When people think of college in the United States, cluttered desks, large seminars, a huge and lively campus scene, and of course the infamous on-campus dormitories may come to mind. To live, sleep, eat, attend clubs, and go to class all in the same place is essentially what the States is known for when it comes to the full university experience.
So, naturally, when I tell my American friends and family that my student accommodation is tucked away in a residential area of Hamburg fifteen minutes away from the campus, looks of confusion and gasps of surprise immediately come my way. What most people do not know is that most student accommodations are not located close to the university at all. After my application process, I had the opportunity to apply to live in one out of the twenty or so dormitories offered by the University of Hamburg. The catch? Most of them are actually spread out throughout the entire city. For some, this may sound unappealing. I mean, how can you enjoy campus life without actually being on campus? Luckily, most cities in Germany, especially large metropolitan cities like Hamburg, thrive on public transportation, making the trip to school fast, easy, and even relaxing.
But perhaps the biggest difference between dorm-style living in the United States and Germany are the rooms. During my summer before my freshman year at Temple, I can vividly remember scrolling through Temple’s website attempting to find compatible roommates with whom I would be living with for the rest of my first year. And when move-in day finally arrived, I not only had to learn who my roommate was but also how we would split up our room. Living in the single room with two beds, two desks, two closets, and no wall or privacy in between can be heaven for some and hell for others. Regardless of how one feels toward the dorming style of living in the United States, learning to live with a roommate definitely builds character and helps one realize how to best live with others in the future.
German accommodations test you similarly, but in other ways. While my own student accommodation comes with a fully furnished room, a huge window, and lots of closet space, I must also share a kitchen, bathrooms, and a laundry room with around twelve or thirteen other residents on my floor. As someone who loves their private space but also hates cooking in front of others, I had mixed feelings about moving here at first. Whether dirty pots filled with rice or noodles lay aimlessly and untouched on the stove top or the kitchen trash can overflowed to the brim, I felt at first both regret and disappointment to live in a place that felt so far from home. Nevertheless, after a few days of readjusting, I realized that the key to communal living is communication itself. Living with others has also helped me learn to clean up after myself both in the community rooms and within my own personal space.
Finally, what makes German accommodations so great is the ability to meet other people from countries all over the world. While American accommodations also allow for students to quickly meet others, German dormitories are at least halfway filled with international or exchange students. Meeting other people from other countries has helped me realize just how gigantic our world truly is, and simply hearing others talk about their home countries, if only just for a few minutes, has helped me better understand another culture I may have never experienced earlier.
Overall, adjusting to the student living here in Germany has been a process to say the least. Figuring out where to buy groceries, how to take the fastest train to the city, and even working the laundry machine has proven to be a challenge. Nevertheless, living in a German-style dormitory has also given me a new sense of independence and responsibility that I have yet to experience while in the States, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced two different living environments throughout my undergraduate career.