Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My experience in Cologne

Hello everybody,

First of all, I will give you some information about Cologne. The town’s landmark is the cathedral. Two important museums are situated nearby this monument. “Museum Ludwig” is the first one I have visited. It is well-known because of the paintings of famous artists it exposes. “Römisch-Germanisches Museum” keeps findings that were discovered when the Romans founded Cologne in 38 before Christ. At Central Station all the important lines of public transport (railway and underground) come together, which means that it is easy to move from one place to the other in the city. Public transport is available on average every ten minutes. At the week-end, railways and underground come every hour. When you are living in a foreign country, you have to accommodate to the country’s culture. So I tasted “Kölsch” which is the famous beer of Cologne. It is actually one of the various symbols of the city.

Secondly, I will tell you about the University of Cologne. The first school semester in Belgium began on the 18th of September, however, in Germany, it only started on the 15th of October. That is to say, I had four weeks left to prepare my arrival at the University of Cologne. I completely took advantage of the free weeks I had because I knew that an Erasmus program would require anticipation and organization. Indeed, lots of documents have to be completed before, during and after your language-learning trip. Before leaving Belgium, I wanted to make sure that my registration had been received by the host university. Actually, the University of Cologne didn’t know anything about my request and that is why I went there to resolve the problem. In Cologne, students have to register by themselves online for the different courses they would like to attend. For two weeks, I had been in touch with my Erasmus coordinator of Cologne to come up with a good timetable. The first week I spent at the host university was very exhausting. I had to introduce myself to all the different professors and fill out lots of documents stating that I was a regular Erasmus student of the University of Cologne. I also had to tell the professors that I would need to receive a fixed amount of credits for attending to their lectures. Vincent and I knew that Marine and Vanessa had some problems concerning these credit points because the University of Cologne didn't work with this system. The university is still not accustomed to it but, there is some improvement that has been made. Despite the fact that the majority of the professors still don't have an idea about this system of credits, there is however an Erasmus coordinator, who is available for all the Erasmus students. He helps us to establish a learning agreement and to transcript the credit points.

Thirdly, I will give you some information about the classes I attend. The different courses I have chosen are interesting. I particularly enjoy taking part in a class called “American Poetry”. Before the beginning of the semester, the professor advised us to buy “The Oxford book of American Poetry” for his course. We are reading poems from Emily Dickenson, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, etc. We analyse these poems in great detail. I also have the opportunity to attend a conversation course in English every Monday. My classmates are mostly Erasmus students; two students come from Poland, two from Spain, one from Ukraine. During this class, we are discussing lots of topics, such as popular culture, current events, the history of the United States and the education and society roles. The teacher insists on our contribution to the class schedule. Actually, since the beginning of the semester, she has been expecting from us to write two reports about anything we wish to talk about. My first report was about television series and the second one was about some traditions in Belgium. After the first session of this conversation course, I sympathized with two Polish people. I can still remember that the first talk we had together was about politics. It surprised me a lot because I am not an expert in politics. I met them exactly on the 22nd of October and this was approximately the time when the general elections took place in their country. They hoped that the polish population would not vote for the twins. Luckily for them, it did not happen. I decided to briefly explain to them what the current political situation in Belgium was and they immediately understood my disappointment about the government. I am sure that I will miss this kind of international relationship that links me to the other Erasmus students in Cologne when I will be back in Belgium.

Fourthly, I will give you some information about my leisure time. According to me, an “Erasmus program” does not only mean studying. It is also important to take advantage of your leisure time. Because I am keen on discovering new cities, I did sightseeing in Aachen and Düsseldorf with the girls who are living in the same residence as me some weeks ago. In the residence where I am staying at, I am surrounded by many foreign students. They come from Spain, Mexico, the United States, Greece, Salvador, Italy, Poland and Germany, too. I speak German most of the time. However, I sometimes have to switch back into English because some of my friends cannot express themselves easily in German. We regularly go and have a drink on Thursdays in a Spanish pub or in the famous ‘Hard Rock CAFE’. I always have lots of fun when I spend time with them.

Fifthly, I will tell you why I am a bit afraid of having to prepare my departure from the University of Cologne. The end of the semester is approaching and Vincent and I know that we will have to deal with another problem, which lies in the fact that we will have to leave on the 28th January. In fact, the second semester begins on the 28th January in Belgium and the first semester ends on 8th February in Germany. In other words, we will have to make arrangements with all the professors to collect all our ‘Schein’ and marks in time. This document does not exist in Belgium but, a Schein has lots of importance in Germany because it proves your regular attendance as a student of Cologne and it enables you to take the different exams. A German student, who does not receive it because he skipped the classes too often, will not be allowed to take his exams.

Lastly, even if my Erasmus exchange is not finished, yet, I would like to say that I am convinced that it is a very positive experience. I am convinced that the Erasmus program offers a broad spectrum of advantages. Humanly speaking, it is a wonderful experience because you are surrounded by students coming from all over the world. You learn a lot about other countries. That is to say that I am not only close to the German culture every day but also to the other Erasmus students’ culture. As far as I am concerned, I don’t have any problems to get accustomed to the German lifestyle because it does not excessively differ from the Belgian one. I really enjoy living in Cologne. Finally, if you have the opportunity to go and study in Cologne, don’t hesitate because it is worth it!

I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Ich wünsche euch frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes neues Jahr 2008.

See you soon,
Bis bald,

1 comment:

justine vds said...

If you are curious and would like to get further information about this attractive city, I advise you to go on this website: