Germany, Sara Palmer – Reutlingen – 2007-2008

Eating Cake pic

BA Business Economics with European Study

General Life in Reutlingen

Reutlingen is a very sweet little town in the South of Germany, near the city of Stuttgart. It is in a beautiful part of Germany, sitting in a valley of the Swabian Alb, near the Black Forrest. It is a small town, so very easy to find your way around – you can find everything you need there; shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, a gym, swimming pools, bowling, cinema etc. The town centre is just a ten minute bus ride from campus, or a fifteen minute walk. If you are used to a bigger city life, Stuttgart is just 40 minutes on the train for better shopping opportunities, nightlife etc. if needed.

The weather is quite predictable, although I was expecting more snow! It is generally quite cold in the winter (down to -5°C), but much hotter in the summer (with many fantastic thunderstorms!).

The University Campus

The campus is small, and if you live in the GWG student halls, they are just 2 minutes from where you will have your lectures. It’s very easy to find buildings because they all have numbers written clearly on the outside! There are supermarkets just 20m away, or if you want more choice, you can walk just 10 minutes further! There is also a bank and pharmacy at either end of the campus. The doctors is very easy to find. There are 2 bus stops right by the halls and campus that take you directly to town. They run like clockwork, usually every 10 minutes during the day and every half an hour on evenings and weekends.

The University has a sports hall, studio etc. where you can go along to free classes from Aerobics, Yoga etc. or just join in with basketball, football, badminton etc. You can find a sports timetable online at beginning of semester. There aren’t really teams you can train with to compete (like at Exeter) but it’s very casual, so you can just go along when you fancy it. If you are sporty, you can join the gym ‘Mr Fit’ in town which is huge and open 24 hours, for just 17 euros a month. There is an outdoor pool just a five minute walk from campus, and a nice place you can run behind the Reutlingen football stadium behind the campus.

 

Lectures / Teaching

Buildings in ReutlingenWhen you arrive in Reutlingen, you will be provided with an information pack about Reutlingen and life at the University. The staff are all very helpful and easy to find in their rooms. You will get to know the ‘Auslands’ office for foreign exchange students, and otherwise Iris Walker will answer all your questions. She is fantastically helpful! If Mr Gilbertson (an English ex-teacher from Exeter I believe) has not yet retired, he is also super helpful!

As an exchange student, you can expect to not have too many classes – especially compared to the German students who have 25 hours of classes a week at least! Lectures are 1 ½ hours long, or a double is 3 hours with a 15 minute break inbetween – I recommend taking a snack and drink to help you keep going! You have a big choice of classes, in German or English (or other languages you may want to take on) at different levels. I recommend taking at least one module in German to help your language skills, but choose wisely as you don’t want to make it too difficult for yourself! You are not restricted to doing modules only from your year of study, although it is cheating a bit if you just take first year modules! It is unlikely you will struggle with a subject, especially as many are offered specifically for foreign exchange students, but do discuss it with Iris or your lecturer if you do have problems. Try to talk to German student if you can, to help your German but also they have a different style of study. ‘Fleissig’ is the only way to describe them! You will probably take about four exams at the end of each semester, and you may have a few presentations or papers to write.

I strongly recommend you do the three week ‘Sprachkurs’ (language course) at the beginning of the winter semester. It will cost around 200 euros, but it is two weeks long, you will meet your friends for the year most likely and they take you on trips to help you find your way around Reutlingen and the surrounding area. And of course, it will help you feel more confident with your German.

Accommodation

I would recommend applying for student halls with the GWG, you will receive all the forms when you apply to the Fachhochschule. The halls are of a good standard with single rooms of a decent size – generally very clean. You will share a kitchen, showers etc. with others (usually a good mix of students from all over the world!) which are cleaned regularly. It’s good to get to know the people you live with and get involved with floor activities. I took on the role as a floor speaker (had to pay 60 euros a month less rent!) so arranging floor meals etc. really helped me get to know my ‘Mitbewohner’.

If you decide to get your own flat off campus, you will have to organise this yourself. The rent is much lower than you would pay in Exeter, but I strongly recommend living in halls at just 200 euros a month to meet more people and enjoy the experience.

