Published: 06 February 2017

ERASMUS study - Max Cannings

On the fateful day that I moved from snug, comfortable England to forbidding, unfamiliar Germany, I was slightly terrified. It was like starting University all over again, except this time it involved aeroplanes, and entirely different currency, and lots and lots of Germans.

Having been here for almost 5 months now, I now declare this to be one of the best life decisions I have made. 

The ERASMUS experience is not just getting to know about another culture, it is getting to know about 8 other cultures, perhaps more. My flatmates are German, American and Italian, and my friends include Spaniards, Frenchmen, Israelis, Danes, Swedes, Norsemen, people from Eastern Europe such as Slovenians and Ukrainians, and yes, some British people as well. You are all bundled together in this unfamiliar place and (with some help from the University and others) left to flourish. An experience like no other. Fortunately I learnt some German at school, so I had some idea how to use the language compared to some of the Brits here, who had almost no German before coming here. However, German courses are offered by the University to make day to day life in Germany that bit easier.

I suppose I should say something about Heidelberg itself, and the University here. The city of Heidelberg is in the Baden-Wüttermberg region of Germany, about an hour away from Frankfurt by train. And it is beautiful. The cobbled streets of the Altstadt take one around all the late 18th Century buildings that give Heidelberg its charm. The city is divided by the rushing Neckar river, and you are surrounded at all times by the 3 hills that help give Heidelberg its Romantic beauty, aided by the ruined castle perching upon the nearest hill like some ruined gargoyle. There are newer parts of Heidelberg that are a bus or tram ride away from the Altstadt, home to most of the students here. I was lucky enough to get a flat in the Altstadt, about 10 minutes walk from the University.

As to Heidelberg University itself, it was founded in 1386, making it the oldest University in Germany. It has survived though conflicts such as the Thirty Years War through to this day, and is noted as a centre of excellence, for the medicinal sciences especially. The German way of studying may surprise Literature students studying in England, as it did to me. At times very laid back, at times very intense, you can choose to do practically any class you like, an advantage of being ERASMUS. I say ‘class’ and not module, because lectures and seminars, while often combined in England, are kept separate for different topics of study. Much importance is placed upon presentations, as well as class participation. Miss any more than 3 classes without an excuse, and you will fail the class. But as long as you work hard, you have reason to play hard. There are many bars, restaurants and clubs in Heidelberg, so the night-life is well catered for.

To finish, I will say that I am having the time of my life. Being here has been a fantastic experience, and I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.       

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