A Year Over There

The University of Marburg is situated in the town of Marburg. On the way from the airport at Frankfurt, the first image of the town that I’m greeted with is a picturesque image of an ancient castle situated above the town. The town itself is composed primarily of narrow streets and alleys, the streets are lined by a mixture of old and modern buildings. Through the town runs the river Lahn, the cafeteria and student union is situated right next to the river with a series of steps that lead down to the river itself. The river is perpetually populated by a flock of ducks and a pair of swans.

The university is a mixture of new and old, some buildings are clearly new, modern construction. But there are other structures that are clearly aged and weathered. The buildings are somewhat spread out, nothing like the highly centralized campus that we UTD students have gotten used to: some courses are held up on the same hill as the castle, others are across the river and through a tunnel beneath a highway.

What I mean to say with all of this is: it’s different. You’re taught differently, you learn differently, you experience something new and different. You at first feel confined, perhaps: you don’t have a car, but then you learn the public transit system and feel more free than ever. If you miss city life: you can simply take the train to Frankfurt when your classes end for the day, doing your studies on the train and then eating lunch or dinner in Frankfurt. You don’t need a car, you can take public transit, and everything is in walking distance from the stop. There’s no need to think about parking, or sitting in traffic.

You’re given much more freedom as a student as well. The bulk of my courses were composed of lectures, with little coursework to follow along with them, the grade was to be determined entirely by an examination at the end of the semester. Easy for some, quite a bit more terrorizing for me. Beyond the course material itself, having to figure out how to study and learn under that system felt like one of the most valuable things I’ve picked up.

Your classes are more diverse as well. Courses in the United States are heavily composed of Americans, we share similar worldviews and experiences by dint of having lived in the same country, but in Marburg, it’s different. I had classmates from Kosovo, Macau, France, Italy, and of course Germany, instead of being surrounded by Americans, I routinely found myself being the only one. Being exposed to different viewpoints like that is an extraordinarily valuable experience, especially for an IPE major.

It’s different, and that fundamentally is the most important and valuable thing about studying abroad like this. It shakes us from our complacency and brings into view just how much more there is to discover and learn. Instead of merely studying it from afar and knowing in some vague sense that a different place feels different, going there, living, studying, and experiencing that place puts it into perspective all the big and little things that change, and how that affects people and how it can affect us.

-Joseph Wu, Dual Degree Program at Philipps-Universität Marburg, Spring 2019