Howdy y’all, my name is Colin Owen Turybury and I am spending my spring semester in Mannheim, Germany. I came to Mannheim on January 27th and spent 3 days in Frankfurt before riding German rails to my apartment by the university.
I felt that it was important for me to actually arrive in Mannheim before I write about me pre-departure actions, hence the late post. With the past few weeks firmly in the rearview, I am excited to share exactly how I got myself ready for this journey (or neglected to get myself ready, as it may be!).
I have studied German since I was a child, so coming to UA and deciding to pursue a degree in something with which I was already so familiar was easy. While German has been secondary to my pursuit of a degree in public relations, I really felt that college was the ideal time to travel and try to master the German language. Adding to these factors, my parents would not let me attend college without a promise that I go abroad. Seems like a good deal to me: free travel and a return to Germany, where I hadn’t been in 5 years? I was more than happy to oblige.
I waited until my junior year to go abroad so that I would be very comfortable within the UA campus community, and hopefully mitigate the feeling that I had missed time to make friends and connections. I can’t imagine how far I’d have been set back, had I gone as a freshman. Second semester of junior year just seemed like the perfect time, and there was no shot I could miss football season.
I was absolutely certain that I had to spend a semester in Germany. With designs on becoming truly fluent, I felt the need to spend an extended period of time immersed. A short-term study abroad experience in the summer would not have provided me with that same opportunity.
Really, I waited until the very last moment to prepare for my travels abroad. I’ve traveled extensively with my family, so I felt very comfortable waiting until a day or two before my departure in order to get everything together. I quickly realized that this was a poor choice, I was lacking information and disorganized, so I don’t recommend that for any potential SA candidates.
I came to Germany expecting a shock but was pleasantly surprised to have very few issues understanding those with whom I communicated. I knew absolutely nothing about my university, the city, or what I was going to be doing for enjoyment there. I didn’t know who, or even how many, roommates I would have. Like I said, I was totally underprepared. Not the way to go! My biggest struggle, however, was that I could not remember appropriate restaurant etiquette and vocabulary. This drove me NUTS during the 6 nights that I spent in a hotel without a kitchen. Too stubborn to look those things up, I chose to survive on apples and pre-packaged food from the grocery store. Again, I do not recommend that, future SA students.
While in Germany, I hope to catch as many football (soccer) matches as I possibly can. This is an unbelievable experience to see real football (relative to the poor level of play in America) in the middle of a domestic title race and European competitions. As far as academics are concerned, I have been fascinated by the differences in the enrollment process. This leads me to believe that the course structure will be quite different than at UA. It will be a great way to experience the secondary education system of another country first hand, which is something that a lot of people lack the opportunity to do.
Finally, and most importantly, I am hopeful that I’ll make a handful of German friends. I’ve thought about living and working here, so having a few folks that know Germany at an intimate level to guide me would be a tremendous asset. I can’t imagine how cool it will be to casually use my German language skills, rather than in a classroom setting.
I’m looking forward to writing again shortly. Thanks for reading!