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Studying abroad: A new phase in my life

by Aliya Alturk

I always had this dream to explore the world and navigate through new cultures. I realized that studying abroad was the only way I could accomplish this dream. Scared but thrilled, nervous but excited; that is how I arrived to my new home: Marburg – Germany. My name is Aliya and I am a 22 year old language and business student at the German Jordanian University in Jordan.

I was lucky to be in Marburg, home to many international students. Everyone here was either in my shoes or had been. I immediately fell in love with the city – you could feel the enthusiasm in the air and it was so young and alive. Moreover, I was fascinated by the rich history it held and overwhelmed by its famous Brother Grimm sights.
My university “Philipps University of Marburg” made my entire journey worthwhile. I learned so much, my teachers focused more on teaching me about life and things I will actually benefit and learn from, unlike what I had always done – study and learn for the exam, then forget everything.

After a couple of weeks, as I started to settle down, I was suddenly hit by culture shock. I felt lost and everything seemed unfamiliar, food was different, people treated their pets like a member of their family and the language barrier made simple daily things a lot more complicated. Then one day my teacher told me something I will never forget. It changed the way I viewed things and helped me adapt. He said “When it comes to culture, things are not either right or wrong, they are simply different” and encouraged me to be more involved in my community, especially because it was mainly international students who felt exactly the same way I did!

I noticed that there are so many cultural differences between Jordan and Germany, for instance, in Jordan arriving on time is not very common, when someone says “I will be there in 10 minutes” we all know they will not, meanwhile in Germany arriving on time or being “Pünktlich” as they say, is just an ordinary part of life. Another thing that surprised me was how distant the people on the roads and public transportation in Germany are, everyone minds their own business and will hardly ever look back. As oppose to Jordan, where if you are in a public place or store it’s normal for random people to start a friendly conversation and become acquainted.

Erasmus nights were extraordinary. I was introduced to so many international students and I got the opportunity to learn about their culture first hand as well as tasting their traditional food and learning a few words in their language which later helped me through my trips in Europe.

One of the advantages of being in Europe is being able to broaden your horizons by exploring all the nearby countries, for example enjoying a sunny day in Stuttgart, uncovering the narrow allies of Amsterdam, shopping in Madrid’s quaint boutiques and appreciating the panoramic view of Rome’s ancient sites.

“You cannot go abroad without coming home a changed person” they say. Studying abroad changes you, and so it did to me. My abroad semester added confidence to my personality, it made me a lot more independent and flexible but most importantly, it changed my perspective of everything around me. Not enough words can sum up all that I have learned and experienced during my semester abroad in Germany.