The Housemaster Herr Zorn is not a very sociable being. His office hours are from 11.30-12.00 Monday to Friday (yes, just half an hour per day) and you’d be lucky to catch him otherwise!

The Social Life

Drinking BeerI had a fantastic time in Reutlingen and met so many fantastic new people. If you do the Sprachkurs, you will meet other international students and stick together, as you will not have to study as much as the full time students and life will be one big party! It is important to also get to know some German students, so you learn more about the culture and to help your language. As an English student, people will take the opportunity to practice their English with you. You will not learn any German this way! From my experience, once you establish a language with someone, it stays that way. So start off speaking German as much as you can (even if you struggle), because you can always ask in English if you need to.

There is a bar on campus – CaRE – open a couple nights a week where you can get some cheap drinks, dance, play pool etc. and the bars in the halls are open regularly, usually themed nights put on by students to raise money for the floor. As an Erasmus student, you can expect to be at a different party every night – and if nothing is on on campus, there are plenty of bars and nightclubs in town! You can also venture out to Tübingen or even Stuttgart for something different – Stuttgart is quite a happening city in terms of nightlife!

Travel

I recommend you take every opportunity you can to go travelling. Your loan will cover living costs (food, going out etc. is cheaper in Germany!) so in my opinion your Erasmus grant should be used purely for travelling! You will pay about 50 euros per semester for a Naldo ticket, with which you travel on all local buses and trains for free. I also recommend getting a Bahncard (discount rail ticket) because it pays itself back very quickly. The transport system in Germany is fantastic, as generally in all the surrounding countries and you would be surprised how far you can get by train. You will need this website:

or just ask in the office at the train station because they are very helpful. Flights can be cheap, although this is questionable now with the rising fuel prices. The best websites were:

Stuttgart airport is 40 minutes on the bus from Reutlingen, and your Naldo ticket will take you there for free. I recommend picking up a timetable for the airport buses from the Rathaus in the town centre. A taxi to or from the airport takes about 30 minutes and will cost approximately 55 euros.

It is likely that you will travel with other international students you meet, so talk to people about your plans of where you would like to go etc. and you’ll be surprised how many others join in! It also makes it cheaper to travel if you are in a larger group, and you can book your own room in hostels together. It also makes it more fun if you go with friends, and potentially safer.

You can buy a Baden-Württemberg Ticket for 27 euros, which allows up to five people (and a dog!) to go anywhere within that Bundesland for the day – this is very handy for when you go to Stuttgart. You can also buy a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket for 35 euros which lets up to five people travel anywhere within Germany for one day – this can be very handy although only works on slow trains, so is only viable for short distances i.e. Frankfurt or Munich. A 23 hour train journey to Berlin would not be so fun…

Having a travelling guide can really help you plan your trips, or otherwise just use the internet. It’s good to read up a little bit on where you are going, particularly for safety reasons. Be careful when you go travelling, particularly of pick-pockets in big cities. That is why insurance is compulsory for Erasmus students. You need private insurance, but also make sure you have a ‘European Health Insurance Card’ which you order from the NHS. I recommend packing lightly whenever you go away, although lockers in train stations can be very handy and are usually very safe.

Conclusion

Group of peopleOn arrival to Reutlingen and the Fachhochschule, all will come clear very quickly and your will know your way around within days! So have no worries! Although I recommend not leaving things to the last minute in Germany, because the customer service is not like the UK – ‘it’s your problem and you should be able to look after yourself’.

My Erasmus year was the best year of my life and I strongly recommend you take the fantastic opportunity to do it! It will do wonders for your personal development – it really opens your eyes to the world, so to speak. I also looks great on your CV! I enjoyed every minute of it. I met so many fantastic diverse people and was like one big continuous party! My German improved very much, you just have to be patient and let yourself make mistakes – how else do you learn? Reutlingen is a lovely town and Germany is a great country with a real community spirit – get involved with local ‘Fests’ and cultural events! The Christmas markets are particularly spectacular! But don’t forget everything is shut on a Sunday…

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