The first week in Mannheim: arrival and welcome

The route to Mannheim

There are two ways to get to Mannheim from Finland: either by plane or driving a car. A flight will be many times faster, so unless you have a special need to take your own car with you, take the plane. That’s what I did.

I decided to go for the most direct route available: by plane to Frankfurt and by train from there to Mannheim. There were some cheaper alternatives, but I preferred as few interchanges as possible. Tip: Don’t book the cheaper flight that leaves at 6 am unless you have a ride to the airport, because having to take a taxi, you end up paying the same amount. If you do have to use a taxi, I recommend taking the Yellow line (airport taxi) that costs almost half of the price of some other alternatives.

My airplane company was Lufthansa. Apart from the inconvenience of baggage check-in the experience was pleasant. The problem was that if you had done the check-in at home, you could not print the luggage tags at the airport, which meant that the check-in took a longer time. There were no baggage drop-off counters without personnel available. We got snacks at the 2,5-hour flight and arrived safely a bit ahead of schedule. At the Frankfurt airport, I had no issues in navigating to the train station, but I did get to know Deutsche Bahn. Far from the famous German punctuality. My first train was cancelled and the second one late, leaving from different tracks than announced originally. When I finally got to the train, I could not get a seat, but that was fine since the trip only took half an hour.

When I finally reached my flat, I had a contact there waiting for me. I got the keys and a tour in the flat. My flatmate had left me a “quick start guide” since he could not be there to walk me through the practicalities in person.

Enrollments

I had three enrollments to complete, one for the International Summer Academy, another for the semester in the university and third one in the Resident’s Registration Office. Out of these, the first two had to be done during the first days and the third one at latest two weeks after arrival. The process itself was easy since we got all the essential information before and during the enrollment. I’d advice to take some snacks with you though, because the time queuing in different places might be long.

The start of the International Summer Academy

There was a soft landing to the language studies as the first two days were dedicated to enrollment and settling down. We had a welcoming event at the second day but the classes started only the day after that, which happened to be a Friday. In contrast, the free time activities started right away. Get-togethers, clubbing, day trips… There were many opportunities to make some new friends and to get to know the surroundings. We were kept up to date by messages in Facebook and Whatsapp groups as well as  by student mentors popping up in the classes. This continued even after the first week. If we had any questions, we could contact the student mentors and our personal student partners, “buddies”.

At the end of the week, I did feel welcome.

Germany, prove me wrong

MANNHEIM

The airplane to Germany takes off early tomorrow morning. Suddenly, my five months abroad have become very real. In the eve of the exchange, what are my expectations about and prejudice towards Mannheim, the University of Mannheim and German people at this point? Here are five (mis)conceptions to be proven wrong.

  1. They do not like to speak English, or at least they prefer the attempts of speaking their language. They are not as bad as the French, though, I hear. However, in a university city, I expect English to be used widely.
  2. Mannheim is not marketed as a beautiful place. Apparently, it is a boxy design with architecture forgotten from the plans.
  3. They have dubbed everything and I will be having trouble finding a cinema with any English in it. On the other hand, I have no other choice than to learn the language.
  4. My fellow students take their studies seriously and spend time with their books (or laptops).
  5. They have only a short time to write their exams which will mean trouble for me, being used to four hours of time.

How badly I am mislead – we will see soon enough.