I knew that going to a German university would be so much different than my education experience back home in Hawaii. There wouldn't have really been a point in studying abroad if it was just like what I knew. Today I'm going to be talking about some of the differences I've noticed so far.
1. Registration (and attendance) is not required*
I put an asterisk because at least for a single semester exchange student, you will likely only be participating in lecture style courses (unless you get a special exception.) Lectures at the University of Tübingen are proper giant lectures... 100-150 students in a big old wooden lecture hall (see below). There is no registration for the class, although you do have to register for your exams about two weeks into the semester. Since there's not really an official roster because there's no registration--attendance isn't mandatory. HOWEVER, classes are blocked into much larger chunks here. I go to a 2 hour lecture once a week and then a two hour practice course once a week per subject. That means that if you choose to skip class, you'll be missing out on what equates to an entire week of classes in Manoa terms. So even though it's not required, I don't see how you could pass if you don't go...
2. Most classes are taught in German
We're in Germany. It shouldn't be a surprise that most classes are taught in their native tongue. I was lucky enough to get into classes that are all taught in English, because even though I have studied the language for almost 3 years it is still a lot easier for me to follow along in English. I know that most German universities require you to take a language exam in order to enroll, but Tübingen doesn't. Yay! If you're reading my blog because you're trying to figure out whether to go to Tübingen or the only other Shidler partner school in Germany (Otto Beisheim School of Management aka WHU) I do know that something like 80% of WHU's undergraduate courses are taught in English, so that might be a better option if you love Germany but want a wider selection of courses. I had really loose requirements for what I needed to take abroad (mostly upper division electives and an international business elective) so this wasn't an issue for me, which is why I chose Tübingen.
3. There isn't as much student support
I don't mean that the professors are evil and don't care about you, but I believe that this may just be a cultural difference between Germany and America. They really don't hold your hand here. Back home, there are lots of opportunities for homework and sometimes extra credit, and in general your professors are a lot more involved in your academic experience. In Germany, my grades are depending almost exclusively on one big exam at the end of the semester. For my innovation and technological change class I have to complete a couple assignments, and I need to do a presentation for my international business course, but the exams will still determine ~80% of my final grades. I'm a little worried because I always like to have a buffer of extra assignments, but I'm sure I'll be okay.
This tidbit is specific to Tübingen, though it could apply to other German universities: In regards to course selection, you won't receive really any guidance at all. I scheduled an appointment when I first got to Tübingen with the international student advisor for the business and economics department, and it wasn't like the appointments I'm used to at OSAS where you get to really outline what to take and what you need to graduate. I was told that most students take a maximum of 30 ECTS (6 ECTS = ~3 Manoa credits) and that I could take Master's courses as an undergraduate if I thought I could handle them... and that's it. Course selection beyond that is up to you, so I advise you to plan out your schedule with your academic advisor at Manoa before coming here.
4. The semesters and breaks are a lot different
If you've kept up with my blog at all, you know I just recently began my semester here. Tübingen began classes in mid-April and my exams will take place at the end of July/beginning of August. This is like most German universities, however if you are considering WHU, their schedule is a bit more similar to Manoa (they begin their spring semester in January and end in May). There are official breaks during the semester here, but nothing comparable to the super long winter and summer breaks that we have in America. I get a week off in June and some random holidays scattered throughout the semester, but that's it.
5. There's no campus
This one is Tübingen specific, so if you're here for any other reason beyond loving my excellent writing and caring about me (hi mom and dad!), this section might not matter to you. Tübingen is a university town--one third of people living in this town are students. That being said, there is no actual campus. I'm used to the clearly defined little bubble of Manoa where all my business classes are in one building. With Tübingen, university buildings are scattered everywhere throughout the city. My innovation and technological change lecture is in a building right next to a Turkish restaurant and bakeshop and I have my accounting and international business lectures a couple minutes from the city center which is full of tourists and shops. There is no clearly defined campus... everything is scattered everywhere. This doesn't bother me and it actually works out really great when you have big gaps between classes. I just wasn't used to it at first.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm only in my third week of classes so I'm sure there's still a lot to discover. My boyfriend is coming to visit this week (hi Jun!), so I'll hopefully have lots of fun touristy things to show you guys in my next post. Bis bald!