Melanie Huang, scholar from Singapore, told herself : “Dare to be different!” and blazed a trail all the way to Germany.
In order to realise my dream of studying abroad, I applied for a scholarship. While friends chose to go to universities in the United Kingdom an the United States, I chose Germany, and have never looked back ever since. German universities have always had a good reputation for their engineering courses and firms like BMW AG, Siemens and Mercedes-Benz provide a German engineering degree with very good job prospects. It also occurred to me that it would be very exciting to study in a country that has not yet been fully explored by Singapore students. Having fewer Singaporeans around me would compel me to interact more with the locals and the other international students. This serves to make my time overseas more fruitful and eye-opening.
After leaving Singapore in October 2002, I attended German classes at the Carl Duisberg Centrum in Cologne.To supplement what I learned in class, I tuned in to German news channels instead of CNN or BBC, and read German novels and newspapers.
Despite a schedule packed with classes, reading and speech training, I found time to explore Cologne. I enjoyed exploring the sports facilities, the typical German beer houses and the nightlife in cologne. I have had the opportunities to visit neighbouring cities, for instance Wuppertal, Heidelberg, and Koblenz, with friends made in German class. Moving out of German, I have gone on to explore other European countries like Belgium , France, England, Romania, the Czech Republic, Luxemburg, and Austria.
It has been a year since I left CDC and moved on to my studies here in Munich. Yet I still look back so fondly on the memories from Cologne, the place that hosted me when I first came over. The friendships forged have blossomed over time and distance, the lessons learnt on how to survive in a foreign country will serve me for the rest of my years here in Germany.
Lastly, may I offer some advice to those of you who are about to take the first step out:
Do not be afraid to take the path less travelled. It may be undefined at times, but as long as you venture ahead with optimism and enthusiasm, you will gain something at the end of the day. I wish you success and may you benefit and grow as much as, if not more than I do, from your overseas stint here in Germany.
My First Steps in Germany
About eighteen months ago I didn´t know much about Germany and I did not imagine learning another language. Then I heard of this interesting programme the Carl Duisberg Centren in Cologne, Germany, offer to foreign scholars interested in studies in Germany. I thought it to be an adequate and challenging opportunity to get trained and to experience a difficult culture at the same time.
In Cologne, I have been staying with a host family. Sharing some time with the family helps me to adapt more quickly to the foreign country and the language. I am very proud that within a few days I gained sufficient language skills to ´survive´ in a German city. My college also offers cultural or social events in the evenings, which I can join with a lot of other students from different countries. But sometimes I spend an evening or a weekend with my host family. Some of the other students have an apartment of their own, but I enjoy the family life.
From Mondays to Fridays, I spend most of my day at the college. Classes begin at 9 am and usually go on until 3.15 pm. After that I go to the self-study centre to do the work I am assigned individually. Apart from the college programme, my collegues and I have regular meetings with our supervisor. During the first three months of the language training a special programme on German life and customs was arranged for us: once or twice a week we were acquainted with rules and regulations and were helped with formalities, and a whole range of leisure activities was organized for us, including sports, excursions to famous places and museums. Most important of all, however, is that our tutors were very helpful and always prepared to listen to little problems and needs. The initial difficulties are long since forgotten. In our meetings now we discuss our learning progress, talk about the coming examinations - and our degree courses.
Before I can take the German Language Proficiency Test, called DSH, which will qualify me to enter the university, a training period with a German company will be arranged for me. Presently I am very much looking forward to this next phase of practical training - this will give me an insight into the working life.
I have been acceptetd by a university not far from Cologne. As I have been told, universities usually organise introduction seminars for new students helping them to orientate, so I don´t have to worry about feeling lost.
The Carl Duisberg Centren have found me accommodation in a dormitory where many students are living.
I have already been to the university for a visit and have been given usefull information about the caracteristics and advantages of a university career.
Many German universities, so I have learned, can look back on a centuries-old tradition with the oldest university in Germany being founded in Heidelberg in 1386.
Universities produce highly sophisticated ´Ingenieure´ (MSc. engineers), scientists, researchers, and future university professors. With the many subjects they offer (including engineering, social sciences, agriculture, forestry, economics, medicine, law, theology and humanities), their available research resources and facilities, universities provide an opportunity for specialization ranging far into the highly theoretical fields of a particular science. At the same time, the wide range of combinations which they permit means they also provide the opportunity for interdisciplinary studies and allow students to tailor their own personal focuses. I have decided on mechanical engineering, and will spend the practical training with a regional company, as is customary for students of most technical degree courses. I have also been informed that universities cooperate with regional industries. A university may, for example, provide an industrial counselling service, or research for a student´s Diplom thesis may be conducted in cooperation with local company. What has surprised me most though, is the fact that universities are represented at the Hannover trade fair, one of the most renowned industrial exhibitions in the world.
At its stands, the latest results of the application-based research are documented, new technologies introduced to a wider public. The crowded stands receive considerable public acclaim. All this makes me feel quite reassured: "I certainly have made the right decision in opting for studies at a German university."