Student exchange in Germany opened new doors for Kien – “I loved my exchange year”

ICT student Kien Pham studied in Neu-Ulm and got to see how the German education system works – and how much Germans love their football team.

Everything is slightly new and different during student exchange. As an international student you get to dive into a new country, a new city and a whole new culture.

In addition to the new environment, you can also explore new territories within your own studies while abroad. Kien Pham, an ICT student from Oulu University of Applied Sciences, who had his exchange year in Southern Germany in 2021 is a good example of that.

– In Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Neu-Ulm, HNU) my department was Information Management Automotive. It was quite different than what I am studying in Oulu.

– We learned a lot about the business, IT and the services side of the automotive industry, Kien says.

The professors and the classmates at HNU were supportive and friendly, which helped Kien to fit in easily.

– The professors helped me a lot.  And my classmates were awesome. They switched to English fluently whenever I did a project with them. I enjoyed spending time with them after studies as well.

Stakes are high during the exam week

According to Kien, the biggest difference between Finnish and German education systems are exams. In Finland students can redo exams quite easily but in Germany the system is more strict.

– If you fail your test in Germany, you have to wait a whole semester to try again. And there are only two semesters a year. The stakes are pretty high for students.

Kien thought that this system made the German exams more intense than the ones in Finland. But there’s also an advantage: the pressure to succeed often boosts the motivation of the students.

– But it really depends on the person. Some find the German way motivating, but I think I still prefer the Finnish way, he says with a laugh.

The best thing about studying abroad for Kien was meeting new people from all over the world. In HNU he didn’t only get to know the German students but all the other international students as well.

– I think it’s a combination of experiencing completely different cultures and getting to work with people that you don’t usually work with. And learning from them.

“Suddenly the entire city was partying out on the streets.”

Blending in and going along

Some of the most memorable moments of Kien’s student exchange happened while hanging together with other students after their studies.

– One evening the national football team of Germany was playing and won a big match. We were having a fun night with my friends at the riverbank of Danube, when suddenly the entire city was partying out on the streets.

During the more strict covid restrictions the international office of HNU hosted a party for the international students in Zoom.

– They sent all of us a package of ingredients and a recipe for a traditional German dish called Käsespätzle. We cooked for ourselves and compared our dishes in Zoom. It was a lot of fun.

– And my cooking was really successful, he adds.

All in all Kien thinks the student exchange experience opened a lot of new doors and opportunities for him.

– I loved my exchange year, the whole experience of going to a different place, experiencing a different culture and getting to work with different people.

His advice to other students going abroad is simple: Be curious towards new things and experiences.

– When you are there, try to blend in and go along. Learn new things about the culture and be curious. And always ask if you don’t understand something.