Since I never stayed or studied abroad, I had always thought about living overseas. Additionally, after turning 20 years old, I wanted to be more independent because I relied on my parents too much. Therefore, I decided to apply to the Exchange Student Program, and I learned a lot of things and improved myself. As a result, I must say that applying for the Exchange Student Program was my best decision of my life. Thanks to the program, I broaden my perspective, learned valuable lessons in life, and widen my world. The world is bigger than I thought, and there are so many opportunities just waiting for me!
Literature seminars with various topics
At SMU, I took the class Integrated English taught by Joe Walther. For the class, we were required to create our story book and autobiography. After completing my story book, I was eager to have my own poems as if I created my story book. Luckily, in TU Dortmund, there was a seminar titled Writing as Witness. The main purpose of this seminar was writing poetry according to guidelines set by the instructor. The types of guidelines were as follows: visit a public are and sit there for 30 minutes, write about what you see, choose of those things you see and use as persona for the poem, and then describe one painting that you like and turn it into a poem. It was a fresh experience to have to witness the world in order to do an assignment. I got inspired from daily life, and I turned those ideas into poetry. Because of that class, every moment in Germany was precious for me. I could think and get inspired from all things everywhere, on the train, during a sunset, and even just walking along the river. At the end of the class, I got to take with me a book of poetry, solely composed and designed by myself. This was a huge gift to leave with, as it was a collection of all my thoughts and feelings in Germany. In addition to this class, I took a number of other lectures at TU Dortmund. I took a class titled the poetics of Place with Elizabeth Bishop and Mark Doty. The main objective was for students to learn the importance of establishing a place before writing a poetry. I was fascinated to learn that the place where a poem is written greatly influences the entire poem and forms a certain atmosphere that dominates the entire poem as well. For the final project of this class, I had to write an essay that compared the work of Elizabeth Bishop and that of Mark Doty by focusing on the usage of place in each poem. Thanks to these two classes at TU Dortmund, I developed my comprehension skill, and that helped me to better understand poetry from various perspectives as well as learn how to express my thoughts and feelings using poetic language.
Active participation during lectures
The most impressive aspect of learning at TU Dortmund was the active participation of students during lectures. Whenever the instructor asked a question, lots of students raised their hands and waited to be called upon by the professor to speak. Additionally, students did not hesitate to express their thoughts, and they were not concerned about right answers. Furthermore, most classes were based on discussion, so I had to prepare extensively for them each week. I took the class titled 1962 American Poetry. During this class, the instructor never required us to examine the fixed meaning of the lines. Instead, she discussed briefly background information about the poem and basic skills that the writer had used in the poem. The rest of the class students would share their ideas about the main idea of the poem, the meaning of the lines of poetry, and the impression they got while reading the poem. The instructor was open to any idea and even changed the class plan to better match the thoughts of students. I enjoyed a class that was carried out on the needs and wants of both the instructor and students together. Since I was unfamiliar with these types of class, I had trouble following class at the start, but once I got accustomed to the style, I realized that this kind of learning better encourages students to think deeper and accept others’ various ideas and thoughts even though they may differ from our own.
Visiting art museums in Europe
One of the biggest reasons that I applied to Germany was to visit its art museums. I took Art History at SMU for an entire school year, and I’m really interested in art and art history. Therefore, during the Exchange Student Program, I traveled to a number of European countries to visit well-known art museums. Every art museum was impressive, but if I were to select the best one, I’d have to say the Kröller-Müller Museum in Arnhem, Netherlands. Before introducing the Kröller-Müller Museum, I should tell readers that I am a huge fan of Vincent Van Gogh. Therefore, I really wanted to see firsthand the works of Vincent Van Gogh while I was staying in Europe. To achieve this goal, I visited the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris, and Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. However, the best art museum for viewing Van Gogh’s work is the Kröller-Müller Museum in Arnhem, Netherlands. The Kröller-Müller Museum is very unique because it is located in the middle of a big forest. From the small gate entrance of the forest, visitors must bicycle or take a bus to the museum. I chose to ride a bicycle. It was wonderful to riding inside the Phytoncides forest and enjoy its beautiful scenery. After riding for about 20-30 minutes, I reached the Kröller-Müller Museum. It hosts the world’s second biggest Van Gogh collection and is home to his most famous painting Café Terrace at night. It is hard to explain just how impressive it was to view the painting. I also saw the portrait of Joseph Roulin, The Sewer, and the wilted version of a sunflower. I really liked the wilted version of the Sunflower because this one differed from the better known Sunflower in the Van Gogh Museum. Any fans of Vincent Van Gogh who have the chance to visit the Netherlands should most definitely visit this museum! I’m sure that you would fall in love with it instantly.
Embracing various cultures
At TU Dortmund, I met lots of friends from various countries and cultures. Since I never stayed or studied abroad before the exchange, I was unfamiliar with foreign cultures and foreign people. However, after making friends at TU Dortmund, having dinner together, and spending time together, I naturally embraced those cultures and learned how to understand cultural differences, which is an essential ability nowadays. Thanks to the Exchange Student Program, I broadened my perspective and learned to accept other cultures. Having dinner together with others is the best way to get close with foreign people. Over dinner, I introduced Korean food and culture, and my other foreigner friends did the same. Therefore, we got to know each other’s culture through food while having dinner together. I had countless dinner parties with my foreign friends at TU Dortmund, and I had a lot of chances to try European, Middle East, African and Asian food and experience those cultures. It was such an amazing experience to share cultures with people from all over the world!
Living in Germany for one year
With no overseas living experience, I was really anxious about staying in Germany for one year before leaving. To be honest, I did indeed experience several hardships that were a challenge to resolve. One of them was Germany's paper-based system. In Korea, almost all systems operate online, so they are fast and efficient. However, in Germany, information is still passed by written correspondence, so it takes a long time to resolve matters. Therefore, I had a hard time when I couldn’t get a reply quickly even when I was in a rush. Additionally, it was my first time to live alone. In Korea, I lived at home, so I did not even know how to pay some bills as my parents typically took care of them. Therefore, I had to figure it out how to live without their help and deal with lots of things by myself. Even though I experienced a number of failures and made mistakes, I learned to live independent of others on my own. Furthermore, the number of good experiences far excited the number of bad ones in Germany. Above all things, I think the best experience was meeting a lot of nice Germans. They helped me whenever I need help, spent time with me, and showed me lots of great things in Germany. Thanks to them, I spent my days in Germany comfortably and could enjoy Germany a lot. Germany is such an attractive country, and I love its culture, mood, and vibe. One day, if I have any chance, I want to visit Germany again and stay there longer. I hope this dream comes true one day!