The start of my new life as a student

It is an unfortunate thing that it is only now that I had the opportunity to write about my experience here in Cottbus. I have spent two weeks here and I believe that I have adjusted quite well in the new environment.

Allow me to give you some impressions about Cottbus. Although the city is one of the biggest cities in the state of Brandenburg, the city has a quiet university town feel to it, probably similar to my sister’s university in Los Banos, Laguna (Philippines). It is an hour and twenty minutes from Berlin and the city has its medieval past as well as its more modern architecture, mostly in my university (BTU). There is a large percentage of international students here, roughly 15% of the student population, Some of them I have already met in my  classes with for the basic German language. The international students come from diverse countries in Europe, Asia and Africa and I think there is a really big group of Spanish bachelors degree takers for this year.

The university is a modern campus where the IKMZ is the star architectural symbol of the campus. It was designed by Herzog and de Meuron – they were the designers of the Bird Cage for the Beijing Olympics and the Prada shop in Tokyo, both of which are amazingly designed structures.  Many of the other buildings are a combination of modern glass and steel structures mixed with older buildings. It has a very pleasant pedestrian avenue that connects many of the buildings in the university.

The old city is not far from campus. It is probably a 10-minute walk to go there by foot. I hope in the future, I get to know more about the city’s personal history from medieval times, to the industrial age, the former DDR and its more modern usage now. I have yet to be acquainted with the local community, somewhat of a difficult task primarily because of the language barrier and secondly, I have only met the international students as of now because of our common language classes. There is a tandem program for learning the language that the university has set up wherein interested individuals can practice their language and learn a new one.  For my case, I am thinking of participating to improve my German and  explain more about English, and if there are takers, I can also share my native tongue.

Before I met my classmates, I remember having a discussion a few days ago with a friend who is also taking her graduate studies somewhere in Germany.

She asked me, “What do you want to project when you meet your new classmates?”

I asked in a startled voice, “Does that matter?”

She said to me, “I see it as a new experience where in I can reinvent myself in anyway possible, highlight the good things about myself and not discuss things that are not important to me. You can portray yourself as an athlete or an artist if you want to. You can change your name and experiment. The good thing is that you don’t have the baggage of your old self.”

With her words it made me think – who am I and what do I want to project? To be honest, after two weeks, I still do not know. The idea that I am changing my image to create a slightly different persona is strange to me for I only can be comfortable in my own perception of reality. A long time ago, I may have had preconceived notions of who I was, what I can become and what I should be but now that I really thought about it, that really wasn’t important.

Being a student, I feel like I am everyone else. There are those students who likes to party all the time, there are those who like to go to the library often and there are those who like to keep to themselves. I am all of that and none of that. I am equal to other students, the only difference that we have so far is our choice of courses. I am here without pretenses about myself and my capabilities because I am here to learn and understand new ideas. I am no longer in the stage in my life where I want to prove something to other people, that I am cool or popular, athletic or charming. I am just me, whoever that person is inside me. I have my beliefs, my experiences, my dreams but no more pretensions, no more illusions.

I am here because I want to be here. I am here because there is this burning desire to experience something new, something that will enrich my life and hopefully the life of others. I want to discover new knowledge, new people who will open up my ideas of the world and the different cultures we live in. I want to see design not just as a product of our minds but a product of our culture and beliefs. I want to see how places are engrained in memory. All other personal issues and baggage isn’t really that important.

I can’t wait for the lectures to start and I hope my German improves. Learning something new and learning a new language is a must!

P.S. A few days after this post, I came across one of those beautiful words movies sometimes throws out. This one may be most appropriate for this post:

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early – to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit; stop whenever you want. You can change, or stay the same – there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. – Benjamin Button”


The search for a place to stay


I’ve never lived in a dorm before so the experience of trying my luck to get one while I am still in Singapore is a challenge. ItLast week, I got a letter from the Studentenwerk Frankfurt/Oder that there are no more rooms available for me in the 5 dormitories that they own near campus. This email meant that I will have to find a place on my own via the internet and try my luck securing a place of abode  before I get to Germany. As written in the university’s guide for international students, one needs an address in Germany to go through the necessary steps of registration to the university. I mean logically I understand that this ruling ensures that students don’t just register in the university without finding a place to stay but practically, come on, that is almost impossible to do when you are still elsewhere in the other part of the world. How can one get a good deal before arriving in the city? That is probably the point of the ruling, now that I think about it, but of course, I can’t help but get frustrated with the whole thing.

Many of the offers for flat sharing found in the internet doesn’t have any photos and clear descriptions and  to make matters more difficult, google maps street view isn’t available yet in Cottbus. As Singaporeans would put it, “So how?”  Here I am, in a sort of conundrum that is typical thought with any international student. Where will I stay????

POST BLOG THOUGHT: The paragraph seems so whiny and strange, 15 years ago if I were an international student, I would have probably no issues with this as the internet was not really an option to get these information.  

I got a response from Gästehaus an der UNI-service GmbH but the place is a bit pricy as compared to  other places but well, maybe its better than nothing. Since it is a private dormitory, I hope that the place will not be too bad and that it will a decent home away from home.

For more information on finding accommodation in Deutschland, here is a link that I found in the DAAD website.

Getting a glimpse of WHS students

whs students

I just saw a video of students from the program that I am taking in Germany. From the introduction, last year’s batch had 40 students from 29 countries – Azerbaijan, Serbia, Taiwan, Columbia, USA, Germany, India, China, France, etc. I also found the Facebook page of the students taking the course. Isn’t it so strange that almost all information that you need is found in the internet? Quite creepy if you really think about it but its great if you’re really determined to find some data.  The photo above is a photo taken by the 2005 batch.  I am getting more excited with the future not just with the course but the experiences and people I will meet along the way. Hopefully, the next two years will be fantastic.

The video of the WHS class last year is in this link. I will be one of them soon!

Mood: ‘I think I am becoming a stalker.’

Time Left: 7 weeks

Damn. It’s happenings. It is.

NOTE TO READERS. There are a lot of repeating curses here – just to establish a rhythm, to establish my state of mind.

Today I went to the German embassy to file my application for my residency visa as a student. I also booked my flight to Berlin. I guess that’s it, I mean there is no turning back anymore. I’m going there, I’m living a dream, I am facing my fears. I am somehow getting overwhelmed by the whole experience. This is the beginning of an unknown territory, moving away from the comforts of Asian living, becoming one of the odd balls in town, learning a new language, seeing with new eyes. This is what I asked for and I am getting it. Damn. I am getting it. I am.

You know, I realized that as compared to an Erasmus scholar who maybe jumping up and down with the idea of getting out there, I am not that student. There is something at stake here, there is my years of savings in the line, there is that comfortable life that I am leaving behind. There is that wonderful relationship, those wonderful friends, that idea of proximity to my family. Its all out there. Damn. It’s all out there. It is.

17th of September is the final date. I chose the date because of its convenience – its a Monday and I arrive on a Tuesday. I have a few days to settle in and do my school registration, a few days to probably go to Berlin because it’s free. A few days before I learn my adopted language. A few days to really sink it in. Damn. I am really going. I am.

The days are counted, the tasks, too much. Feelings – It’s happening. It is.