Monday, December 7, 2009

How are you today?

Edward is mad at me. I haven’t seen him in a loooong time, it seems like he doesn’t want to talk to me at all. Whenever I meet him on the streets he jumps away from me in huge, hectic steps. I think someone told him about my latest blog entries. Well, yes…. I have to admit that I was quite mean in terms of American food. And I don’t want to leave a bad impression of Americans. Therefore it is time to point out the really great things about American culture. (No, I won’t be mentioning the free refills in most restaurants because I’m finally not talking about food! ;-) )
 I perceived Americans as the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met in my life. It all starts with the genial “Hey, how are you?” whenever you enter a room, like a store, a restaurant or a classroom. At first I was a little bit confused, are they really interested in how I feel? And if so, what am I supposed to answer? “Thank you, I have constant stomach cramps since I had that egg sandwich for breakfast”  ???  So I decided, that a simple “Thanks, I’m good, and how are you?” might do it as well. It is always “nice to meet someone” and you always wish everyone a “good day” when you leave. That’s such a nice habit! Some Germans might think, that this is a superficial behavior, but I enjoy the fact that you treat everyone friendly and with respect
Most Americans I met try to help you whenever they can. They offer you to drive you to Wal Mart when you need something, even if it is more than a 30-minute ride away. They help you with homework, take you grocery shopping or to the pharmacy. Besides, my friends’ families are always happy to have someone around, they invite you for lunch, or to spend the whole weekend with them. There are at least three families that suggested celebrating my birthday at their house. Let’s see, where I end up partying at…. ?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The University of Mainz

Other than the University of Memphis, the Campus in Mainz is quite old. The university was opened in 1477 and you can tell that buildings on campus arose historically. Therefore nothing really fits together- new houses were built arbitrarily next to old barracks. But nevertheless, it is one of the few campus- based universities in Germany. Another huge advantage: the University of Mainz doesn’t levy fees or tuitions to study there.

We have fewer green space on campus than Memphis does, but we have a botanical garden located on campus, The Arboretum contains greenhouses, an alpine garden and all different kinds of plants, trees and crops. Every student can take a walk through the garden and rest or study there.

One fact I really like about the University is the folksiness on campus. There are different cafeterias such as the “Kulturcafé” or the “ReWi” cafeteria that provide space to sit down with your friends and talk, study or just frolic in the sun for hours. Although to me the campus in Mainz is not nearly as beautiful than the one in Memphis, I think it is way more comfortable, homey and unhurried there.

Everybody enrolled can use the sports’ facilities and take sports’ classes on campus for free, you can sign up for aerobic, dance and fencing classes, self-defense courses and many, many more. The “mensa” provides snacks and drinks all day long and serves lunch for very reasonable prices. Although some of the same meals appear on the menu every once in a while, they are trying to provide four to six different kinds of lunch every day so that students won’t get bored eating there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The University of Memphis

When we arrived in Memphis, the study abroad office organized an orientation day for all the international exchange students that included a guided tour through the U of M. When I first saw the University I was totally impressed by its beautiful campus. I had the impression of walking through a park with a lot of green spaces, tree-lined wide walkways, and a fountain with benches to relax for a while.

The University is approximately 4 miles (6 kilometers) east of downtown and includes an area of 1 1600 acres, which is 4,7 km2.

The houses are built in red bricks and the ones I study in are very modern and provide the latest technical equipments. You can tell that the school’s first buildings were erected in the early 1900 so that the campus did not develop historically as much as the Mainz campus did. Therefore, you get a very consistent style of the buildings, everything fits together and it harmonizes well.

It is easy to tell, that the Memphis students are very proud of their University. The tiger bookstore not only provides a Starbucks cafeteria but also a section where you can buy University- Fan- articles: T-shirts, shorts, sweaters, pens, stickers, and many more.

The “Tiger Den” is comparable to the “Mensa” in Mainz. You don’t have to worry that one day they might not provide the food you prefer because there is always the same stuff to eat: There is a Subway, Chick-fil-A, Grille Works, a pizza and pasta place and so on. Well, at any rate you can change lunch once every two or three days to get at least some variety in your meals.

When I first saw the university’s rec-center I couldn’t believe my eyes. I never expected the school to have an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam and whirlpool, volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts, weight and cardio rooms and aerobic and gym facilities. Every student who paid the annual semester fee can use the gym and all the training programs for free. 

