“You will go on many adventures, and sometimes you will be tired, but you must press on. You might think, I can skip this one activity…don’t. Every trip planned by the BEST staff added to the overall experience and you will not regret it.”
BEST Program 2017
Future BEST Students,
Below you will find a reflection of my experience as an American student in the BEST program.
You will stay at the Hotel Rheinischer Hof in Duisburg. Upon arrival, you may find that what you consider to be a hotel in the United States looks more like a ‘bed and breakfast’ and is a family owned establishment. The hotel staff is extremely kind and excited to help you in any way possible. Their English is not as good as the German University students, but they will for the most part still understand your requests.
Your roommate will most likely be someone from your home university, and I hope for your sake that you get along with them because you may be sharing a bed with them for the next five weeks. This was one of the major shocks I believe that some students from the US experience, your hotel room might have just one bed in it. I was one of the lucky ones that had two, but I was not the majority. If you have neck issues, you should consider bringing your pillow or purchasing one when you arrive because the pillows have very little stuffing and are not very comfortable. The rooms are very clean, and each has its bathroom. There are no refrigerators in any of the rooms which are a major drawback, especially when there is no AC (anywhere in Germany) and the weather is very warm.
You have access to a small mini fridge on the second floor, but it was always packed with stuff because it was shared between 20+ students and was not a reliable way of storing food. Looking back, I would have split the cost of a Mini Fridge with my roommate the first week we got there because kitchen access is limited. I would have saved a ton of money being able to store grocery items instead of eating out every day. Breakfast is served every morning by the hotel owner Mrs. Kummel and is very good. You can expect eggs, fruit, cereal, milk, juice, meats and cheeses. Even if you are not a big breakfast eater I would suggest going to breakfast and participating in the morning conversations with your fellow students; you will learn a lot about them, yourself and your surroundings.
When I was reading about the BEST program accommodations, it stated there was a laundry service. In the states, if a hotel has laundry service it means they do your laundry for you, and I was surprised when I read this as this is considered a luxury that is not common. There is no laundry service at the hotel. Just up the street, there is a very nice laundromat, and this is most likely where you will do your laundry.
The WIFI at the hotel is good, and I had no issues connecting at any point in my stay. I should mention it is floor specific, so if you are connected on your floor and go to breakfast on another floor you may not be connected anymore, and you will have to reconnect to that specific floor.
The hotel is a 15-minute walk to the University so be sure and bring your walking shoes (Germans love to walk whenever possible). The hotel is centrally located, and a shuttle/train/bus that runs throughout Duisburg passes the hotel many times an hour.
You will take seven exams in your five weeks of study. 3 for Business, 3 for Economics and 1 for the German language. Each business exam is worth one credit, each Economics exam is worth one credit and the German language exam is worth three credits. Some are easy; some are challenging.
Your instructors are German University Professors who are very highly respected and hold difficult positions to obtain in Germany. You should understand that it is a privilege to have them teach such a small class as yours. Unlike in the United States, just having a Ph.D. and teaching at a university does not make you a Professor. To achieve Professor status, they must continue after their Ph.D. and complete even more research and publications. To put this in perspective, our German Language teacher had a Ph.D., and on our first day of class I addressed her as Professor Fehse, and she quickly corrected me. She was merely a Ph.D., and it would be incorrect to refer to her as a professor. All of the instruction (besides German class) are taught in English, but there is still a slight language barrier especially when discussing academic topics such as Financial Markets, European Economic Integration, Governance and Auditing…I think you get the point. More complex vocabulary can get lost in translation which will make understanding things that you thought you already knew more difficult. Ask lots of questions and engage with the Professors whenever possible.
You will have an hour for lunch every day, and I suggest going to the Cafeteria below the classroom because the food is decent and extremely cheap (subsidized by the government) and you will have plenty of time to eat, interact with other student and make it back to class in time. Germans are very punctual, and you should be as well while in their country, five minutes early is on time.
You will go on many adventures, and sometimes you will be very tired, but you must press on. You might think, I can skip this one activity…don’t. Every trip planned by the BEST staff added to the overall experience and even though you might be tired or homesick, tough it out and you will not regret it. A few highlights for me were the Deutsche Bundesbank, Landschafts Park, Aldi company visit and Berlin.
I would suggest going to Amsterdam one weekend. It is only a few hours by train or bus and a very fun experience.
Cologne is also another great weekend trip. Many students that went to Paris were disappointed and said it was very dirty and an over populated tourist trap so consider this advice before spending the extra money going to Paris. I went to Nice, France after the program was over and it was amazing so if you can make it that far south after the program then I would recommend it.
- Most bottles that you purchase (water, soda…) will have an additional bottle tax added to the cost. To recuperate this tax, you must bring the bottle to any store or bottle return machine, and you will get your deposit back.
- Germans eat lots of Meat, bread and cheese so bring your digestive enzymes or probiotics if you are not used to eating this way.
- Even though the majority of the people you meet are not religious everything closes on Sunday so make sure you can stock up on food or find a good restaurant that you know is open on Sunday.
- You will see lots more people smoking cigarettes than you might be used to.
- Germans drink lots of beer so don’t feel the need to drink excessively because of this. (the school cafeteria serves many varieties of beer).
- Look people in the eye when giving a toast. Prost!
- The German Language is very hard, but by attempting to speak German to people, they will appreciate your efforts and be much kinder to you than if you just assume they speak English.
- Bicycling is a very serious mode of transportation, and they even have their bike lanes that look like very nice places to walk, don’t walk in the bike lanes, someone will yell at you.
- Germans are not big on patriotism, have conversations about it, and it might change your perspective about patriotism in the United States.
- On buses or escalators, you might get mowed over by an old lady so pay attention and move quickly, there is no patience when Germans have somewhere to be.
- Bags are not provided for you at the supermarkets so bring your bag, or you will have to purchase one.
- There are no public toilets. You will have to pay to use the bathroom in public spaces.
- Jaywalking, no one does it in Germany.
- Germans prefer to drink sparkling water, and you should give it a try, it is very good.
This is written by John Grieco.