Third time’s the charm - Why former SIP student Katie decides to come back to Germany over and over
Name: Katie Kuester
From: University of Southern Indiana
To: Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences
Program: Study & Internship Program, Spring 2020
3 words about her #UAS7experience:
Katie, why did you decide to apply for the Study & Internship Program?
In the summer of 2019 I actually went to Osnabrück for 3 weeks, because they had a summer program. Not a summer language program, it was like an international summer university. So, I did that with one of the professors from my university, who was in charge of taking the students from my university there. That was my first time going out of the country, so I really wanted to do it with a group of people. I didn’t know what to expect, I had never flown internationally. Then, I spent three weeks in Osnabrück and when I got home, I immediately wanted to go back. It’s like a feeling that never really went away. And then, since my university is a partner university with the University of Applied Sciences Osnbarück, they were starting a new program that would allow us to come study in Osnabrück for a semester and also be able to do an internship at the same time. Once I found out about that, that is why I ultimately decided to come - because I really wanted to have an international internship and I wanted to live abroad again. I just love Germany so much! Whenever I was there, I really wanted to go back, and of course I thought having a semester abroad and an internship would help me live my future. And I already thought about wanting to do my Master’s in Germany and a lot of those require experience abroad. That was a reason why I wanted to do it as well.
Tell us about your experience at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences - what was special about studying there?
I really loved the experience - even though, with Covid it was a lot different than what it normally would have been. I really liked my professors in Osnabrück. They were super understanding and very helpful. All of the students also were very open to forming relationships with the international students and taking the time to help us get settled in and know where we’re going. You know, not being able to speak German is hard sometimes, especially whenever you’re dealing with the older generation I would say, that they don’t speak English so much. I feel like the education system in Germany also somewhat pushed me to my limits because it’s a lot different than in the US. I’m not used to having one exam dictate my whole grade for a class. I wanted to have a panic attack when I found out because I have homework every single day whenever I am at my home university. And I would say that it really helped me to just professionally and personally grow and actually be able to handle situations that I’m not comfortable with.
Since you already mentioned it, what do you like about the German university system and especially the system at Universities of Applied Sciences?
Compared to my university, what I really liked about Osnabrück was that they have this buddy program for international students and I think that’s just so cool. We were automatically assigned a buddy who would pick us up from the train station, take us to our flat, help us figure out where everything was in the city. It’s very convenient in another country, where you are not speaking the language, so it was super nice that the school scheduled that for us. That also helped me to make a lot of friends. I met so many of the German students because of my buddy and I think that’s super cool. I wish that my home university did that, too. I would love to do the same for international students. I just like how international the school in Osnabrück seemed to be.
To whom would you recommend applying to the UAS7 Study & Internship Program?
I was asked this question also by the newspaper at my university. They also asked me this and I guess the simple answer I would give would literally be to everybody. Because I think that every college student that I know can benefit from spending a semester abroad, or spending an internship abroad.
It just opened my eyes in so many different ways.The world is so big, and it’s so different in what you think it is. My mindset has changed so much, just in the few years that I started to go abroad and see the cultural differences and it’s so important to learn things from other cultures and get to know people who have different backgrounds.
I especially would recommend it to a lot of US-students because I would say I don’t know many people that have studied abroad - at least at my university. And it seems maybe in other places in the US it might be different but not really many of my friends have studied abroad. It’s not on the top of the list I would say. They want to do it but they just don’t actually do it. So, I would really push those people to make it happen and do whatever they can, because everybody can gain something from it. That's also something I love about European Schools. Especially in international programs I know that an abroad semester is either mandatory or it’s very highly recommended and I think that’s just amazing and everybody should just go abroad, and see how other people live and that the whole world doesn’t revolve around just one country.
Is there any particular tip you would give students in this case?
I would say, probably one of the biggest tips that I would give: If you do decide to study abroad, and wherever you decide to go, make it a priority to know the local people! I would say, a lot of people, whenever I studied abroad, the international students tended to stick together with the other international students and my best friends that I’ve made whenever I was in Germany, they’re all German. They’re literally some of the best friends that I’ve ever had and at the beginning, sometimes, it took a little bit for them to open up but afterwards they’re such loyal friends. They talk to me every single week, they always are keeping up with me - more than some people that I have known my whole life. And I think it's super important to get to know the local people. They know where everything is, they know the best way to do things and I think that’s just the best way to get the actual full experience.
Would you recommend Osnabrück as a destination for international students?
I would definitely recommend Osnabrück. It has the perfect size, for me at least. It’s not overwhelming but there’s also plenty of things to do and it’s super easy to get around. The buses are nice and easy to get everywhere. I really like - and I am sure all Universities of Applied Sciences are like this - the practical side of the university. What I feel like is that I actually would be better prepared to do the job that I’m going to eventually do because it’s more practical instead of just theoretical. Osnabrück is also very affordable to live in and the location is very nice because it’s 3 hours from Berlin, or the Netherlands, Amsterdam, and France is not far either.
Is it a city you'll consider for your master's degree - and what other locations interest you?
The location of Osnabrück is great. I will also apply in Münster, in Hamburg, in Nürnberg, those are the main ones. I will apply to others, but those are the main ones that I’ll want to get into, because I would prefer one of those. I think Hamburg is beautiful, I love that city and think it’s a really good location as well, like in the northern part of Germany. But I would definitely be considering the Universities of Applied Sciences in those cities.
Since you’ve been to the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück twice, it would be interesting to hear, if you were considering all university types in Germany for your Master’s degree or if you would lean to Universities of Applied Sciences?
