The first day in Hamburg went quite fine. I took a taxi to my dormitory to avoid confusion after traveling for 24 hours. Got my key from my landlord and settled into my dorm. Before I made my bed my photos were up against the wall. This provided a sense of homeliness in the spartanly decorated room. It was raining and I was feeling a sense of unease since most of the people I spoke to were non-English speakers. Immediately regret not having taken a German language course before studying in Germany.
In the first month I explored a lot of Hamburg by myself. I went (window)-shopping and went for walks through the famous Planten and Blomen park. I even went on a ferry-ride through the harbour. My first day of the orientation programme went well. My flatmates are awesome so atleast I didn’t arrive alone. Bucerius Law School’s International Exchange Programme is so brilliantly organised and I would honestly advise anybody to go there. I am sad that i don’t have a friend from Stellenbosch here. It would’ve been nice. The law school organised many fun activities for us to do. We had an International Dinner on the first Friday where the law school sponsored drinks and we only brought dishes from our home countries. We made pasta and Kimbab in our buddy-family groups. Being part of a buddy-family is quite nice and I would advise people to do that. Having friends who went to Bucerius last year have helped me a lot on what to do and what to expect. It is great to receive first-hand tips on what to do and where to go.
So basically in the first month I have settled in, I have joined a gym and I am getting to know most of the areas and neighbourhoods. I have made great new friends! Friends from India, South Korea, Brittain, USA, Australia, China, Germany, Italy, France and probably more. We like comparing cultures and chat about differences and similarities in our legal systems. We have done one or two day-trips together to neighbouring cities – I never knew Germany is this beautiful.
The studies so far is okay. I have unfortunately taken (what I realise now) the most difficult courses. The lecturers are excellent so no complaint there!
Michael Oosthuizen (exchange student to Maastricht) came to visit on my second weekend here. It was great fun to see a familiar face in a foreign place. I am soon going to visit Emma Pretorius in Amsterdam. It will be nice to speak a bit Afrikaans!
All in all I would say the biggest challenge so far is the language barrier. Most Germans don’t speak English. I have planned some traveling, so I am so excited about that! “I was born in Liverpool, but I became an adult in Hamburg” – John Lennon
The course at Bucerius Law School is divided into two sessions. I finished writing my first session’s exam. The exams were fair, although I probably started studying too late since I focused on studying for Companies. I had to study for Company Law right after I finished my exams here, so after I wrote Companies I was exhausted. I found that writing an exam from Stellenbosch here in Hamburg was very challenging. It was such a lot of work to “self-study.” My mom and sister came to visit in the beginning of November and it was great to see family and just relax. I saw Erlangen, Herzoganaurath and Munich with them. After that my mom came to visit in Hamburg and I was like a tourist in my own city. When arriving back in Hamburg the weather changed so rapidly! (We are expecting -2 degrees Celcius this Friday!) A South African winter-coat isn’t the same as a European winter-coat. I had to acquire warmer jackets and scarves and hats, not that I minded going shopping. I look like an eskimo when I leave the house and the Germans say it’s not even cold yet.
The first month of being here I was constantly excited and loving everything here and I remember thinking four months is too short, thereafter I became very home sick and missing my friends and family too much. I tackled those blue days by doing exercise and doing fun things with new friends. Now, a month before heading back home, I feel sad to think that this awesome experience is almost over. I am excited to go back to South Africa, but I am sad that my four month holiday will be over then. I am going traveling over Christmas with a friend and I am so super excited to do that after my final exam (ever!).
In Hamburg there is currently a Volksfest called the Hamburger-Dom. This is like a fun fair where copious amounts of curry-wurst and Gluhwein is consumed. I am going there with my buddy family. My buddy family is great, they organize fun nights out/activities for us.
Our “Kiwittsmoor-family” (Kiwittsmoor is the dorm I live in) went to the Hamburg weinachtsmarkt (“Christmas market”) last night. All I can say is WOW. Love it. The Christmas spirit is amazing. Looking forward to seeing other Christmas markets in other countries. I am going to the Netherlands and Belgium this weekend. Stroopwafels and Belgian chocolate!! Next weekend we have a girls weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. I feel so lucky. I still have quite a challenging exam ahead of me. Since the focus is on European Law, I have to study way more than my colleagues from EU-countries.
German food is not for me, especially Bavarian style sausages and kartoffel. Too greasy. But, they make great beer and Marzipan. I give that to them. I have tried so many interesting foods here. Since the people in our Kiwittsmoor group comes from so many different countries, we have tried so many different oriental foods. I even went to a Korean restaurant with my Korean friend! I learn and experience so much. We are already planning a reunion. The location will most likely be South Africa.
BACK IN SOUTH AFRICA:
Finally back in South Africa! Saying goodbye to my friends in Germany was a thousand times harder than I would ever have thought. I received beautiful Christmas gifts from China, South Korea and India. We still keep contact on whatsapp and we are planning a reunion in South Africa in 2016. BLS hosted a wonderful farewell ceremony where we received certificates for participation in the programme, as well as a departing gift from the law school.
Let me first say that my travels back to South Africa wasn’t as easy as I would have hoped. Due to delays at Dubai I almost missed my connecting flight! I made it by just a couple of minutes. I got welcomed back at the airport with flowers and big smiles. I was so happy to see my family and friends. It was 29 degrees Celsius when I landed and it was amazing to touch down in beautiful sunny Cape Town.
I found that it is hard to explain one’s experiences in the exchange programme to others who weren’t there. The people who understand best are those who also did the exchange programme. I did some traveling with other Maties after my last exam (19 December) and it was amazing to see Paris in Christmas.
Being back in South Africa is great and I can honestly say that 4 months was just long enough for me to have a fantastic experience in Europe. The winter got long at times and I spent my first couple of days back in the sun getting some vitamin D, eating biltong and braaing every single day! My little break didn’t last long and soon I was off to Sandton to start work in the big city.
I have very fond memories of my time in Germany and I will always cherish them.