Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Erasmus in Cologne

Guten Tag und herzlich Willkommen in Köln!

This is the type of sentence you may hear if you are an Erasmus student in Cologne.
From April onwards, it took me months to realize I was going to spend 4 months in this beautiful but huge city. Even if you first embrace the joy of living abroad, you then feel scared and when you look at all the bureaucracy you have to take care of before your departure, you may want to cancel everything. This would be a huge mistake since there would be so many things you would never experience.

In April, I was then selected to go to Cologne. I took care of finding a good place to stay, to fill in the required documents and to find all the classes I could possibly attend. Unfortunately, I was only to get my student room by the end of August, so during the summer, I began to freak out at the idea of not getting a place to live. Then I got the last room available in Efferen. This student village is situated in the outskirts of Cologne. I thus had to take the tram every day to go to class. It took me 30 minutes to get to the university but it was worth it because Efferen is a really nice place. That is actually the place to stay if you are a student considering you would live with other German people and Erasmus students. This may help you feel more comfortable in a city you barely know. Furthermore, it is quite calm and thus ideal if you feel like studying.

Let us now discuss the university. The "philosophische Fakultät" or "Philosophikum" (see the picture) is the biggest faculty in Cologne. The system is quite different from Belgium as no one is considered as a BA III student. Everything is counted in semesters. It means that I actually was some kind of "fifth-semester student". If you do not know that, people might be confused when you talk about your studies. My “Wintersemester” started pretty late, namely October 10th to end February 3rd. You thus have to make a deal with your teachers if you do not want to get back to Namur too late. But they are usually comprehensive in this matter. I had four classes: German as a foreign language, German literature from the 19th century to modernism, German morphology and a conversation class. This last one was my only class in English: I wanted to keep on speaking the language as much as possible, that is why it was pretty useful. You are quite free when you pick up your courses: you just have to be careful because you absolutely need 21 credit points or more. In Cologne, you get these ECTS by writing a “Hausarbeit” (20 pages) or a “Klausur” (a written exam), you can also choose to make a presentation about anything or even an oral exam, depending on how many credit points you need. That is the freedom an Erasmus student can enjoy: one should never forget to mention it.

Philosophikum in Cologne.

It is impossible to get bored in this huge city. There is something to do every day. The museums represent an entire part of the culture, and when night has come, anyone can enjoy a great party. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) helps you have fun and discover the city and other cities. This group of students organized for example trips to Düsseldorf, Aachen, Bonn, even Berlin for all the Erasmus students. It helps you know other people and discover other cities. Moreover, The ESN organizes the so-called “Erasmus parties” which help you get to know people from all over the world.

I thus had a great time in this city and I have learned a lot about relationships, the German language and the city itself; that is why Erasmus is one of the best experiences ever. I do feel I have improved myself in German, even though four months seemed to end up pretty fast. I now wish I could get back there next year, as I am going to study for my master.

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