I would probably lean towards Universities of Applied Sciences because, like I’ve told you before, I think the practical side of it is super important. And I don’t feel like my current university has given me all of the practical experience that I want. My university is great and I have learned a lot but I think it would be really nice to study at a school that’s more focused on that side of it. I will apply to other ones but the Universities of Applied Sciences will definitely be at the top of my list.
What was your first touchpoint with Germany or German culture in general - did you try to learn German before the summer school in Osnabrück?
No, I didn’t. I wanted to take German in high school because my ancestors are from Germany. Where I live in Indiana we have so many German people. I was always interested in it but my high school was so small it didn’t offer German. Then, whenever I got to college a girl that I knew also did the program in Osnabrück the summer before I did and she told me about it and then, that’s when I got interested in coming to Germany. I really didn’t know what to expect before I got there but I love the German culture. How everyone is just so direct and straight-forward, I really like that. Sometimes, you know, there are definitely things that I missed about the US. Like just smiling and waving at people whenever you walk down the street. I did miss that - because everyone told me to not do that in Germany because people will feel weird. And I just say ‘Hi’ to everybody that I see - no matter if I know them or not.
Could you tell us a bit about your knowledge of German right now - you said you started a German course? Do you think it is a necessity to speak German before coming to Germany, or if could you get by with just a little bit of knowledge or no knowledge at all?
The first time that I started learning German was the first time that I came to Osnabrück for the summer program. And then, after that, I learned a little bit back in the States but I was so busy with my other classes. I wish that I made myself have more time for it but I really didn’t until I went back to Germany again. And then I took a winter language course that they had at Osnabrück as well - I had to take that for my internship, they required that. Then, once I was there I learned a little bit more but it was a bit more difficult, because I really wanted to speak it in public more and it was hard with Covid - not being able to do things as much. But then - once I got home - I decided to take another German Class at my university. I’m doing that right now, and I will keep learning German and I’ll probably be close to a B1 til the time I get back. I want to have a strong base, so I’m going to focus really hard on getting A2. I feel like it’s important to have all of the foundations before I go into B1. And then, for some of the Master’s programs that I will apply to, they require at least an A1. But I already have that, so now I just want to learn for myself and I want to be able to get around on my own, and not have to rely on other people. I think if I live in Germany for two years for my Master’s I want to really feel like I belong there. Learning the language is an important part of actually feeling home there. That’s why I want to learn German. And some of my friends’ parents that I’ve met also can’t speak English so I also want to learn more German to be able to interact with them.
Since you mentioned your return from Germany, could you tell us how you structured everything and how you’re doing it right now? It must have been pretty difficult to stay despite Covid, and then leave right in the midst of everything.
When Covid started getting pretty bad, it was worse in Europe than what it seemed to be in the States at the time - which probably was just as bad but wasn’t as known at the time. So, at first in Germany when everything started going on lockdown, my university told me to come home, my parents were begging me to come home. They were freaking out, they were so mad at me - because they really wanted me to come home. I worked so hard to get to go to Germany. I had to do so much to get my internship there. I had to do an interview with the company, I had to do a lot of work to get into the program. So, I didn’t want to just be there for a month and then have to leave. I didn’t want my experience to be cut short, even if Covid was going on. I wanted to wait it out and still form relationships with my friends - and things like that. I ultimately decided to stay, and I stayed, and it was fine when I was there. After a while, restaurants and things started to open up and I was still able to travel around Germany - which was very nice. I went to a lot of places in Germany, and then I went to Croatia for two weeks.
I was very sad to leave because right at the time I was leaving, everything was getting better. Now it’s horrible everywhere. But at that time everything was coming back open and feeling more alive. And in the States at that time everything was just horrible. So I was just like, ‘great - I’m leaving Europe when I can actually do things now, and I’m going home where I can’t do anything’. So it was really hard for me - leaving. I left August 10th and that’s when I’ve been back. It was hard for a while getting used to being back. I love my family - and that was the hardest part about being gone, not being with my family. But I also want to be my own person, do the things that I want to do - especially while I’m young. And then, when I came back, I immediately started my university a week later. So, I really didn’t have time to adjust to being back. I had jet lag for a while, and my sleep schedule was messed up. Even for about a month after I got back, I was going to bed at seven o’clock at night and waking up at five in the morning and I’d still be tired the whole time. That was difficult. Leaving all my friends and coming back to my ‘normal life’ was kind of difficult because I was doing things all the time there [in Germany], especially towards the end. Weekend trips to cities in Germany, and now that I came back I was working, going to school, normal life stuff. It was kind of hard for me to get used to that again.
How did your experience abroad with UAS7 change your ambitions towards your career?
I would say that my goals for my future have changed so drastically since being in Germany. Even before I went for the summer program - I wasn’t really thinking about my Master’s yet, I was still trying to finish my Bachelor’s. Once I went back for the full semester and I saw how everything was set-up and everybody just seems so well-prepared once they finish. At the University of Applied Sciences it just feels like everyone is prepared to enter the job market, which is such an awesome thing! Now I’m passionate about getting my Master’s there and even considering pursuing my doctorate degree after I finish my Master’s - which I never thought about doing that, ever. I never really thought I could do it but I would say that especially my experience in Osnabrück and at the University - knowing I could do classes there - changed that. I could handle the different education systems and I could do pretty well there. It really made me a lot more confident in myself. I really think I would be able to do that and I would really love to have a job where I can work a lot internationally with a lot of different cultures and different people and where I could bridge the gap between all the different cultures. I think that’s really changed since I’ve studied in Germany. I never really thought about doing that type of work and now I am like ‘I can do whatever I want to do now’. I never used to really be like that.
Now I’m passionate about getting my Master’s there and even considering pursuing my doctorate degree after I finish my Master’s [...]. I never really thought I could do it but I would say that especially my experience in Osnabrück [...] changed that.[...] I can do whatever I want to do now.