I decided to use the last semester of my Bachelor’s degree studies at ŠKODA AUTO University to study abroad. My decision was primarily based on the positive references about the Erasmus study programme from my friends who had taken this opportunity before. In February 2014, I chose OTH Regensburg (Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg, or simply Fachhochschule Regensburg) from all the partner Erasmus institutions as it has caught my attention for several reasons:
a) a German-speaking country (a requirement, considering my language skills!),b) quality college with new premises,c) Bavaria – a land of beer (!) within a relatively short travel distance,d) it is close to the Alps which I wanted to visit as a non-skier for a few days.
The preparations for my trip were very calm, though they nearly did take forever. Communication with the International Office of the receiving university was non-existent at first and the International Office at our school helped me a lot. For a long time, the other side was unable to secure appropriate accommodation, so I finally took the matter into my own hands, replied to about 50 ads, from which two responded. There was a final Skype interview as well. I became certain about my accommodation only in the last week before leaving, but I did not regret this in the end (see below). At the same time, I occasionally spent some time studying the language, though this was rather sporadic. I considered it very useful to memorise German vocabulary during my favourite leisure activities which required no movement or thinking, such as hunting and fishing. However, this idea later turned out to be wrong. I did learn hundreds of new words during my stay, though I did not find any practical use for expressions such as catfish, fishing rod, pine, hunting rifle, blueberries, bushes or antlers.
I planned my arrival in Regensburg for September 1, 2015, although the semester started a month later. The reason was a broad offer of preparatory courses in German, advertised in advance, which I made use of. During the first three weeks of my stay, I took a three-week B2/C1 language course together with other Erasmus students, for which we also later received ECTS credits. This was a considerable advantage because the successful students could later take fewer courses and spend more time doing other activities apart from studying. This pre-semester course made it easier to get to know each other, make new friends and start talking in the language. All the visiting students also had a variety of “cultural” events every day, various trips around Bavaria and so called “Stammtische”.
In addition to this first month, it was very helpful that I lived with four German students, which allowed me to practice German every day. However, an unpleasant surprise for me was the difference between talking to a native German, speaking colloquially to some extent, and the so-called school German. Thankfully, I did not have to deal with the Bavarian dialect too often. At first (and for me also second, third and many others) listening, it had nothing in common with German. When I met a pair of German ladies on my way to the university, I was often not certain if they are speaking in Norwegian or Swedish!
My review of the studies at OTH Regensburg is positive. The style of lectures is different from the ones we are used to at ŠKODA AUTO University. Courses are not divided into lectures and seminars, but are often taught in the form of seminars only. These are very interactive and students are not afraid to express their views and the lecturers even push them to get involved, or the other form which is only lectures, where the subject matter is presented to a larger number of students and if students are interested, there are additional “voluntary” practical seminars taught by so called tutors (students from higher years).
Apart from studying at OTH I also attended lectures at the University of Regensburg, where I was not a local student, but where I actually had more credits. This university offers a wide range of language courses, not only German, but also English, Russian, Arabic or Czech. The offer is accessible to OTH students as well, so I enrolled in language courses worth about 20 ECTS credits. Both institutions also cooperated in terms of sports: for about 15 Euro, all students could purchase a sports centre card and enrol in up to six sports courses, such as climbing, archery, fencing and standard dances, which I also took.
Ultimately, I can confirm that trips abroad are a great opportunity to become more independent, gain new experience and make new friends. All young people should definitely use this opportunity. There is nothing to worry about in terms of staying in a foreign country, except perhaps language skills, which was my case.