At one point or another during their college careers, a great number of students feel the urge to leave behind everything they know and explore a little bit of the world. Since so many students at the College get caught up in going abroad to places like Spain or Australia for a semester, it might come as a surprise that there are foreign students who want to leave their countries behind for Ewing.
This semester, the College is hosting exchange students from a variety of different countries. The largest group, though, is formed by the 12 students who will be visiting from the University of Frankfurt in Germany throughout the year.
Thorsten Klonus, 23, Afsaneh Majdazari, 23 and Denise Donnebaum, 21, are three of the College’s exchange students. When asked why they decided to study in the United States, an application process that begins a year and half in advance, all said they believed they would gain a lot through the experience.
“I came here because I wanted to learn about a different culture, a different school system. I’m getting away from regular life, it’s like an adventure,” Majdazari, a biology major, said.
Along with the experience, this is also an opportunity for the students to build up their resume and their English.
“It’s a really good exchange program and it’s important, especially for business majors, to study outside the country or do an internship, and build up your language,” Klonus, a business major, said.
So far, the biggest change for the students has been settling into a school system that is so different from their own. According to Klonus, the German school system combines the undergraduate and graduate programs, into one giant program. For example, Majdazari is working towards a “diploma” that takes five years of schooling and would lead her into getting her doctorate and Donnebaum is working towards a German Master of Arts.
Besides this, there are many smaller differences. For example, classes are structured differently.
“In Germany, the teaching is more theoretical and you only have reading to do. Here things are more practical and professors give you real life examples and you also have homework,” Thorsten said.
Another thing that surprised the students is the College’s actual campus.
“We do not have a campus like this one back home. This is like a small community, your own little world,” Afsaneh said.
“Here college is your life. In Germany, you have life and then your studies. The university is just academic, not social,” added Donnebaum, an American studies major.
Speaking of the College community, the exchange students all feel like they’ve been welcomed with open arms. Everyone is curious to learn about the foreigners and their culture.
“The floor I live on is great and my roommate is really nice. All the students here are open-minded and want to learn about our country. Many tell us that they are 10 percent or 20 percent German and that leads to funny stories,” Klonus said.
Majdazari and Donnebaum, roommates who will be here for the entire year, have been very surprised by everyone’s generosity.
“Someone here gave us a microwave for our room,” Majdazari said.
“Nothing like that would (ever) happen in Germany,” Klonus added.
The outpouring of support has left the students feeling great, and although they miss their family and friends, none of them say they are feeling homesick in the least.
“I miss people, but I’m not homesick because I’m seeing and learning new things everyday,” Majdazri said.
Donnebaum, who had studied in North Carolina as a high school exchange student, added that she felt homesick then, but feels that since she is older she can deal with the situation better.
Besides, now that they are stateside, Klonus, Majdazari and Donnebaum all want to enjoy the country as much as possible.
“I want to go to New York, Philadelphia and Boston to see how life really is,” Klonus said. “I want to get a good overview of the East coast, like next week I’m going to Virginia with my roommate.”
Majdazari, on her part, is looking forward to what she will from the cultural experience.
“I want to have fun, meet people, go shopping and clubbing, live life the American way,” she said. “I came here not only for my studies, but also to bring back memories to Germany and why not, maybe even make friends for life.”