From Tennessee to Germany: An International Student Shares His Story

J Free

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The number of students going abroad is steadily rising. From semesters in Italy to internships in England—the options are endless, and students are taking advantage of them more than ever. Even after graduation, many of them pack their bags and move across the ocean, looking for something they can't find in their U.S. hometowns.

Cody was born and raised in Lexington, Tennessee, by Peruvian parents. After graduating high school, he moved to Lima for a year and a half, beginning his studies in industrial engineering. Due to political and economic instabilities in the country, the 20-year-old continued the program back in Tennessee, while taking up a new job and working on his German language skills. His ultimate goal: to study at a German university. In 2019, Cody moved to Mainz, Germany. He is currently finishing his master's degree, and shares his experiences and impressions of living in Germany with us.

What made you want to move to Germany?

First and foremost, I see a better future for Germany than for the U.S. right now, especially in terms of the political situation (even though Germany does have some worrying signals as well).

In addition to English and Spanish, one of my main goals is to speak German fluently. I also wanted to experience living on a different continent. I've lived in North and South America, so now I want to conquer Europe like Napoleon (laughs).

Another reason I chose Germany is because I am studying industrial engineering, and the country has a great philosophy when it comes to teaching that. Also, education for international students is free. I used to spend around 10.000 Dollars each semester in the U.S.—which is not a lot, compared to other schools there—here I pay 85 Euros.

What are the things you enjoy most about Germany, compared to your hometown and country?

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This may seem strange, but what I like most about Germany so far is the public transportation system. I just love how easy it is to get places without a car. I can even go anywhere I want within Europe, just by walking out of my apartment. That wasn't exactly the case in Lexington.

Similar to the education system, health insurance is a lot more affordable here. And not that money is my top priority, but even things as simple as food are so much cheaper. The first time I bought groceries, I was told that the total was 15 Euros. My German was good enough to understand numbers, but I thought she had said 50 Euros, because to me, I had so many things in my cart! When I gave her 50 Euros and was about to walk out, I was looked at kind of weird. So when I ended up paying only 15 Euros, I was baffled.

Oh, and needless to say, the food and especially German beer is out of this world.

What have been your most memorable moments of living overseas?

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Some really fun moments have been classic experiences like visiting the Oktoberfest. On New Year's Eve in Munich, I got to shoot off fireworks at Marienplatz. That was amazing, as we don't do that in the States.

One little, but very memorable moment: I have a group of Latin and African friends here, and for some of them, it was their first time ever seeing snow. For me, just seeing people enjoy snow for the first time in their lives was fascinating. The childlike awe in their eyes and faces really got me, and made me smile.

What are some of the main challenges you’ve encountered while settling in Germany?

A general challenge has been using the German language for more serious things such as paperwork, and for finding a place to live.

One of my biggest struggles, though, even if it might seem silly to you, is carrying and using keys. You need a key for every single door here, you can't just keep them unlocked. At home in Lexington, I never needed a key for anything except my car. As a result, here in Mainz, I've been locked out twice.

One time, a friend of mine had to climb through my window to open the door for me. I live on the top floor of the building, so I have no idea how he managed to get up there! He now has a copy of my keys as a backup… but whenever I close the door, it still makes me sweat a little if I'm not exactly 150 percent sure that I have my keys on me.

Can you remember any particularly bad moments you've had since your move?

As far as bad moments go, I've actually had a few unpleasant incidents here in Mainz. Since Germany, and especially this city, have such a high level of immigrants, I think the culture clash between Germans and refugees can cause a little bit of strife.

One time, I was being harassed by a Somalian refugee for being American. He didn’t like America for certain reasons, some of which I could even agree on. But at the end of the day, I'm not a politician or anything like that. I'm just a regular person, so I don’t think I should have been to blame.

How has your time in Germany changed you as a person?

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I can definitely say that I have learned to value some things more. I value social media less since living here. Personally, I've never been addicted to it, but at the same time, it's a lot bigger and more present in America.

That brings me to my second point: privacy. Germans seem to be more private and more aware of it, while Americans don’t care all that much. Living here, I'm much more aware of and thankful for a certain extent of privacy.

Another thing I have learned to value more is quality. Different beers, wine, foods—people really do enjoy quality here, and value it over quantity. I rarely paid attention to that, so I think my perception of that has changed drastically.

If you could sum up your experience so far in just three words: What would they be?

Keep. It. Going.

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