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Glasfasern aus der Optoelektronik in der Fakultät für Elektrotechnik, Informatik und Mathematik, Foto: Universität Paderborn

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Glasfasern aus der Optoelektronik in der Fakultät für Elektrotechnik, Informatik und Mathematik, Foto: Universität Paderborn

| Luca Jurczyk

An international Computer Science student from India about feeling welcomed, cultural differences and German hospitals

Apoorva Ravishankar traveled from India to Paderborn to achieve her Master’s degree in Computer Science within the next two years. She also took part at the Welcome Week for International Students and was excited about studying in Paderborn (the article about that can be found here). Now, three months later, she talks about her latest experiences in Paderborn and the differences between Germany her home country, India.

You’re in Germany now since March. How are you doing so far?

There have been both Ups and Downs. When I came to Germany, I didn’t have any friends. But I got a lot of help from AStA and the other students communities to find an accommodation. Then I started making friends day by day: I met a lot of international friends, for example from Cuba, Russia, and a couple of German friends. The best part is that I have been able to interact with Germans who are not students. People in Paderborn have helped me a lot, for example suggesting what to buy, some invited me to their house and also baked cupcakes for me! So on the whole, it’s been a mixed experience!

What is totally different from India?

One thing that stands out in Paderborn is that people are so sweet! Every morning if you go to catch the bus, they say „Guten Morgen!“ (Good morning) and „Have a nice day!“. But in India, if you know local people, they treat you extremely well; instead if you are a stranger, they just wave or go by. Here, I find Germans are very welcoming, even though I am an international student, I have never been treated differently. I have observed that Germans appreciate my effort of learning German every single time! I started learning German because I want to talk to people and understand them. I have been to couple of places in Germany: Düsseldorf, Berlin, Dortmund. Everywhere I go, people appreciate the effort that I put to be one of them. So that’s a plus-point compared to India!

The food is the major difference. The flavour here is vastly different from the place I come from. I am into spicy food and food tastes a lot less hot and spicy here.

Another difference I came across are the hospitals and the doctors, they are very kind and compassionate! I stayed in a hospital for over seven days and doctors and nurses treated me so well. During those seven days, I have lived with different German grandmas who treated me like their own granddaughter! Food bought to them during the family visits was shared with me (laughs) because they realise that I don’t have my family here. This understanding of humanity concerns is appreciable! I don’t know how it is in the other parts of Germany, but in Paderborn, all the „Großmütter“ (grandmothers) are very welcoming! They don’t speak English, but I could understand them because they used hand-signs and other ways to communicate.

Talking about food again: Do you like German food? Do you eat in the Mensa?

I eat desserts in the Mensa – they are super good! Back in India, all of us love spicy food, but I transitioned to eat Kartoffeln (potatoes) couple of times a week. (laughs) So I’m trying to get used to the weather and the food.

How do you stay in touch with your family?

Via WhatsApp, of course! So, every single person asked me, when I was in hospital, if I suffer from „Heimweh“ (being homesick). And I always used to say „No!“. Teachers and friends make up for my family. I contact my family at least once a week for about an hour – so far I have not missed my parents.

About your studies: How are you dealing with that? Are your studies very stressful?

I took only three subjects even though I was allowed to take five.  I’m part of the UPB Racing Team, people there are also very friendly! We are developing a driverless car which is added to my study schedule. I am trying to balance between my actual courses and UPB Racing Team – I chose subjects which are related to that.

Is there a professor who you like best?

Yes! I have mostly interacted with Prof. Engels who has been extremely helpful. While I was in hospital, I asked one of the tutors under him, if I could take up my Studienleistung (coursework) later or if I could postpone an assignment and he answered „Take rest, you can do that“. Fortunately, I was able to finish them within the deadline, but he was very kind to agree. I have also interacted with professors after class to get more information or asked something about their papers. And they were like: „Oh wow, you have read that, you seem to be interested“. So they took their time to explain the concepts. Jun.-Prof. Sommer, who has been my tutor for Co-operate Mobile Systems, and Prof. Engels, who has been my professor for Software Quality Assurance, have been super kind and nice to me!

Are you mostly in contact with other international students or do you also have some German friends?

In my class, sixty percent of students are Indians (laughs), ten to fifteen percent are Germans and the rest are from other countries. I talk to my German friends in class.

Then there’s also the UPB Racing Team, we are a mixture of students from various countries. Apart from that, I haven’t met so many Germans. But it’s just been three months! So, I hope to make couple of friends on my way.

Is there anything that you are looking forward to?

Yes! The first thing I have come here to understand core-concepts of Computer science and become a Computer Scientist. Automobile Industry is my interest and which country is more suitable for that than Germany? Second, I want to learn and speak German like the Germans. I say this because in India there are 20 to 25 different languages: Every state in India speaks a different language. I come from a state in South India called Karnataka and my Muttersprache (native language) is Kannada. If you try to speak Kannada, the localities become super welcoming, helping and they feel you’re close to them. I think that’s similar here in Germany, too. If you try to speak German, the level of friendship grows. If I speak good German, I can understand subtle jokes, the pun, just everything! That is something I look forward. Third, I want to be happy, healthy and stay fit!

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