White bread and socks with sandals

Lena Paetsch, Contributing Writer

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Being an international student from Germany, I get to experience a whole different kind of education system while studying in Bloomsburg for the semester.

The most obvious difference is the campus. While my German school only consists of lecture and dining halls, Bloomsburg campus has so much more to offer. I’m still really excited about the fact that we can use the gym for free and that the library has its own Starbucks.

One of the first things I realized when I came to Bloomsburg a month ago was the way people dress in class. In my German school, I would feel uncomfortable wearing gym clothes to class. Here, it’s more of a style than actual sportswear.

I like the fact that people – even if their wardrobe choice is sandals with socks a lot of the time – just wear whatever they feel comfortable in. I already see myself buying all those BU sweatpants and sweaters that I’ll never wear at home.

Most of the other international students complain about having to attend all the classes. Back in Germany, I never had to attend any classes if I didn’t want to, professors were not even allowed to take attendance. Especially for the morning classes that often meant that I would rather sleep in. Here I’m more or less forced to go, but I find that very motivating.

I actually like getting homework (the last time I got any kind of homework was 4 years ago in high school) and coming to class prepared. German universities have much bigger lectures and the overall grade only consist on the final exam’s score.

I’m the learning type that needs regular tests, that’s why I like quizzes. In my opinion, it’s much better to have several assignments during the semester – you’ll learn more and your final grade actually reflects your knowledge and motivation.

Before I came here, I was really excited about living on campus. I expected to have all my classes in very close proximity to my apartment, so I could leave 5 minutes before class. Living on upper campus that illusion quickly vanished. It didn’t take me long to realize that living on upper campus is more like living off-campus without having the advantages of off-campus housing.

In Germany, I was legally allowed to drink alcohol by the age of 16 and I’ve actually reached the point where I drink wine, because I like it, not because I want to get drunk. But I guess this semester I’ll have to refrain from my occasional wine with dinner because of the dry campus.

I also had expectations about the people I’d meet here. To be honest, I was a little afraid of the stereotype of the superficial American. But since I came here, I have not been confronted with any of the shallow friendliness I was expecting. Instead, I got to meet loads of nice, authentic people that seemed genuinely interested in me and offered to help me with anything I needed. I’m really glad that once again in my life, I got to learn that stereotypes are not necessarily true.

Being a vegetarian, I was sure, I’d have a hard time finding any good and healthy food in the country of burgers, chicken wings and beef jerky. That expectation came true.     

Wanting to actually go out (and by that I mean not going to the Commons) for dinner results in getting fast food and as a vegetarian that means fries, mozzarella sticks or plain pizza. My stomach still has to get used to the different food.

After only a few days in the US I realized what I would miss the most: German bread.  People who grew up with the white, soft, cardboard-like toast they sell here, will never understand the desperate need for the fresh, crisp farmhouse bread I always used to get from the bakery. Instead of pizza or mac and cheese for dinner, I would just love to get some nice, fresh bread with good cheese.

So, when I get back to Germany in December, the first thing I’ll do is put my Bloomsburg sweater on, pour myself a nice glass of wine with my dinner (bread and cheese) and think about all the great memories I made this semester – I’m sure there’ll be a lot.

Lena is an international exchange student from Germany. She is a junior Communications Studies major.