Report of Experience by Ellen Jacobsson

Sumer semester 2002
by Ellen Jacobsson

Whether you like the city you study in or not is a very personal experience. I studied the first semester of Euroculture in Uppsala, Sweden were I had already studied for three semesters. I liked Uppsala, but I anyway wanted to spend the second semester somewhere else and I chose Göttingen since I wanted to practise German.

A semester of thesis writing is not really to compare to other semesters, to write a thesis is an experience different from other studies. Before at all considering writing a thesis in a new environment, you ought to be prepared on the extra work this brings with it. This report is a mix of a description of how I found the studies in Göttingen and of practical hints, in order to give you an idea of what to expect.

General impression

The Euroculture program is interesting and usually well organised in Göttingen. There was no problem at all to get all the information and help I wished for, neither before nor during my stay in Germany. Göttingen is a small city, which I found nice since I got to know the place fairly quick and felt at home after only a few weeks. As the time went I also found that Göttingen, with its old houses, is beautiful compared to many other cities in Germany.

To live in Göttingen is cheaper than in Sweden. My rent was cheaper, food costs less (especially everything unhealthy such as chocolate and alcohol) and there is a canteen at the university which provides cheap lunches. On the other hand is the life as exchange student more expensive than at home simply since you’d like to do, see and travel more.

To study in Göttingen was different to study in Uppsala, which sometimes made it harder but also much more fun. I also learned a lot of things that did not have anything to do with my studies.

Germany and Göttingen in general
To live in Germany and to study in Göttingen is it important to know German, but you do not need to feel totally fluent. The Euroculture ‘colloquiums’ and ‘tutoriums’ can be carried through in English as well as in German, seminars and lectures can be chosen so that a large part of them are in English. Even so, German is essential, since not all the lectures and seminars are in English and since it is not for sure that all the staff at the university knows English. The daily life in Göttingen is also much easier if you know German.

The language course before the semester started was a good way to get to know other exchange students and to fresh up the language skills.

From time to time I had the feeling that the German bureaucracy is overdoing things. It is that it is not that much paper work for each place, but there are many places to which you have to hand in papers, especially in the beginning. Don’t despair, there is an end to it! But be prepared on at least the following:

  • University

  • You need to matriculate in the beginning of the semester. Euroculture students need to make a different matriculation than other exchange students since we are doing an ‘Abschluss’. When you leave you are supposed to ex-matriculate. This is said to be important if you would like to later study at another German University.

  • Rathaus
  • You need to report that you have moved to Göttingen. This is normal also for the German students. Foreigners also need to apply for a residence permit. For this you need at least two photos. Some weeks after the first visit to the foreigners’ office you need to pick up your residence permit, which is really only a formal piece of paper, EU citizens will get it without any trouble. You will get information and help from the Erasmus bureau to fill out all papers to Rathaus. When you leave Göttingen you also have to go to Rathaus and tell them that you are leaving, but this time you don’t need to go to the foreigners’ office.

  • Euroculture
  • You will continuously have to tell the co-ordinators things like which lectures and seminars you are taking, what theme you are interested in for your thesis etc. This is no big deal, it is just another thing to do and it makes your studies easier.

  • Hints!
  • The only advice I can give is to always bring all official papers (such as id-card or passport, a proof that you are a student of the university, your address etc) around all the time the first few weeks, you will need them while you are sorting the bureaucratic things. Another good idea is to have some extra photos for the different cards and forms you will need to hand in, such as if you’d like to have a ‘Bahncard’ or a card to go to the University sport centre.

  • Banks
  • If you open a bank account will you be able to pay your bills free of charge, this can otherwise be pretty expensive. All banks except ‘Sparkasse’ have free service for students. You can also get phone and Internet banking for free.

  • Travelling
  • If you plan to travel a lot in Germany it might be a good idea to buy a ‘Bahncard’ at the railway station. With the ‘Bahncard’ will you get about half the price on train trips. Another way to travel cheap is to take the couches ‘Eurolines’ and ‘Berlin Linen Bus’.

    To study Euroculture in Göttingen

    Lectures and seminars
    To study in another country implies to learn a new system of how to study. In Göttingen it is possible to choose different courses within the Euroculture program. These courses you select when the semester is about to start. A good idea is to read through the list of courses and then choose a few different. Visit them a week or two and make up your mind according to how they suit your schedule and interests. German students even choose their lectures and seminars according to how interesting the lecturer is!

    Prepare already from the beginning for the oral exams by asking other student about the lecturer and their way of examining. Some are known to be not as nice, which might be good to know. Do not worry about the literature the lecturer writes on the blackboard, you are not seriously expected to read it all. When the oral exams are coming up you will discuss a theme with your teacher and then read a book or some articles.

    How to write a thesis
    Before your start to write your thesis make sure that you know how it is supposed to be written. Both the process of writing and the formal rules might be different. In our group we found out that not everyone was used to find a question first and then suitable literature, instead they were working for some weeks on a bibliography, which is not the normal German way of working with a thesis. Since you have a time limit of three months to write you thesis you do not wish to spend time on things that might not be of value to the further work. Formal rules for the layout and content such as margins, spaces, relation between the theory and your research are also good to know before you start writing, they might be different to those at your home university. Ask you tutor or the Euroculture co-ordinators! To me it was a surprise that you are done when you hand in your thesis. There is no opposition or occasion to discuss or to get critics as I was used to.