“Nächster halt, Marburg Hauptbahnhof”; the first time I heard that through the telecom of the train that was traveling from Frankfurt to Marburg, I was not sure if that was my stop or not. However, the next four months the voice would be a common occurrence among a myriad of new experiences. The first buildings that I saw as the train started slowing down were a few tall grayish ominous buildings, the social science building, where I would later on spend a considerate amount of time. I was fortunate enough to arrive on the last day of Karneval, an equivalent to Mardi Gras, and so before I was to be assigned to my dorms I was quickly immersed into the German culture with people in costumes and floats going around the city. For a moment I thought I had never left New Orleans, but the similarity was very much short lived. Most of the students, including me, were assigned housing in the Studentendorf (Student Village). I was very much pleased with this since this was the nearest of the dormitories from the city, and I was even more happy when I found out that a popular student bar was located right next to my dorm. Even though I had been away from my home studying in New Orleans as an international student, this time I truly felt “abroad” with no one I knew at all and that too in a place where the language everybody seemed to speak was familiar to me through songs that I had heard and a few months of German that I had taken after high school. However, I was determined to get as much of German language, culture and experience I could amass in the time I had. My loneliness was short lived as well; after I met my floor mates and a quick introduction I was playing Kniffel with them, which I did win. I had heard a lot of people say how Germans tended to stay socially aloof most of the time. Opposite to popular beliefs, everyone in my floor turned out to be some of the warmest and friendly people I had ever met, and with who I still am in contact. They were even eager to help me out with my German, and we agreed on speaking it at all times.
Castle with St. Elisabeth
At the end of the program with the deep sadness that had already settled at the bottom of my heart at the thought of leaving, I was also thinking to myself as to why no one had participated in this truly amazing program. Because UNO and the University of Marburg have a partnership, students can pay the same amount they would’ve been paying at UNO, excluding room and board. However, students are also provided with 50 EUR per month to eat at the Mensa (school cafeteria), where the food is cheaper than in restaurants and very often is delectable. Also, students are provided with a German railway pass that provides free travel in the state of Hessen, and with cities like Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Wiesbaden, Goettingen, Kassel among others, this truly is a great chance of experiencing Germany anytime. Apart from the independent travel that any student would make, the program itself takes the students to various major cities providing not only transportation and lodging, but also visits to sites of cultural, political and historical importance. During my semester, there were excursions of two or more days to Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Trier. And in these cities along with culture, students get more than enough time to explore the city themselves and indulge in a lot of partying.
The classes offered in Marburg range from American Cinema to Conflict Resolution. Even though most of the classes are in German, and if a student is not comfortable with their level of German, the program provides private tutors to go through the lectures, assignments and readings in English. Also, the professors are aware of the predicament exchange students are faced with in studying, traveling and partying, and more than often the professors are willing to help the students after class or extend a deadline for a paper. The entire staff is really friendly and helpful no matter the degree of the problem.
From the Castle
Established in 1527, University of Marburg (Philipps-Universität Marburg) is among the ten oldest universities in Germany, and is the world's first and oldest Protestant University. Being a University town, there are a lot of social events happening almost everyday, in the various bars and kneipe scattered throughout the town. However for the ones interested in culture, the city also has a lot to offer. ElisabethKirche located almost in the middle of the city, constructed during the 13th century, is one of the earliest purely gothic churches, and former president Paul von Hindenburg along with his wife is also buried there. The church is also said to be the inspiration for the jaw-dropping Cologne Cathedral. Also the building of the old-university, Marburg Castle, Spiegelslustturm (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Tower), Rathaus, Oberstadt are some other places with great history and even better aesthetic pleasure.
Playing trivia games every Tuesday nights for free Schnapps at Schlucke ordiscussing German politics while playing Kicker at the student bar Schwarzweiss are just some of the ways, outside of the classroom, brush up on your german, learn about local culture and traditions or just have fun with new friends. The various sports that are offered in the university is also a very good way to meet people. The city also has an American Football team called, the Mercenaries.
Staying at Marburg its not only easy to get a glimpse of German life and culture, but being close to Frankfurt city, it is very easy and cheap (with a little effort) to travel to a lot of other European and even middle east countries by train or air. My four months at Marburg were truly exceptional. I was able to immerse myself in the German way of life. It was also exciting to share my love for everything German, with the other students from various parts of America. The International Undergraduate Study Program (IUSP) in Marburg is truly an amazing program that provides a lof of insight, and makes it so much easier to learn and experience Germany in such a short time. One semester just wont be enough. So, I just wait when I can hear one more time, the now-familiar voice of the person through the Deutsche-Bahn saying “Nächster halt, Marburg Hauptbahnhof”