Serena Hammond studied at TU Dortmund September - December 2016
I have always loved travelling and experiencing new cultures, and so the exchange program was actually one of the reasons I chose this course at Birmingham. I decided to stay within Europe through the Erasmus program, as it makes it very easy; there is already an established relationship with the institution and a clear program, with specific modules and credit options there for you, and previous students have already undertaken the same exchange program, so it takes away a lot of the worry and stress. The application process has rather a lot of paperwork, but it is straightforward and clearly set out for you, and the experience will definitely be worth it in the end!
I specifically chose Dortmund, as the program here is within the rehabilitation department specifically dealing with issues of SEN, an area of personal interest to me. I had never been to Germany before, and so this was also a really great opportunity to explore a new place, and learn a new language, as I spoke no German at all before arriving! A really cool part of my exchange here was the 1 month intensive German course before the start of term. This is totally optional, and you can easily get by in English here, so don’t panic if it’s not your thing, but I loved it, even if German has crazy hard grammar!
The course is so interesting, it is really great having different lecturers and being in a class with people from many different cultures and backgrounds, as it gives whole new perspectives on things, and is a great challenge to broaden your view of the world. I also have loved the practical side of the course here, with visits to institutions and trying out technologies for ourselves. To be able to apply the theories to real life situation makes it a lot easier to grasp concepts and analyse the best ways of doing things. I have learnt so much! It is quite intensive, as the course is in such a concentrated amount of time, but very interesting and totally worth the work you have to put in!
The accommodation here is really nice – I have a larger room than at home for a much cheaper price, and a stunning view! If you choose to stay in the student dorms, you will also have a friendly “Hausmeister” who will fix any problems for you… mine doesn’t speak much English, so it’s often a fun game of charades, but he is super friendly and helpful. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the area where I am is so green, despite Dortmund being an industrial city – it is so lovely being surrounded by nature… and I have even spotted some rabbits!
An aspect that has made this exchange really incredible is the Erasmus Student Network – a student group that put on events for exchange students throughout the term. Whether you are looking for partying, sightseeing, games, information, there is always something going on, and it’s a great way to build friendships with people all over the world!
They are so welcoming and supportive, and just generally a great group of people who try to make your stay as fun as possible. A highlight for me was going with ESN on their “cabin in the woods” trip where we had a weekend away of crazy games, music, campfires, good food, hikes and laughter.
Erasmus is a great chance to travel a lot and explore. There are so many beautiful places around Dortmund, and I have been making the most of my student “semesterticket” giving me free transport in this region. I also took the overnight bus to Munich in the south of Germany and saw the stunning sights there… or if old castles and museums are not so much your thing, many other students went for the Oktoberfest! You can also get cheap deals to neighbouring countries with student travel agencies… the world really is your oyster! I only wish the program lasted longer so I could see more new places!