Student Blues

When we first arrived in Memphis, Whitney Jacks (president of the German Club) and other American students  picked us up at the airport and gave us a very warm welcome. They drove us to our dorms and went to have dinner with us at “Tracks”, a typical American Bar and Restaurant near Campus. All the German exchange students live on Carpenter Complex, the most expensive but also the nicest and safest place to stay at on Campus. Each house contains twelve apartments, where three to four people stay in. In contrast to Wilder Tower, another dorm on Campus, every student has an own room. There is a kitchen, two bathrooms and a living room in the apartments.  But in order to live in Carpenter Complex, you have to buy everything from scratch: Bed sheets and pillows, clothes hangers, toilet paper, pans, pots, plates, trashcans…just EVERYTHING. That’s the reason why we slept on plain mattress covered with cloths and towels the very first night we stayed here. Thank god the study abroad office organized a huge bus to take us to Wal-Mart the day after we arrived. I think I spent almost $450 on my first trip to the shopping center, which, by the way, is a cultural experience itself.

Due to the shopping flash on one side, and the contrasting feeling of the jetlag on the other side, I bought all the decoration items for my room in the color blue. I only realized back home that I must have been in some kind of bad depression while I put everything blue I could find in my huge Wal-Mart buggy. But now I kind of got used to it and really enjoy staying in the blue hell that I decorated. But the main reasons why I enjoy living here so much are my roommates. Lindsey is a 19-year-old freshman from Ripley, Tennessee, whereas Lorraine (21) is originally from Kenya and a sophomore with a Nursing major. We get along really well and staying with them is like staying with old friends. One of my first weekends in Memphis I spent at Lorraine’s house and had a BBQ with her family, and even Lindsey’s mom asked me to stay in Memphis longer, so she can have two daughters to take care of.



Speaking of my first days in Memphis there is one huge part that needs to be mentioned: The German Club. From the very first day the students in the German Club took care of us. Everyone has his or her own buddy, that helped us organize the first few weeks, took us to the shops, invited us to parties, and explained all the American habits that occurred strange to us in the first place. Due to these efforts, the Germans were pushed gently in their first college experiences, such as beer pong, house parties, and sorority and fraternity events. Without them, organizing life 7000 kilometers away from home would have been so much harder and less fun. I am really glad we had the opportunity to meet these guys and become friends with them. 


As long as I can see my toes, I’m still good, right?!

„Don’t worry about your weight, you’ll get fat anyway!” That was the very first secret former exchange students revealed about college life in America. And ever since I arrived in Memphis, people seemed to be more concerned about what I eat than what I study.
Well then, here comes the information to satisfy your hunger. I arrived in the land of supersize me, ruled by Burgers, Pizzas, Sandwiches and Microwaves. What is the point of cooking when each of the 82 American fast-food chains has a drive thru that throws your Double-Fatty-Greasy- Burger with Coke and fries directly through your open window while passing the restaurant? And come on: it comes with meat, lettuce, vegetables, bread and potatoes (that’s what fries are made of, isn’t it?), is there any way to eat healthier than that?

Well… yes…. There is. Americans keep asking me (totally astonished) about German food. I guess there is no rule about German Food in general. Although we are known for sauerkraut, knödel, hog roast and Bavarian sausages - this is not all there is to eat back home. As far as I am concerned, every family I know tries to eat as healthy as possible. That manly includes fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, rice, noodles and potatoes in all kinds of variations. But here is the secret about it, and please don’t tell it anyone else: we- cook- every- single- day! And by cooking I’m not talking about taking a “hungry man” out of the fridge and putting it into the microwave. Using a pan and a pot to actually fix something to eat is a more than surprisingly behavior to most of the Americans I met.
Most of the German exchange students on the other side try to eat the same things here, as they’d eat at home. But living healthy in America is really really expensive. I spent most of my dollars on vegetables and fruits. But against all German prejudices: Americans do have fresh vegetables to buy in their grocery stores! Here is the photographic proof: 

Now that I am trying to eat as healthy as possible, I think my roommates are actually enjoying the food we cook. And eating together with them is really a lot of fun! But there is one thing that I really miss over here: German bread. Not toast. Bread! 

“And why exactly did you choose to study in Memphis?”

Indeed, while I was thinking about studying abroad in the United States, Memphis wasn’t exactly the first city that popped into my mind. To get an idea about the different possibilities, I made an appointment with Mrs. Wacker at the study abroad office at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in spring term 2008. Sitting in her room, totally clueless about where I am going to study at in one or two years (“Washington would be nice! And New York is pretty cool!”) she all of a sudden started talking about Elvis, Blues, Jazz and a great Journalism Department at the University of Memphis. That was the first time when I heard about the “m3+ zdf” exchange project.

