As part of my Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Arts, I was able to study for a semester at the Goethe Universität/ Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

No matter how much you read about exchange beforehand or regardless of any preconceptions, no words can really describe what an enriching, challenging but, above all, incredible experience and opportunity this is.
I left Australia with an eagerness to discover and immerse myself in a new country, language and life (and also with a far too-heavy suitcase), and leave Germany with a piece of my heart stolen by this wonderful country and in particular the many special people I have met along the way.

My first week in Frankfurt (in the pleasantly warm month of September), was as much eye-opening as it was overwhelming. As much as I am impressed by German efficiency, there is no escaping their LOVE for formalities. I was lucky enough to have my accommodation organised by the host university in a student dormitory (many students miss out in Frankfurt, as it is popular and rent is otherwise rather pricey), however moving in had its own sequence of events – to be completed in a very specific order. First one must open a bank account, but this can only be done with an appointment, so try to ring in advance or arrange one in person. At the bank, however, you need proof of address (i.e. a rental contract) to open an account! I squeezed my way out of this one by smiling sweetly and explaining in my Australian-accented German, that I would bring a photocopy in as soon as I could. Moving into the dormitory then meant going to the main ‘Studentenwerk’ office on the uni campus, collecting the lease and then finding the dormitory itself (which are not actually on campus) to collect the keys from the Hausmeister (warden, or ‘house master’ – if you will). A note to the wise - each place has its own specific opening hours (often at odd times), so make sure you are well organised and informed beforehand to avoid being stranded without a place to stay! You must also go to the Bürgeramt to register as a resident within a week of arriving in Germany. After successfully ticking off all of these tasks, though, I was free to explore the wonderful city that is Frankfurt and start my exchange experience!

Frankfurt is much more than just the banking and financial capital of Europe. The city is fairly compact and has a thriving cultural scene with many museums, theatres, opera and nightlife, as well as beautiful parks, a botanical garden, shopping centres, cafes and restaurants. Frankfurt is also a melting-pot of cultures, with approximately one-third of its 600,000 inhabitants being foreigners. Unfortunately, the city was reduced to rubble after World War II, but the beautiful typically-Germanic Römerplatz, as it stands today, was lovingly rebuilt by the faithful Frankfurters (the residents themselves, regardless of profession!). There is also a great Cafe (Metropol) just near this square – they do delicious food at cheap prices. On another note, Frankfurt is also very conveniently centrally-located in Europe, making it easy to zip around Europe for the weekend or on the holidays! Just beware that train travel is rather pricey, and it may be worth buying a BahnCard from Deutsche Bahn if you plan to travel by train a lot. In terms of finances, food produce and rent are comparatively cheap by Australian standards (even after converting from the Euro), and the cafeterias at Uni all offer a wide variety of food at very cheap prices (as it is subsidised by the government!).

I would highly recommend doing the intensive language course before starting the semester, as no matter how good your language skills, this was a fantastic opportunity to meet other exchange students and become better acquainted with history, culture and current affairs. Not only did I better my German, but my French improved tenfold, as I met so many lovely Erasmus students from France! All in all, we were a mixed bag from Denmark, Finland, Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, U.S.A, Chile, Belgium, the U.K and the list goes on. It was fascinating meeting so many different personalities, each with a different reason for coming to Germany and a rich and varied background! Once starting semester, I was just as pleasantly surprised by the number of helpful and friendly people willing to show me around or give me some tips. During the months of my stay I forged some very close friendships, and some of my dearest friends are already planning their trip to visit Australia!

Embarking on a semester abroad is without a doubt a truly valuable and life-changing experience. Not only do you learn about the way of life in another country, but you learn an incredible amount about yourself along the way. There are no doubt challenges during the process of readjustment, but just keep an open mind and a positive attitude. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to every student!

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