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Mannheim Universität Mannheim_ Baden-Württemberg Germany

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					       Exchange Report




   Mannheim Universität
Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg
         Germany




          Srdjan Pepic
Introduction

       University of Mannheim is one of Germany’s younger universities and it is

located in Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg. University of Mannheim was founded in

1907 as a college of economics and in 1967 it received university status. University’s

main building is Mannheim Palace, which was completed in 1760.

       Currently, University of Mannheim is ranked as the top German university for

business, economics and social sciences.

       I completed my study exchange in the fall of 2008 as a graduate student. I was

enrolled in the following classes: Corporate Finance II: Mergers and Acquisitions,

Corporate Finance III: Advanced Topics, Relationship Fundraising, Global Business

Strategy and German language class.

Courses

       While I was able to enroll in all of the courses that I wanted to take, enrollment

was more difficult at Mannheim than at the Schulich School of Business. Initially I

planned to enroll in two finances, one marketing, one strategy and one non-profit class.

Each department had a different enrollment process. I found the enrollment process for

finance classes to be the least intuitive, because I had to email a finance department

secretary in June. Therefore, international students that are not aware of this will not be

able to enroll in finance lectures once they arrival in Mannheim because the demand is

very high. Marketing department requires that students submit a one page application and

I did not have to do anything to register for Global Business Strategy and Relationship

Fundraising. For those two classes, I simply showed up for the first lecture and signed my
name on the attendance sheet. Exam registration is a separate process that takes place in

October and is announced in class and through university email.

       Courses at University of Mannheim are ‘different’ from lectures offered at

Schulich. During the first two months, there is with very little work to be done, besides

attending lectures and taking notes. While it is a good idea to keep up with readings, most

German students seem to leave that for November when they study for exams. Finance

lectures were an exception because each course required students to complete three

business case assignments and submit them for marking. My Relationship Fundraising

mark was based solely on a 45 minute exam at the end of the term. In Global Business

Strategy course, international students had the option of writing a term report (due

October 31st) or a final exam. Consequently, there was not much to do during the first

half of the semester (September and October). I felt less pressed for time and less stressed

in Germany than in Canada.

       At a still higher level, I noticed that lectures at University of Mannheim are very

academic. All of the lectures that I attended focused heavily on learning and applying

various frameworks. There was a lot less class discussion and when there ware

discussions, they were usually centered on frameworks and results obtained from

applying those frameworks.

Teaching

       In terms of speed, depth, volume and presentation medium; lectures do not differ

very much from those at Schulich. However, interactions between professors (or those

who teach) and students are fundamentally different at University of Mannheim.

Professors see themselves as much higher in position than students. Consequently, it is
difficult to approach them after lectures to ask questions. Professors (with whom I

interacted) at Mannheim insisted that questions be submitted via e-mail or discussion

boards. While this approach works well for certain subjects, numerical or graphical

questions in finance are better answered in person during office hours, which also do not

exist at University of Mannheim. Therefore, the collegial atmosphere developed in

MBA/IMBA lectures between professors and students does not exist in Germany. In

lectures where English is spoken, the formalism maintained in the German language is

lost.

        Teaching quality varies across departments and courses taken. My experience was

that finance lectures were taught very poorly. Professors did not seem very enthusiastic to

teach or were a little bit unprepared. German students that attended the same finance

lectures also found lectures poorly taught and unusual for University of Mannheim. I

must mention that the professor who usually teaches finance classes was away to teach at

some other university outside of Germany. I only met the professor for Relationship

Fundraising on the first day. After that, he did not show for lectures. Instead lectures were

taught by other people in the department. Global Business Strategy professor was very

good, who appeared very enthusiastic and engaging during lectures.

        Generally, professors do a lot less encouraging and hand holding in Mannheim

than in Toronto. At the University of Mannheim it is left up to students to fetch their

reading material, figure out problems and do readings with out any reminders. What I am

not trying to say here is that the academic system at University of Mannheim is bad, but

that it is different and that it takes time getting used to. The learning process will

naturally reflect in students’ marks, which tend to be lower than at their home university.
These ‘pains’ were not only expressed by Canadian exchange students but also by other

students from Sweden, Australia and USA.

Orientation

       At the beginning of the semester there was a welcome lunch organized by the

International Office. This was a good opportunity to meet most of the staff at the

International Office and hear about various student groups. Also, International Office

organized a campus tour where international students learned about libraries, stores,

cafeteria and other on-campus facilities. Also, there was plenty of information available

about the city, shops and restaurants.

       It is important to note that the orientation did not cover any matter that could help

students get higher marks. In fact, most departments do not offer any assistance to

international students and professors and teaching assistants assume that students know

the material covered in previous classes.

