Interview with German Students

Olin
Exchange Students
Germany
Frankly Speaking

The following are excerpts from Student Affairs’ interview with Olin German exchange students Felix Eberhardt and Christian Lichter. Both students’ home institution is OTH Regensburg – University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg, Germany.

Tell us a bit about how you found Olin and why you wanted to study here?

Christian: I was very interested in Olin because of its project-based approach to learning.
Felix: I always wanted to study abroad in the US. Luckily OTH Regensburg had a partnership with such a great institution like Olin which made the application process much easier. Because of this, I decided to come to Olin without the slightest hesitation.

Can you tell us about your academic experience at Olin?

Christian: In general I am very pleased with the academic experience although it is more time- consuming than at Regensburg. It’s a much more informal learning atmosphere.
Felix: It’s a very different experience. At Regensburg, there are over 11,000 students in the University of Applied Sciences and another 23,000 in other faculties at the university. If you have a question about an assignment, you would never call the professor as you might at Olin. It’s a lot more formal and we don’t call our professors by their first names.

Can you tell us about life outside the classroom?

Christian: I look forward to rock climbing in the US. There are several students at Olin who do it regularly. I enjoy hiking and rock climbing at home in Germany. Regensburg is close to the Alps.
Felix: I play on the club basketball team at Babson and we have a lot of competitive games. At home in Regensburg, I play semi-pro basketball every weekend.

When you think about why you came to the US to study, have you achieved what you set out to do?

Christian: Yes, I had always wanted to study in the US to broaden my perspective and build my global resume. I was motivated to pursue this because of my apprenticeship in software engineering at a hospital in Germany.
Felix: I am hoping to improve my English while I am here as well as gain a new perspective on technical problem sets. That is my goal.

What do you miss most about German culture now that you’ve been here for 3 months?

Christian and Felix: Freshly baked bread, or brot in German!

Students who study abroad often talk about a point in time when they changed. For some, it’s about feeling comfortable speaking a new language. For others, it’s feeling immersed in the culture of their host country, and enjoying their new home. Can you pick out one moment during the semester that was a turning point for you and your time here at Olin?

Christian: That was not the case for me. I have been enjoying it here since the first day I arrived.
Felix: I felt comfortable from the first day at Olin. The hardest part, in the beginning, was meeting so many new people and getting to know them, but everyone was really friendly and always tried to include me as much as possible. I made some really good friends very quickly who took care of me and helped me find my way in a new university in a foreign country.

Could you describe a “low point” or what has been most difficult during your time at Olin?

Christian: I got sick and had to go back and forth to the health services center for medication.
Felix: Missing my family and my girlfriend, but they are coming to visit me for Thanksgiving break.

Is there something about German culture or language that you would like to share with your fellow Olin classmates?

Christian and Felix: If you visit Bavaria, where Regensburg is, servus (pronounced zair wus) means hello and goodbye.

Would you encourage your classmates to spend a semester at Regensburg or to visit you?

Christian: Yes, definitely. There are three rivers flowing through the town, one of them is called Regen which gave Regensburg its name. Also around Regensburg, there are a lot of climbing rocks. And public transportation is very good; the bus comes every 10 minutes and you can get anywhere in or near the city very easily.
Felix: Definitely! Try and go in the spring or summer (April to August are the best months). Regensburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany (2500 years old). This UNESCO World Heritage city is filled with young people (35,000 students among its 160,000 inhabitants). There are lots of good (and, compared to Boston, cheap) restaurants and beer gardens. Many big companies (BMW, Audi, Siemens, Continental, and Krones to name a few) have offices in Regensburg. If you’re into soccer, Jahn Regensburg plays in the German second division. Other big cities in Germany are easily (and cheaply) accessible from Regensburg by public transportation: Munich (1.5 hrs), Prague (3 hrs), Vienna (4 hrs), and Berlin (5 hrs).

Drawing by Hadleigh Nunes

Grab a Fika!

