Germany: The Greatest Change Happens Through Adversity Past Review

By (Industrial Design, University of Wisconsin - Stout) for

Heinrich Heine University of Dusseldorf: Dusseldorf - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about myself from this trip and had much more of an awareness and appreciation for my culture. It was a great experience and I will definitely miss the food and the friends I made. It would be nice to travel back to Germany again someday. As for the academic experience it was lackluster and though I don't know if I would choose it again, I feel that it was the push I needed at the time. I think my home university was completely disorganized on preparing me for this experience and I think that though it is a very worthwhile program, much improvement is needed.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The university in Hildesheim is run much more like a graduate school in the States. Class pace is slow and much more emphasis is placed on the idea over the process. Time is given to try over and over and improve so that the final product is solid. There are almost no deadlines and the course load is very low. Because we arrived after the German students had signed up for classes, many of the courses were already full so I was forced to choose courses based on the openness of the professor and their availability instead of classes I was interested in taking. The safety training for the product design labs had already passed when we arrived so I was not allowed to use the equipment so, though the lab aid was amazing gracious in helping me with my project, I felt as if I was at freshmen level capabilities with ideas of a junior. Though the program offered much in the area of personal growth, I basically coasted though the semester only utilizing mainly the knowledge I had when I arrived and learning production skills that could have been easily acquired over a weekend course. There were a couple of professors that were amazingly supportive and they were a joy to learn from in class.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program is great for teaching US students (who are used to focusing on working to achieve the highest level of quality as quickly as possible) how to focus on the idea and fully develop concepts. It offers a whole new look at design and encourages vital skills like self-direction and ambition. Though the program at HAWK was enthusiastic I believe they were understaffed and unaware of key problem areas like classes registration. There was also a lot of apathy amongst the staff as the reputation of study abroad students made them uninterested in taking us into their courses. Our advisors were also professors so their time was very limited and it made it hard for them to offer the support we needed. They also tended not to be in our area of study so it was hard to find the answers we needed.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I feel that if I hadn't had the amazing roommates I did the experience would have been much more difficult. They were fun, engaging, inviting, and helpful. The only problem was that they spoke excellent English and as my German was so rudimentary, we resorted to having most complicated exchanges in English. The house was a good distance from school and was beautiful. Basic furniture was provided, but as it was an exchange I wish more supplies had been available. It was frustrating to go buy scissors and rulers, things that I have plenty of at home and did not wish to waste money on unneeded substitutes. If these weren't going to be provided it would have been nice to have been informed of this before departure. The flat was also near bus stops and grocery stores. It was a wonderful living arrangement.

* Food:

Groceries stores were much more affordable and the food was high quality. You do miss a really good pizza after a while though. :)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Germans are very shy of foreigners so it was hard making friends. It was good to visit and being able to do basic exchanges solely in German was very rewarding. The trip to Berlin that was organized by the exchange program was AMAZING. All of their programs were very good. I also liked the international evenings. It was a good way to share culture and food.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Safety and healthcare was good and accessible. Be aware that the safety standards at the university are very minimal compared to the US. No safety glasses are required in wood or metal labs and food and drink are allowed every where. There is not much anti-American sentiment although you will get a little of it here and there. On a whole I felt very safe and comfortable with the availability of the health care system.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Most of the classes were taught in German and either the professor would speak with us after class or delegate a student to translate. We usually received the abridged version so the lectures were lost to us. I wish my home university would have provided German lessons for me (or a resource to them) so I would have been able to enter the school at a more intermediate level of German. We had German lessons once a week and our teacher Ulrike was wonderful and motivating. I would have liked if we could have had them twice a week. I believe I would have learned much faster.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Seeing another way of learning
  • Meeting people from new countries and getting a better perspective on my own
  • Struggling in a country where you can not speak the language
* What could be improved?
  • More organization from both universities
  • Having more support during the study process
  • Changing the negative attitude toward exchange students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you are looking to gain a lot academically, I would consider this program cautiously if you have an elementary knowledge of German. The most successful "students" have been the ones who have travelled more than they have studied. It is amazingly rewarding to live for a period of time in a non-English speaking country, but be prepared for the challenges. There is a lot to gain personally from this trip and it will be an unforgettable experience.