Kathryn Kean- My Time in Bonn

Wednesday 20 November 2019

This week, we follow-up on the second semester of Maths and German student, Kathryn Kean!

“Some of you may remember my last post on this blog about my semester abroad studying Maths at the College of William and Mary (https://studyabroad.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2019/01/30/study-abroad-stories-kathryn-kean/) but my study abroad journey did not end there. As a Joint Honours student studying German and Maths, I also had the opportunity to take part in a school abroad semester with the German department. So, after flying back home from Virginia at Christmas, instead of heading back to the bubble, I was preparing myself to head abroad again- this time to the University of Bonn, Germany!

I only started German during my first year of university here, so I was nervous about the challenges of my semester, where I would be studying in German, alongside peers who were native speakers. As the summer semester in Bonn didn’t start until the end March, I enrolled myself in two intensive German language courses, one in Vienna in February, and one in Freiburg in March. These were a great chance to help get my language up to speed and explore some new places!

Kathryn outside the University of Bonn
The “Hauptgebäude” where I had my classes

The first few days in Bonn were quite intense- we had a two-day orientation and enrollment from the International Office, and then some fun events organised by the Erasmus Student Network at the weekend. This was a great opportunity to meet the other Erasmus students, several of whom became my close friends. They were a great support, as we were all facing similar challenges adapting to a new culture – linguistically, academically and socially. Bonn itself is a lovely German city with just over 300,000 people, so it was relatively easy to get around. One of my favourite activities was to sit in the Hofgarten in front of the main university building or go for a walk along the Rhine.

One of the great perks of being based in mainland Europe is the opportunity to travel relatively cheaply- over the course of the semester I visited German cities such as Cologne, Aachen, Münster, Heidelberg and Hamburg; as well as places further afield such as Brussels, Luxembourg,  Amsterdam and Copenhagen. A particular highlight in Brussels was the opportunity to attend the European Commission open day, where we were able to talk to translators working for the E.U, as well meet representatives from many different E.U. member countries.

Academically, the work was challenging as all of my lectures took place in German. I found I needed to dedicate more time to my readings and writing up notes than I would have done for the equivalent amount of work in St Andrews, in order to make sure I was understanding all the material. However, as the German assessment system is structured differently with less assessment throughout the semester than here, and more emphasis on independent study, there was time to make sure everything was ready for the all-important exam period! I also attended five hours of German language classes outside of my normal seminars, and coupled with my integration into the university community, my language improved immensely over the course of the semester. It was also great to be able to attend seminars on topics that I wouldn’t normally have been able to study as part of the curriculum here in St. Andrews.

Overall, I had a great time in Bonn and would definitely recommend it as a study abroad destination!”

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