Since arriving in Mannheim, it has been a typical mix of good and bad. The German students I’ve met have been amazing. Thankfully their educational system is better than ours and they can speak English very well (especially compared to my German). Students here have taken the time to help and are very patient with my inability to speak/read/understand German.
If I could go back in time and do 1 thing over about this trip (ok, 1 of many things), it would be to sign up for a “buddy.” I assumed Germany was like America, where the sexes are kept apart as much as possible. Luckily for me, the person I was rooming with at the hostel did have a buddy. SHE has turned out to be my lifesaver. As far as I know, everyone who does have a buddy has one of the opposite sex.
Kathrin is NOT my official buddy, but she has adopted me since I didn’t sign up for one. Being a German national, she is of course fluent in…German. Buddies are there to help you with any questions you have about your new country. From getting an international phone, shopping, saving money, traveling, the horribly difficult Mannheim University website and email system, getting classes, and basically surviving, Kathrin has been there to help answer all my questions. Don’t get me wrong, I realize she is actually one of the best buddies I could have hoped for.
While certainly under no obligation to do so, Kathrin is always inviting me out to various activities. She has been kind enough to take me to other cities, including her own hometown of Worms. She often checks in on me to make sure I am ok as well. Even during my Easter break, she has made the effort to keep in touch to see if there is anything I need help with.
She was most helpful when school was about to start. This is where Kathrin really was helpful. She made sure all my deadlines were met and that all my paperwork was in order prior to the start of the semester. Any time I had questions, she was just a “WhatsApp” text away.
Additionally, any and all questions I may have had, she either knew the answers to, or if she did not, she researched it and tried to help me best with my situation. Mind you, she has her own classes and life too, but she has gone above and beyond (especially considering again that I’m NOT her assigned buddy) to help me with daily life in Germany.
So to all the students who are going to travel abroad to Germany, I highly suggest that you sign up for a buddy!!!! They will probably be the biggest help to you upon arrival and during your time away. They can only make life more pleasant and help you navigate your stay, and if you are lucky like I was, you may end up with that new international friend beyond your semester abroad!!!