Where is sporting costumes, singing songs and receiving a warm welcome to your new school a regular thing? Well, grab a fika, and we’ll tell you. If you were in the UK, it might be teatime but if you are lucky enough to be in Sweden, it’s a cozy coffee break or fika. Fika is an important aspect of Swedish culture and this is evident everywhere: at home, in the workplace, and on college campuses.
At LTH, the Engineering Faculty at Lund University, companies sponsor student events in order to get their names out among this cohort of future employee candidates. One of those events is the annual Nollning – the word in Swedish refers to an introduction for new and first-year students – a tradition at the prestigious Lund University in Lund, Sweden. Upperclassmen plan a variety of activities to give new students the opportunity to meet new friends, feel wel-

comed to their new home and to feel lagom, or in English, just right! The introduction lasts for five weeks and includes roughly 1200 new students with about 500 student mentors making it happen.
During Nollning, LTH students dress up in the different colors that represent their discipline, for example, mechanical engineers are red, computer science students are pink and electrical engineers are white. The disciplines compete against each other in different missions to celebrate fraternity and passion for their field. Nollning is a tradition that

connects students’ social and educational lives and is highly valued by Swedes.
If Olin College wants to prepare students to become innovative engineers who engage in creative solutions for the good of the world, then Oliners should get to know the world and the people in it. Learning about other cultures is filled with eye-opening and transformative experiences which is why I have embraced learning in a new environment. While I miss my home institution and my friends, studying in the United States has enriched my academic experience and provided meaningful cultural engagement with people from many backgrounds. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad!
Now you know 3 words in Swedish and a little about Swedish culture. If you would like to learn more, I am happy to share!

-Viktoria

It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moondance

Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China – taking a back seat only to the Chinese New Year. The festival celebrates the harvest and always occurs in the middle of autumn (with a full moon) as the leaves are falling on Olin ’neath the cover of October skies. This year, the holiday falls on October 4th which happens to be within the National Day holiday (October 1-7) in China — a very popular time for traveling around to see friends and relatives.
The holiday is also referred to as the Moon Festival because it falls at the time of the year when the moon is at its roundest and brightest. It is observed in China, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia; many similar festivals revolving around a full moon are celebrated in other parts of Asia.
Folklore tells us that the archer Houyi (pictured) was awarded an immortality elixir by shooting down nine of the ten suns that scorched the Earth; but he chose to hide it away at home since he didn’t want to be apart from his wife Chang’e. Unfortunately, Chang’e had no choice but to drink the elixir when another figure, named Fengmeng, came for it when Houyi was out hunting. After Chang’e ascended to the heavens and started to reside on the Moon, Houyi, to remember his wife, displayed the foods she liked and created mooncakes that would allow for temporary reunion of the couple.
The tradition continued. Nowadays, family and friends gather for reunions and outdoor barbecues, give thanks for the harvest and for family, and pray for many of the important things in life including love, fertility, beauty, good fortune and longevity to name a few. Mooncakes can be found in a wide variety of flavors – from lotus seeds to meat filled, and they are still made the way they were hundreds of years ago. Close to Mid-Autumn festival, we always crave mooncakes; it’s as if there’s a little clock inside us that screams for mooncakes once every fall.
In addition to the Chinese mooncakes which are widely known, there are other food that are common on this very special occasion. For example, in Korea, families come together and enjoy a traditional South Korean dish called Tteokguk, or rice cake soup. It consists of a rich broth and thin slices of rice cake with flavorful toppings that commonly include egg and beef. The rice cake used for the bowl is white and long representing a long and fresh new life. Other traditions in China include hiding puzzles in lanterns or flying Kongming lanterns, but they are less popular today.
My mom and dad (this is Jingyi) would visit me at my high school for the holiday and bring various kinds of mooncakes: egg mooncakes, flaky mooncakes, mochi mooncakes and even ice cream ones. My memories of Mid-Autumn Festival involve sharing the mooncakes with close friends and family.
You might say Mid-Autumn Festival is a little like Thanksgiving in America only the Chinese, the Korean, and the Vietnamese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn since the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 -1046 BCE), so thousands of years versus hundreds.
As in the past at Olin and around the globe, we will recognize this holiday by staring at the moon! It’s going to be an opportunity for culture sharing and in the words of Van Morrison, a fantabulous night to eat mooncakes (and dumplings) and listen to music and the sound of the breezes that blow. Come celebrate with us under the moon (and the lanterns) on October 4th.

In this article, we have borrowed some lyrics from Moondance, a song by Van Morrison.