Study Abroad in Karlsruhe, Germany 2019 – 2020
Destination: Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, Germany
Study Period: September 2019 – March 2020 (return to Japan in mid-April due to Coronavirus pandemic)
Affiliation/Grade at the start of studying abroad: Graduate School of Design, Content and Creative Design Course, 2nd year
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I was asked to return to Japan after only six months of my original plan of studying abroad for a year. I spent the remaining six months studying online from Japan which was a new experience. But it was a precious experience in some ways.
In Germany, I started setting up the basic living essentials, completing the administrative procedures related to my visit to Germany, attending classes at school, and finally expressing myself by realizing my design. It took me a while to get used to life in Germany. I received a lot of support from the people around me, but the fact that I was able to actually accomplish these things on my own while not knowing how to converse meant a lot to me, and it also gave me confidence that I could do something if I worked hard.
In terms of my field of specialization, the classes were as interesting and stimulating as expected. Since most of the classes were participatory, I often exchanged opinions with other participants. The diversity of ideas that Japanese people do not have has become an element that I can apply to my research after returning home.
One of the most impressive classes I participated in was the jam session. Each participant brought his or her own instrument and started the session based on a theme of their choice. After the session, the participants listened to the recording and gave their impressions and opinions for the next session. It was a refreshing experience for me to hear how the sounds came together without any particular genre, such as pops or jazz. Also, not all the participants had any musical background.
This was also true in discussions and daily life, but I was impressed by how confident the Germans (or rather overseas students) were in their own thoughts and intentions, to the point where they would always choose between “yes” and “no”. If I answered vaguely, they would immediately ask, “why?”. I think it was the same as their musical expression in this session. In other words, their frank attitude of expressing what they wanted, regardless of their background, had an impact on my musical values.
After returning to Japan, I was able to continue taking classes in this session through online learning. It was a great experience for me to be able to continue the sessions with students from overseas.
In addition, in terms of experiencing different cultures, I had a good memory of participating in several Christmas markets in Germany, which have many medieval styles and different characteristics in each city and spending New Year’s Eve in Berlin.
My trip to Berlin was especially memorable as I experienced an actual live performance at the Philharmonic Silvester Concert. The festive atmosphere of New Year’s Eve with fireworks flying around, which is not the case in Japan, made me realize the cultural gap. Also, I have visited many museums and cathedrals that was overwhelming to see in person. The experiences of art deeply related to the world and its history have broadened my horizon.
Needless to say, the new coronavirus caused me to switch to online study abroad, which ruined my original study abroad plan. For example, if I had been able to stay in Germany for another six months for face-to-face classes, I would have participated in workshops using a recording studio. Also, I would have been more active in extracurricular activities outside of classes.
It took me a while to get used to the lifestyle, so it wasn’t easy to take positive action in a short period of six months.
If I had to pick one issue to work on if I have stayed in HfG, it would be my language skills.
If I could express my thoughts in words better, I think I would naturally be able to participate more in the classes and understand them better. In this sense, English is essential, and I realized the need to improve it.
Many people in Karlsruhe could not speak English, more than I had expected before I came to Germany, and I sometimes wished that I could speak German. Hence, I want to learn German so that I can have simple conversations.
Through my study abroad, I have learned that communication is the most important thing no matter what you do. Hence, I would like to put more effort into my language skills in the future.
Advice to Prospective Students
Studying abroad alone can be a daunting task from the preparation stage and even after you actually arrive in the country. I experienced a lot of problems. You need to be prepared. However, I can assure you that the experience will be more than worth the trouble. It will shake your sense of values and make you realize the vastness of the world. Although the new coronavirus has made it difficult to travel, I hope you will not give up. Please take it as a positive sign that you now have more time to prepare carefully and do your best. Language is important!
Do you have faced any problems during your stay at the study abroad destination or have any suggestions for improvement?
One thing to keep in mind when living in Germany is that supermarkets are not open on Sundays and public holidays.
Another problem I encountered while studying abroad was that I got trapped in an elevator at my university, which I think is a special case (laugh). When I realized that I was trapped, I panic. I pressed the emergency call button and asked for help (the first person who answered the call was also a person who could only speak German). After waiting for about 30 minutes, I managed to escape. The incident felt like a scene in the comics, and I was surprised that such a thing could happen. There is nothing you can do to prevent something like this from happening, but I think it is important to stay calm when it happens to you.