makes you believe in yourself. You delete the “what if…” thought in your mind forever.
Moreover, every time you are the one to ask question (in case you missed something or didn’t understand the issue), the professor will give you his all in explaining everything the easiest way for as long as needed, which is once everything is clear for you.
These are only some of the specificities that drew my attention during the first months of studying in Germany.
And as the time is passing me by, I can clearly see what is good now. As soon as I have reached the point when studying already seemed to be a boring process to which I got used to, I was given a chance to change my point of view. Saying ‘boring’ here, I mean a routine process of doing everything on the automatic level which requires no longer big amount of effort or high involvement, but gives the same result in the end.
I got a breath of fresh air that has changed everything dramatically. And there are thousands of things I need to say thanks for, things I never got before. Thanks for listening to our own point of view, thanks for enabling us to discuss, thanks for begging us to argue with you, professors! Thanks for letting me write essays (I know now what I lacked all this time!) and thanks for making us believe in ourselves. And most of all, thanks for bringing back the idea of studying and acquiring new knowledge.
I know I am a lucky one to realize and feel this, when some people seem to lose their efficiency because of things becoming a routine. It was, and still is, one of the best experiences I could ever have gotten.