Languages Courses

       German language courses are available to international students at the University

of Mannheim. I attended one German language class. Lectures started simultaneously

with other courses at Mannheim and were of the same duration. Registration was made

available online in the week leading up to classes. In order to register, students need to

complete a series of questions (in German) in order to be assigned a proficiency level

(A1, A2, B1…).

       Overall, the language course was very beneficial. There were two students in my

class who didn’t have enough knowledge and as a result missed out on a lot of new

information and useful in-class practices and presentations. Also, I believe that it is very
useful to take an introductory German course before going to Mannheim. This way, you

will have some fundamental grammar knowledge in place. Learning German in Germany

with at least some basic understanding of grammar and sentence structure will allow for a

much faster pace of progress. Registration fee was 15 Euros and it was the cheapest

option at the time.

Campus Facilities

       University of Mannheim is in the process of renovating its libraries and lecture

halls. While I was there, BWL (business) library was being renovated. Renovations at the

law and history library were recently completed and the library now has a very modern

look overlooking a museum inside Mannheim Palace. Also, many of the lecture halls I

used were recently improved and have state-of-the-art multimedia equipment. Overall,

the state of campus facilities is very good. It is worth noting that large computer labs

(such as those available on York University campus) are not available. However, the few

computer terminals that are available are in very good shape.

       It is also worth mentioning that students are not allowed to bring their backpacks

or jackets inside any university library. There are lockers at each entrance where students

can lock their belongings. This can be problematic during exam time when libraries are

very busy. Also, most lockers take only 2 Euro coins and it can be difficult to find a 2

Euro coin in a hurry or late at night.

       The best place, in my opinion, to study was my dorm room, simply because it was

located far from the city center and it was very quite. Also, dorm’s remoteness from the

city made it an unlikely candidate for pre-parties, which further ensured that there would
be no distractions. There are many libraries where students go to study. As far as I know,

most university libraries close at midnight.

       In order to reduce the hassle of having to wait for an available computer, I

strongly recommend bringing your own laptop. Technical assistance is available to install

appropriate software (VPN client) in order to use Internet on campus.

       Campus is located in a good part of the town and it is safe at night. I do not know

if there is program that will escort women to parking lots or bus stops late at night.

International Services

       There is an international office that works with international students and helps

them out with various issues, such as housing, registration and other basic information.

International Office is an excellent starting point for any questions about the university or

the city. International Office does offer a buddy program through a student run

organization VISUM. There are a number of events such as BBQs or ‘Running Dinner’

which are organized for those enrolled in the buddy program. Buddy program is

particularly useful for someone who has never been in Germany before. Buddies are a

valuable source of local information, hints and opportunities to meet other people. All

‘buddies’ are either German students or students who have lived in Germany for a long

time. Therefore, this is a good opportunity for both individuals to practice a foreign

language.

       For non-German speakers, it is not difficult getting things done at the university.

As far as I can remember, everybody I spoke with at the university had very good

command of the English language.

Housing Facilities
       International Office assisted me in finding a room; however my room was very

disappointing. It was not communicated to me that my residence (Ulmenweg) is very

poorly connected via buses on weekends, although this information is available online

through regional transit schedules (if you know where to look). Also, room, kitchen,

shower room and bathrooms were in a very poor and dirty state.

       When I arrived, I found many bags full of garbage in the kitchen. Garbage had not

been taken out for many months and there were countless fruit flies above the stove, in

the sink and in cupboards. The room I occupied was not cleaned for my arrival, so I had

to do cleaning after many hours of travelling. Walls were dirty and had been damaged by

previous tenants who used scotch tape to hang posters. Spots damaged by tape had

become distinctly more yellow over time. Overall the state of the apartment was terrible

and very disappointing knowing I was going to German (my expectation were much

higher). International students are required to sign a 5 month lease, so it was impossible

to back out after arrival. It took me and 4 other roommates, who have arrived around the

same time as me, about a day to clean the kitchen and throw out garbage, an old

refrigerator that had lots of spoiled food in it, and other rotting veggies still lying around.

Overall my apartment (and most other I had seen in the area) was a very sorry sight and a

horrible advertisement for the university. My advice is to stay away from Ulmenweg.

       Apartment cost included an Internet connection (which did not work on several

occasions). There are laundry facilities in the basement of house 5. Students that live in

other houses find this troublesome as they don’t have the key to the front door and must

wait for someone to either enter or exit the house in order to get into the basement.
        Ulmenweg is located about 20 to 25 minutes by bus from the university’s main

entrance. It can also be reached via two streetcars. There is no transportation after 1am.

