RWTH Aachen University Student Chapter

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From Bogotá (Colombia) to Aachen (Germany)

Chapter Chat by Luis Alberto Pizano (from Bogotá, Colombia), MSc student Applied Geosciences, RWTH Aachen University

Leap of faith some call it, others say it is breaking up with your comfort zone. Flying away from the road name you know by memory, from that special meal, from home, is a great decision. A decision that will enlarge your knowledge, but in the end, shows you your true self. You arrive and… then, everything ceases to be familiar. But, is it?

Far away from home (Bogotá, Colombia), I decided to land in a much smaller city to study. Whereas I was accustomed to long distances and chaos, I found a much more organized compact place. Although the change came as a surprise, it was easier to blend in this new city, especially being a student hub. Moreover, being part of the Applied Geosciences major has made me feel part of a family, where people grow and learn even from each other without the wearing extremes of unhealthy competition. Now I remember “how good it is to be a student again”.

With every experience in Germany, the bureaucracy has to be mentioned (recall I said my homeland is chaos?). I must admit it helps with reminding you how to be organized with the important documents that define you on a system. But, on the other hand, “extra credits” must be allotted in your everyday chores to be able to fulfill everything. And even then, you start to avoid checking new email to prevent an ungrateful encounter with some document you forgot to send or a new requirement from an unheard government office. Nevertheless, I confess everything works out as it should in a certain efficient way (I am grateful I do daylong-weeklong lines in a big city).

Aachen posed another new challenge: the teaching methods. Education in Germany is highly oriented towards independent study while promoting oneself learning; in Colombia – between homework and various exams – a follow-up by the teachers is common. In the end, knowing the two extremes, it is possible to define a balance. Still, it is somewhat scary that your whole final grade depends on just one exam… but, it just reminds you what is important, how much effort you put in and how much you learn.

One great part I have encountered is the receptiveness of the majority of people I have met since I placed my first foot on German soil. Part of my growth as a person has been my discoveries from new cultures, but another great part is those people that become friends forever. Here I have met genuine people with whom I have shared my culture. With them, home feels closer and I no longer miss that special meal and that road name no longer feels important.

No matter where you go, every experience you have will forever remain in your memories.