Foreign exchange

New culture exhilarating for correspondent

New culture ‘exhilarating’ for correspondent

Rita Forbes

I started school at MSSU as an undecided major, unsure of what I wanted to study and with absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

That’s just background information to explain why I am so incredibly impressed with the students I meet here. The incoming class of journalism students is made up of 42 students who went through a rigorous selection process in order to be admitted to the university. From my perspective, these people are the best of the best. They have already completed journalism internships or even worked in the field. They are talented, focused and energetic. And they are serious about their studies.

But at the beginning, everything is confusing. We all need a little help. And that’s where the upperclassmen come in. Students from the third semester organized an orientation day for us last week. They brought food, fielded questions and took us on a campus tour.

Theoretically, German students pay 500€ (about $675) in tuition each semester. But those fees are automatically waived for the first two semesters in Bremen, and they can be waived after that if the student is a resident of Bremen. Germans are shocked at how much we pay for our classes at MSSU.

I learned that students here have some surprising requirements. Spending a semester abroad and mastering English are non-negotiable. For every single student. But students here are not required to go to class. Attendance is highly recommended, but in the words of one professor, we are “adult people.” We are responsible for learning the course material and passing the tests, and we can choose for ourselves if we want to sleep in or go to the lectures.

Students do not choose their courses here. The “Stundenplan” lays out the classes for students in each semester. Journalism students take five modules each semester. Each module is made up of four hours of classwork a week, plus an additional hour of practical training, which means there are about 25 hours of class each week.

Since I’m an exchange student, though, I get a little more leeway than the German students. Instead of simply taking all the first-semester modules, I can pick and choose classes from the various semesters. I’m taking advantage of these first few weeks to visit classes and decide what I want to take. On a whim, I went to Constitutional Law on Monday. It was intriguing; sign me up!

It doesn’t take much to make me happy in a German classroom. If I understand most of the words coming out of the professor’s mouth, I dance my way home. But I’m looking forward to life outside the classroom, too. These talented, focused German students don’t just know how to study. They know how to party!

It’s going to be a good semester.

[Editor’s note: Rita Forbes is spending this academic year studying in Germany. She is a senior mass communication and German major at Missouri Southern.]