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.
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:
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.
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.