It is common to feel anxious and clueless when one first moves to a new country, especially to Germany, where there are many rules and regulations. The International Affairs office at FAU has done a great job in reducing the new exchange students’ anxiety and help them settle down. I was very excited to join the orientation course organized by the International Affairs office and to learn about formality in Germany, insurance, housing rules and obligations, and intercultural differences.
Although I am no longer considered a fresh comer, I still find the orientation course beneficial, and I wish I had known this when I first came to Germany. During the orientation, I learned about the move-in protocol that I needed to check my room conditions and report any damage to my landlord when I first moved in. It was also helpful to be reminded to open the window and let the air circulate three times a day. This is because houses in Germany normally do not have ventilators. But most importantly, it was very useful to go over the separation of garbage and recycling procedure in Germany. They can be tricky, and I’m sure I did not separate my trash correctly for the first few tries.
The intercultural workshop is a highlight of the orientation. It was funny as the new students learned about the cultural differences, do’s and don’ts, preferred direct communication style, regional differences, and food culture in Germany.
‘It was very useful to be aware of all the stereotypes we have of Germans and Germans have of others in the orientation’, one student from France shared. The students were quite surprised about the punctuality in Germany as in France, it was an unspoken rule to be up to 15 minutes late without being perceived as rude. They also sensed a more trusting environment with the public transportation because there was no gate or machine to check your tickets before.
Two students from Chile were very impressed by the funny and well-prepared presentation by the International Affairs coordinator. The students found learning about the social norms in Germany very important, because they are very different from those in Chile. Greeting with a kiss on the cheek, even with a stranger, is considered normal in Chile. Therefore, it was funny for them to lean in halfway, and suddenly pulled back as they remembered a handshake is the greeting in Germany. ‘The most useful thing I learned from the orientation is which insurance to buy; a more expensive insurance may be worth it in the long-run’, the student shared.
For some students, studying in Germany for a semester is a dream. For a year, they had been planning, and preparing for their semester abroad. It also costs them lots of money to be here. Thus, I feel extremely honored that we had a chance to talk about their country, their new adventure in Germany, and their wish that one day their children would also have the chance of a good education. There were probably lots of things going on in their mind. I feel at ease that they could always find the support they need from the coordinators and volunteers at the International Affairs office.