Mein Jahr in Mannheim war mehr als ein Studium, es war eine Lebenserfahrung.
Rebeccah Dawson (Carrboro)
I am Juan José Vivas, a business student from Icesi University in Cali, Colombia, and exchange student in Mannheim University for the spring semester 2012. It may not be something everyone is aware of, but for most people in Latin America, an exchange experience in a European country is not merely an academic endeavor in the specific country where one is studying. It is actually a total life experience, affecting every single aspect of life, and where in the exchange student’s minds, the exchange is not made simply to the country of residence, but to Europe as a whole. Thus, even though Mannheim came to be my home sweet home away from home, it is the whole European continent, which became the montage for this life changing experience.
The University of Mannheim has a completely different concept of education from what we are used to having, both in Colombia and America in general I would believe. While in my home University, the classes are a place to clear doubts and strengthen previously acquired concepts by reading the proposed material, here the process is inverted. The professor presents a topic in one class and afterwards each student is expected to deepen their knowledge of it by reading the proposed academic material. Both methods have proven they are effective and allow us as students to understand that there is not only one way to achieve success in different areas of our academic and professional life. Although I must say, that the University of Mannheim’s method requires it to have very dynamic and interesting professors that create the adequate learning environment for this method of teaching, which was not always the case. Some classes, due to the teachers style of teaching led to have boring classes and the students having the feeling that the teacher simply reads from the PowerPoint presentations and gives no extra benefit that would be gotten by simply reading them on their own. In academic terms, the last and quite important aspect to consider, is that the exams for international students tend to account for 100% of the final grade or at least a very close value to it, which means preparations for these are vital. Two vital points with the finals are studying well before hand and Memorizing by heart the most important concepts, as the exams tend to be a race against time and very concept focused.
In terms of the living quarters, nothing better can be found in Mannheim and much less at the price the Ekkehard foundation allows us to pay for it. The room, bathroom and kitchen are fully equipped; the apartment is only shared with two other flat mates and living in the Quadrat (City center) is the best way to live in Mannheim as everything is nearby. Truly in the six months I’ve lived here, this has become my home. Every time I went away for a trip, the return to my house was a very nice feeling; comfortable bed, incredible view of the castle, and above all, it really feels like home. Mannheim will forever occupy a place in my heart as the first home I had on my own, complete independence, where I had to administer my money, cook, do dishes, wash clothes and simply take responsibility for my living in every aspect.
As I said before, this experience is not only growth in the academic aspect of my life, but a means to provide personal growth in every single aspect of it.
Thank you very much for all of your support during my stay in Mannheim.
Juan José Vivas