Sometimes luck comes unexpected... and you never know how lucky you really are

I applied for this scholarship thinking: "We'll see what comes out of this, they probably won't take me," but I was chosen for Sewanee. However, I guess you could say that I was sent here more or less by accident (because after my acceptance letter came the VDAC told me they don't offer math courses for my level here and if I wanted to I could still refuse the scholarship). So one thing I definitely learned from this experience is that sometimes luck comes unexpected. But I didn't know the full extent of my luck until I heard from others about how they have a hard time being completely restricted in their choices and even having to pay a lot for living in the German House.

This is the place where I want to say thank you VDAC for taking me and putting me of all schools to Sewanee – The University of the South! This here is not only a very different place from anywhere else in the US but also a very enriching experience for me.

Being such a small college, Sewanee offers special care for their students. I have personal contact with my teachers and advisors and even have the pleasure of two host families that I can spend time with. In the cafeteria I keep running into my friends, as Sewanee is more of a village than a town. The different thing about this campus is that it is inseparable from the village where a lot of "normal" families live. When I arrived at the airport I was picked up by a Sewanee student and brought to my prepared room in the German House. Here I live with six American students that took or take German classes. From time to time we organize a special German House event that has to do with either language or culture in Germany. Other than that I am free to do whatever I want as long as I am enrolled in at least three full courses per semester.

In my first semester here I took developmental biology. This course was very interesting as it included a lab where we would actually observe and/or experiment with the development of different animals. The most impressing part here was the chicken embryo we watched develop in a cut-open egg. Four times a week I went to my Spanish course. Learning a foreign language helped me examine the English language better, allowing me to compare and learn new words. I also took an Education class. Compared to the education classes I was offered in my University in Germany I was impressed. It seems like here this is taken much more seriously, while in Germany one relays on the Referendariat to teach the students everything they need to know. Sewanee's education department sends every student to a local school to tutor and observe the children and thus get a feeling for what really works and what doesn't. In the class I took I learned about five different philosophies of teaching and how they work with the kids. I could even teach a whole lesson to a fifth grade. This took away my fear of the Praxissemester, that waits for me once I am back in Germany.

In the beginning of the semester I used the opportunity to take voice classes. This was combined with a music theory class, a piano lab and the spectacular choir. The university choir is the choir of the Episcopalian church here. That means rehearsal three times a week to perform during the church service on Sunday morning. This is hard work but definitely worth it. There even was a series of three amazing Christmas lessons and carols services. For those services people from the area or further away arrived in buses or smaller groups just to hear the choir. Over all I can say that in Sewanee courses are a lot more intensive than I was used to from my German University. This is mostly due to students being required to show up for their courses and do the assignments. This is why it reminded me of my time in the Gymnasium. You do learn how to organize yourself to do all the work you have to do.

On the other hand this is not the place to learn how to make your own study plan and assign reading or other tasks to yourself, as most information is handed to you in portions. This results in students doing a lot of work and probably learning more details than in a German university. Here I found it definitely easier to earn good grades, but I believe that preparing the students for organizing themselves and fulfilling their own plans is just as important for later. I could not yet decide which system I prefer. I found it very interesting to observe those differences between the different education systems. Not everything here is about learning or meeting friends in university though. I spend my fall break with my host family in Indiana experiencing another side of the culture in the US. For Thanksgiving I went to visit my aunt who happens to live just three hours drive from here, and over Christmas my parents and my brother came to the USA and we did a roundtrip through Florida. All three of those vacations showed a different image of this country.

To complete my variation in views I spent time with my two host families that I am very grateful to have. We also had a couple of nice German House events. There was a Vesper with homemade bread, cheese and sausage. We had some German movie nights and an open house party. Then we handcrafted lanterns and took them on a walk in the dark. The Christmas party here is traditionally celebrated with a German Christmas Service and Feuerzangenbowle. All the Christmas celebrations took place at the end of the semester, so the Christmas feeling had almost passed by the time we finally had some free time after the finals.

All in all this University is a great experience for me! Thank you to everyone who made this possible!