What is the “m3+ zdf” project?
This exchange program is a cooperation between the University of Memphis, the Ball State University in Muncie, the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Universities of applied sciences in Mainz and Wiesbaden and the German Television ZDF. The project offers German and American students the possibility to study journalism and related fields in one of the partner universities abroad and to improve their practical work and language skills in a cross- cultural environment.

Procedures for German exchange students
If you are a German exchange student, you have the opportunity to either study abroad at the University of Memphis (Tennessee) or the Ball State University in Muncie (Indiana) for one year or one semester (either fall or spring term). Therefore you should be majoring in Journalism, Communication Studies, Media Design, Media Management or Media Dramaturgy. By the time you study abroad, you have to have studied at least four semesters at your German University. But be careful: There is a lot of paperwork to handle by the time your application is due. You need two letters of recommendation from German professors, a statement of purpose, copies of marks and a transcript with grades, a language certificate from the department of American Studies, an autobiographical statement and several application forms provided by the American Universities.
A huge advantage of the m3+ZDF project is that due to the partnership program you don’t have to pay any tuition fees for your semester abroad. If there are more than three German students going to study abroad in the United States, the University in Mainz eventually applies for a group- scholarship at the DAAD (German academic exchange service). Depending on the DAAD’s financial situation you might get a scholarship for studying abroad, which for me included the traveler costs (750 €), insurances costs (140€) and a monthly payment of 425 €.

Contacts and Links:
Petra-Angelika Wacker, International Office University of Mainz
Prof. Dr. Karl Nikolaus Renner, Department of Journalism University of Mainz

Procedures for American students: 
If you want to study at the Johannes- Gutenberg University in Mainz or the Universities of applied sciences in Mainz or Wiesbaden, you have to have a working knowledge of German and thus completed two years of college or 16 courses worth of credit by the time you arrive in Germany. In order to study abroad on one of the universities you should be majoring in one of the following fields: Media studies and Mass Communication, Media Design, Film and Video, Animation, Interactive Design, Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Economics or Technology. American students take German language classes and study at the Universities for one semester with credit. Besides that, you have the opportunity to intern at the ZDF German Television, which is exclusively offered to students of Media Studies and Mass Communication. For any further information, you can always consult Mrs. Laumann and Mrs. Goudsouzian at the study abroad office in Memphis, who are more than willingly to help you with any kind of question.

 Contacts and Links:
Rebecca Laumann, Study Abroad Office University of Memphis
Dr. Joe Hayden, Departement of Journalism University of Memphis

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My first American friend

Edward and I finally got used to each other. I’ve stayed in the apartment of Carpenter Complex on the University of Memphis since two months now and I think the little squirrel finally accepted my four months- presence in the room right next of his personal tree. It took quite a while to get to know to each other. Edward- don’t think I got inspired by the Twilight- Series here, I’m pretty sure that’s always been his name- was very curious in the first place, about the strange girl that is talking with this weird accent he has never heard before. He spent hours sitting on my windowsill, gnawing on his hazelnut, and watching me with excitement while I told him, who I am and where I come from.

I said that I am a 21-year-old German who flew all the way from Frankfurt to America to study Communication and Journalism at the University of Memphis. In Fall Semester 2009 I want to experience the college life with everything that is considered to be typically American: The University, the culture, the food, the environment, the music, the youth and everything else that is part of being an American college student.

When I finished my speech I figured that Edward isn’t really much a talker. But I could tell by the speed of his gnawing jaw that he wants to know everything about my experiences and especially about the cultural differences between Germany and America.

Well then, there is a lot to say. First of all I gave him some basic information that he definitely seemed to lack, eventually he has never seen anything else besides the tree he is living at and as never done anything else but finding, eating and hiding his beloved nuts. So this is what I told him: Germany is a country in Europe. It is neither the capital of Europe nor a part of Ireland. Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands surround the country. Although the Netherlands is a neighboring country, we don’t speak Dutch in Germany, we speak German (it was quite hard for him to figure THAT out!) Despite all of Edward’s argumentation, I am pretty sure that Frankfurt is not the Capital of Germany and has never been so. Instead, Berlin is Germany’s capital. By the way: there is no gigantic wall that separates eastern from western Germany and Hitler is neither alive nor my friend. Most of the German girls don’t wear “Dirndels” every day and beer is not the only thing we drink back home. He was quite impressed, that we have dishwashers, washing mashines and microwaves and that we shower every single day. 

I guess it takes quite a bit to explain Edward how I see the American World through European eyes. Give that little friend of mine a voice if there is anything you want to know about how I experience America or Germany. I’d be more than happy to tell him and tell you about it afterwards.