Frustrating administration, but it will prevent you from burning out later February 09, 2018

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/31/2017 to 12/23/2018 with

Jacobs University: Bremen - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The clinical practicum and biochemistry course for pre-meds was the academic highlight of this experience. Wellesley and Jacobs were also rather felxible in allowing certain classes to fulfill distribution requirements, which I appreciated. Though the academics at Jacobs itself was lackluster, the overall experience prevented me from burning out further after a rough first two years at Wellesley.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Courses at the university are certainly not as difficult as courses at Wellesley. The professors are also less invested in your success, and though I luck out and get one rather fantastic professor that was not the travelling Wellesley professor (who was fantastic), the other professors cared very little, had no office hours, did not answer e-mails, and seemed to have an inferiority complex.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Did not have a great experience with administration at all. They rarely responded to student e-mails unless the Wellesely study abroad office or travelling Wellesley professor was CC'd to it. Most of the time, the e-mails were never read at all as informed to me by my e-mail tracker that allows me to see whether my e-mails have been opened. They were also late in sending us itinerary,which was critical for our 6am clinical practicum and other off-campus trips.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

At Jacobs, I wish I was paired with other wellesley students. They did not try matching us with roommates we could have liked, and though we did get a single with a shared bathroom, I personally did not appreciate how unhygenic my roommate was. Additionally, there did not seem to be a cleaning service that cleaned the hallways or kitchens, and students often did not take responsibility in cleaning the kitchen and hallways after using them. As a result, common spaces are often poorly kept, dirty, and odorous. In my opinion, having a single room was the only redeeming factor of our housing situation.

* Food:

Essentially, your student ID is loaded with aroound 120 Euros at the beginning of the school year and then you get 12 Euros every day afterwards to spend on food (the exact values may be different as I cannot recall). It was not difficult for me to ration my spendings as most of us spend the weekends travelling to other parts of Europe, thereby allowing our allowances to accumulate. However, there was one time I spent 11 euros on a mango and another 8 euros on an avocado, which should have been expected given that these exotic items needed to be imported, but it still shocked me anyway. It is to be noted that if you do not plan on travelling off campus frequently and tend to eat a lot, the meal plan may be insufficient. Towards the end of the school year, some regular students don't seem to have enough meal plan allowance to sustain their eating habits. However, there are also students who do pay for these student's meals as they have excess meal plan credit-- so befriend them. The food itself was alright. As it is Germany, most of the food is fried and heavy in carbohydrates and meat. If you are gluten-sensitive, vegeterian, or have any food restrictions, it will be difficult for you. The food is also not always labelled correctly. Their coffee bar is quite delicious though and hasa rather good selection of sandwiches I stocked up most of my meal credits on. It is to be noted that not everything served can be paid with your meal credits. Some items in the dining halls (certain ice-creams and sodas) has to be paid with money you input independently into your student card as points (which you can also use for laundry and printing) or cash.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Not at all. The only exposure I had to local culture was when I was with my host family or at the clinic interacting with patients.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The local healthcare system was superior for sure, but the school did not help me at all when I was trying to get my wisdom tooth pulled. I had to ask for help from my host family. As I wasn't confident on how to utilize the healthcare system in the beginning, I reached out to the person in charge of our health insurance. It turns out that that person in charge of health insurance only comes in once or twice a month for office hours... during class. At one point, I did manage to reach out to him to request that he help me walk through the process of setting up an appointment and looking for a place and dentist to get my tooth extracted but he just told me to "go Google it yourself." It did not help that the places I called nearby did not have anyone who could speak English/ understand my German pronunciation. If it wasn't for my host family, I don't think I would have been able to get my tooth extracted (they helped me call for an appoinment).

* Safety:

The campus itself was safe. The surrounding area itself was alright most of the time, but sometimes felt sketchy.

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

The administration at Jacobs was lackluster, and from what I am aware, they are also lacking in funding that particular year. The best part of the program was the clinical practicum and the amount of free time you have to do whatever you'd like, including travelling outside of Germany. Though I would not return because I felt that the academics was subpar, I do recommend this for students who feel like they're near breaking point/ burning our at Wellesley by sophomore year. This experience personally rejuvenated me, gave me confidence in my intellect that I questioned at Wellesley after back-to-back poor academic performances my first and second year, and overall remotivated me to work harder at Wellesley. I was also lucky enough to meet some cool people at Jacobs.

Finances

* 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)

They give you credit that you can spend on things at the cafeteria. Since we travelled a lot (personal trips), the meal plan is enough. However, you should know that the meals are not paid for on the trips (except maybe one or two dinners at a pre-chosen restaurant with a set menu, which is understandable).

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? German 102
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Even the German students will want to speak with you in English. Just go shopping or something and interact with people who can't speak English.

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

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Lots of free time
  • People were generally friendly
  • Clinical component + Biochem class
* What could be improved?
  • communication between administration at Jacobs and exchange students
  • the quality of the academic courses
  • the university in general
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Definitely do NOT crowd your schedule with classes. Take the necessary classes (i.e. the biochem course, healthcare course, courses you can use for your major or distibution requirement) and do not go over the minimum. In fact, I would recommend doing just the minimum. Use this time to really study hard for the classes that do matter, and use the remaining time to travel and have fun! You will not be intelectually enriched by taking courses that you think might be "fun," "interesting," or "valuable for the job market in the future." Another thing to note is that a 2.5ECTS course does NOT go into your wellesley transcript at all! So if you only need 0.5 ECTS to hit the minimum amount of credits needed to become a full-time student, just take a 2.5ECTS course!