Samstag, 19.Dezember 2015 Kategorie: CampUS Stories

Exchange Semester @ Pembroke, North Carolina

Luisa interviewed by Deon

11 December 2015

On a cool, crisp December evening German exchange student, Luisa Conzelmann is spending a few moments with me, to detail her experiences studying abroad, here on the campus of UNC Pembroke. She admitted to enjoying the chance to relax amongst the strain of studying for this week’s final exams. Luisa is a 21 year old exchange student visiting the University of North Carolina at Pembroke from the University of Mannheim. Luisa is currently in her Junior year and on an exchange program for one semester from her home university back in Germany. After her single semester here at UNC Pembroke is finished, Luisa says she will go back to her university. As a Junior, she is hopeful that she will finish her bachelor’s degree next summer.

According to Luisa the transition to living in Pembroke, NC and on campus at UNC Pembroke was interesting. When asked about her decision to come to Pembroke, NC, Luisa told me that there were a few stereotypes that initially caused her to have concerns. She pointed out some stereotypes that everybody in the American South is slightly racist, very religious, and only eats fast food. But she emphasized her delight at learning those things were not true:

“I actually met some of the most open-minded people I know, here at UNC Pembroke.”

Luisa did notice that there are many fast food chains where one can buy fried chicken, but she was happy to say that there are also salad options for those who want them.

“Being German, I am usually rather polite and reserved when I meet people. However, everyone here at Pembroke and in the parts of  North Carolina I visited turned out to be very friendly, and they usually just started conversations with me.”

She admitted she had to adapt to that at first, but it was an enjoyable adjustment. She informed me of her surprise at what an exciting semester she had at UNC Pembroke. Despite it being a relatively small school, the UNC Pembroke campus offered her a lot as student. She pointed out that the International Programs office offered many trips to “major NC cities, shopping malls, movie outings, Washington, DC, and much more!”

Looking back at when Luisa started her journey, she originally felt a semester abroad at UNC Pembroke would benefit her primarily in a scholarly way.

“I expected to make new friends and study new topics in my classes.”
But she affirmed “It has been an amazing journey, that also benefited me personally as well. Overall, it was great to be studying here at UNC Pembroke, and it was especially helpful to be able to get to know my professors individually. The small classes really allowed me to get to know my professors. Instead of being surrounded by 300 other international students, of whom probably half of them spoke my language, having small classes of about 20 students where I mattered as a person was a great experience.

It actually helped with an unexpected hurdle I faced while studying in the US; which was the workload for my courses. The workload in this American university was much higher than I was expecting, even as a college Junior. For example, there were constant assignments, quizzes, tests, and group work activities every week, which is much different than the way we study and are evaluated back in Germany.

It was fun to experience something new, but it was also stressful. An unexpected benefit of studying in the US was that my grade did not depend on one exam at the end of the semester. Instead, it depended on the many exams and tests, and that way I could continuously improve my grade with lots of feedback from all of my wonderful, knowledgeable professors who helped me grow as a student and person.”

Luisa excitedly declared that she would recommend other international students to visit UNC Pembroke for their study abroad experience. She readily acknowledged that UNC Pembroke may be a relatively small campus, but said “UNC Pembroke is safe, beautiful, secure and the professors and student body are both amazing, with a close knit community and a focus on personalized learning.”
Luisa expressed delight that she could really dive into southeastern American culture at affordable sporting, social, and educational events to meet many American students.

“To my other Germans who are interested in studying abroad, I say get used to a different kind of teaching. The classes depend on your personal participation level and you will do homework regularly. Contrary to popular belief, the standard for education and learning is not lower, but it is simply different.

It is a really great experience to improve your English, get to know an American university and its American students, and have an amazing semester all at the same time.”

Interview by Deon S. Harrell
Graduate Assistant
International Programs
University of North Carolina at Pembroke

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