I was an exchange student at the University of Heidelberg specialized in the field of Biochemistry.
Heidelberg is beautiful small city. It was a huge change for me since Beijing had a population of 21 million whereas Heidelberg has only 200 thousand. We had to take the train to another city to visit the cinema or to go for a larger shopping center. However, if we wanted to go hiking in Heidelberg it was very convenient. You will be in the mountains in approx. 5-10 min and could enjoy the good air and be close to the nature. Though it was a tremendous change for me, but I was able to get used to it within a few weeks and fell in love with the city. The distances and the differences made Heidelberg even more attractive for me. Though one thing you do have to get used to and shall not forget is that everything: the supermarket and shopping streets are all closed on Sunday. Except the ones at the train station.
In Germany the study system differs a lot from the Chinese one. In China the courses are obligatory and we have to check in for all the classes. However, in Germany all the classes are open, which means that everyone can come and go to the classes without signing in. Thus learning is rather a thing that you are really doing for yourself and out of interest.
As a life science student we had lots of practical learnings and stayed in the laboratory the most of the time. Here I was able to apply the learned knowledge from the books into practice and this helped me a lot for gaining a better understanding.
Regarding the exams, we mostly had one final exam, which is, except for the practical part, the only deciding part for our grade.
Friends and community
In Germany the local students were very open and we were able to communicate and learn with them quite well. There are student organisations such as GCC (Global China Connection) or AEGEE (), which is especially responsible for welcoming exchange students from everywhere and aids them for integrating into the culture and experience more of the university. There are always affordable trips/ events/ parties organised by them in order to see more of the Germany/ Europe and get to know people from all over the world.
By the help of the student organisations or just online Facebook groups I was able to find a tandem partner. A tandem partner is a person with whom you may practice a language. For example someone speaking German wants to learn Chinese and I want to study German, so we could meet up and help each other.
Also from the university there were courses for studying German and were pretty good.
In general I must say that Heidelberg is very different than Beijing. No matter from the city, the life style or the university But it is exactly the difference, which makes it so attractive. I must say, I had a wonderful semester in Europe and would definitely recommend everyone to perform an exchange semester.