Studying Abroad is a long, mental and economic challenging, but possible process that becomes an enriched life experience with the support of Family, Faculty, and Friends.
My name is Karla Becerra, and I am a Senior International Business student currently studying abroad in Aachen Germany, one of the best decisions that I had made during my educational path.
As I write this blog during my first month in Germany, the feeling that I am actually on the other side of the world feels unreal at times. During this month since my arrival, I have done more tasks and activities than I had expected, which I will share with all of you:
Thanks to the outstanding program I chose, as well as the International Faculty Team from both San Francisco State University and Fachhochschule Aachen University, I was able to find housing before my arrival. After talking to many students who studied abroad, one of the challenges they faced was arriving to their host country with no accommodation and struggling to find the perfect room which sometimes didn’t meet their expectations. I arrived in Aachen 3 days before my accommodation contract date (stayed at an Airbnb), in order to get all the paperwork done as well as preparing to move in.
When choosing alternatives to accommodation, some options I considered were: my monthly rent budget, location (close to my University, City center or Train stations), Type (shared flat, private dorm), Fully/Partially Furnished, and other choices depending on my previous experiences.
Taking advantage of the first 3 days:
As part of the Buddy program offered between SF State and FH Aachen, I was partnered with Verena, a very helpful German student from FH Aachen who picked me up at the train station upon my arrival and accompanied me to my Airbnb.
Of course during those 3 days I was exhausted from the 11 hour flight dealing with Jet lag and the 9 hour time difference, but that didn’t stop me from getting things done. My buddy took me to my new University to meet with the International Faculty to pick up and sign University documents. We also went to get my housing contract signed, to pick up my dorm keys, and went to register in the city to get my appointment for the Student Visa.
Lastly, besides giving me a walking tour around Aachen, she assisted me with the process of signing up for a German Cell phone plan (which by the way, I still have not memorized).
Also, thanks to the Buddy Program that I volunteered for during the Spring 2017 back in SF State, I met Ella who studied abroad in San Francisco from the Tübingen University Program (5 hours from Aachen), whom I became close with and have kept in touch with. During the move in date, she drove all the way from Tübingen to pick me up at my Airbnb and help me bring all my luggage to my dorm. She also took me shopping to IKEA and other grocery stores to finish furnishing my place and since then also has taken me to tour to cities around Germany, as well as Oktoberfest in Munich!
Even though the Fall semester starts in Mid October, FH Aachen offered an optional intense 2-week German course in September which without thinking twice I joined. Not only it’s a good opportunity to learn the basics of German, or to start getting familiar with transportation to campus, but also to network with other International students whom I’ll be sharing the rest of the semester with. Even though everyone’s native language is different, the language we all share and communicate with is English, since that’s the language our Business courses will be taught in. I’d say that networking with International Students is one of the best experiences of studying abroad because you learn many different cultures, create friendships, feel less homesick, have a group to hangout with, and as an International Business student it is critical to get this experience.
What I have done:
Some of the things that I have done as everyday/weekly activities include grocery shopping (challenging but possible with the Google Translate App), working out at the gym, trying food at different restaurants, meeting up with the Internationals at Bars/Clubs.
Places I have traveled to so far in Germany are Cologne, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Tubingen, Ulm, Munich.
In Belgium I have been to Liege to watch a Soccer game, and in the Netherlands I’ve visited the city of Maastricht.
I hope you enjoyed reading my experience and my pictures. If you have any questions or suggestions for the next blog, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comments section below.