Report of Experience by Valentina Sorokina

Report of Experience
by Valentina Sorokina, Euroculture student 2009-2011





A small student-friendly city in the heart of Europe, Göttingen is famous for its university. It is one of the highest-ranked universities of Germany with a long academic tradition. But once you come to the city, you will get impressed by an interesting combination of the old traditions with the newest technologies and facilities. The main university campus where most Euroculture classes take place, is a very modern-looking area with a big square in the centre and a lot of green, pleasant to the eye. In-between a huge library containing millions of books and a nice “Zentralmensa” (university canteen) with low-price tasty meals there is a building called “Oeconomicum”, where the Euroculture office is situated. Here, you will be able to find answers to all questions that you might have as a new inquisitive student, since the staff are very friendly and helpful.


I would like to tell you about my personal experience as an international student coming to study abroad for the first time in my life. Now, in my third Euroculture semester, I am looking back on those first days of my stay here and thinking how challenging and at the same time exciting this experience was. To start with, I was lucky to get a scholarship to finance my studies. Back in Russia, as I was in my final fifth year of linguistics studies at Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University, anxious to know what to do next, I learned about the Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window Programme (for details, see http://www.utu.fi/en/iii/). As it turned out, within this programme, several European universities cooperate with 10 Russian ones, and among them, my university was taking part in the programme for the first ”experimental” year. I realized that this could be a nice opportunity to try myself, applied – and won the scholarship! Of course, it was necessary to start the preparations well in advance, because for a master’s level I had to submit applications for the financial means and for admission to the Euroculture programme as such at the same time. It took a lot of effort and paper, but finally, in the beginning of July 2009, I knew it: the next step of my life was Germany, Göttingen, Euroculture.


The only thing that made me feel a little sad at first, was that my scholarship programme stipulated that I should stay in one place for the whole duration of the scholarship period. It meant that, unlike other Göttingen Euroculture students, I didn’t go to another country for the second semester. However, soon there was no trace left of this initial feeling. The second semester in Göttingen was an entirely new and even more rewarding experience, as I made friends with new interesting people from all over the world, took new classes with new visiting professors and enjoyed the spring and summer Göttingen, with beautiful sunny days and wonderful blooming sakura trees on the campus. Moreover, I was very pleased with the accommodation I was lucky to get – I live in a student dormitory located on the campus – which I didn’t want to lose, of course. Many of my classmates had problems with finding accommodation, so I would advise you to start looking for a place to stay in advance.


As for the contents and structure of the programme, I would say I experienced a considerable difference to the way I was educated back in Russia. I was surprised to learn, for example, that there were no lectures in the sense that I was used to. Every class that I took here was a mixture of the “traditional” lecture and a seminar where we were supposed to participate actively in the discussions, expressing our own opinions and sharing experiences with one another and the instructor. An explicit focus on the group work was also somewhat new for me: to plan, carry out and present research or practical projects, we split into several groups. Thus, it was a truly intercultural experience! By working together, we learned a lot about one another, had to listen to one another attentively and take into account opinions of every member of the group. After the projects were done, we reviewed our peers’ work, which was also a task unknown to me before. Now I can say that Euroculture broadened my horizons and taught me to think!


The classes are all interesting in their own way. Some are more research-oriented, others aim at training practical skills. I was especially happy to have the latter, since they were very satisfying in the end. We organized an educational trip, went to a school to present our project to schoolchildren, etc. And what is important, you never get bored when studying, also due to numerous activities organized by the Euroculture team together with volunteers who are assigned to the students from the beginning of the programme - going to the cinema, to the theater, doing sports and celebrating birthdays together...


Worth mentioning is also a great opportunity to learn as many foreign languages as you want (and can). University language courses were extremely helpful in improving my knowledge of German and starting French from scratch. It is necessary though to register for the chosen courses long enough before they start, otherwise you can miss your chance. With learning German, however, there is no reason for trouble. If you are not a complete beginner, you should take a placement test (Einstufungstest) and then register during the first class of the course corresponding to your level.


The student card that you get in the beginning is a very convenient thing. You can use it in three different ways: as your ID card for the library, as a rechargeable money card to pay for meals in the university canteen and cafeteria, and as your ticket (Semesterticket) for travelling by local trains within the Niedersachsen region, which is quite a big area with such beautiful cities as Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover.


So you can be sure that once you have successfully gone through the initial formalities such as a registration procedure, you enter a fascinating Euroculture-student life full of new impressions, people and experiences!