        There is no meal plan at Ulmenweg, although there are two discount retails (Lidl

and Aldi) and several restaurants in the vicinity. Therefore, it is not difficult to go

shopping for food. University students can always buy lunches at the university cafeteria

which serves a variety of meals from Monday to Friday. The quality of food is not great,

but it is very affordable.

Costs/Expenses

Accommodation: 275 Euros per month

Location: University dorm at Ulmenweg

Notes: This is too expensive for the location and quality of rooms. One can find better

accommodations online by searching ‘WG’ web sites. This is impractical for

international students because landlords want to meet those interested in renting before

signing a contract.

Textbooks: Varies with courses

Notes: I spent about 250 Euros on finance textbooks.

Local transportation: 116 euro for 6 months

Notes: This includes city buses and streetcars, regional trains (S-Bahn) and selected trains

operated by DB. University card is the transportation ticket after fees are paid.

Food: ~250-300 Euros per month

Notes: I bought most of the food at discount retailers such as Lidl or Aldi. This does not

include entertainment costs.

Entertainment: This varies from month to month.
Student Health Services

       University of Mannheim requires students to purchase health insurance upon

arrival. Students that have already purchased health insurance from travel agencies in

Canada are not required to purchase insurance. I did not require any medical attention

from a doctor, so I cannot comment if there are any upfront costs when seeing a doctor.

There are no doctors and no nurses on-campus.

       I recommend that students take some basic, over the counter medication such as

Tylenol or Advil before departing Canada. While these can be purchased readily in

Germany, medication comes in different dosage.

Social Events

       International students at University of Mannheim have a lot of opportunities to

meet local and international students. A student run organization, VISUM, is a great

place to meet other people. All incoming students receive information about it (many

VISUM members also work at the International Office) and how to become involved.

VISUM organized a number of parties throughout the semester, a city trip, a pub crawl,

ice skating, running dinner, breakfast and a movie, and many other events. Therefore,

each incoming student should take the time to become familiar with VISUM and its

schedule. Many students that meet through VISUM continue to travel together.

       Also, Ontario and Baden-Württemberg have a student exchange program. Those

Canadian students who participate in this exchange program are invited to a weekend at

Bodensee. This is a unique opportunity for Canadian students in Germany to meet each

other and network.
       Everybody in Germany either eats sausages or ‘dönners’. City Donner is a well

know place near the main train station and many students frequent the place since it

remains open until early hours of the morning. A wide variety of foods is available in the

city: German, Turkish, Japanese, Thai, Indian and so on. Also, a number of American

chains are present in Mannheim: McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks, Pizza Hut,

Subway and other. University cafeteria offers students cheap meals, as low as 2.30 Euros.

On average, one gets what one pays for.

       Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Black Forest and Heidelberg are all within short distance of

Mannheim and great one-day trips. Students can also make use of discount airlines at

Frankfurt Hahn airport, which is about 2.5 hours away by bus. Trips to cities such as

Munich, Milan, Berlin, Madrid or Paris are possible via discount airlines or more

expensive fast ICE trains (InterCity Express). ICE train tickets can be bought at a

discount several weeks before travelling.

Sports/Recreation

       While I was in Mannheim, VISUM organized soccer on Sundays. As part of the

soccer team I participated in a one-day university tournament. Player turn out was very

good since we could organize a game of two teams of 8 to 10 players each. Also, VISUM

organized running once a week.

       There are a lot of other opportunities to play sports. University publishes a

booklet of all sports and activities students can sign up for. Students must pay

participation fees for some activities while others are free of charge. Fees are not very

high and are about 10 or 15 Euros per activity. University has several locations in the city

where students can engage in various recreational activities. Some of these facilities
might be difficult to reach depending on where you live and availability of public

transportation on weekends.

        Also, there are a number of free and paid-access parks along rivers Neckar and

Rhein where people go to jog, play soccer, fly kites or walk. In winter time students can

also visit ice rinks, both indoors and outdoors. At the very least, it makes sense to bring

running shoes, shorts or sweatpants, soccer shoes or some other outdoors clothes. Skates

can be rented at ice rinks for a couple of Euros.

Study Tours/Field Trips

        VISUM organized various trips. I did not attend the Summer (Language)

Academy, when VISUM organized several trips. However, I joined VISUM’s Berlin trip.

The trip was very cheap, about 79 Euros for 2 nights in a hostel, breakfast, transportation

and a few other perks. About 80 international students went to Berlin and everybody had

a good time. On the way back to Mannheim, the bus stopped in Potzdam briefly.

        Other short excursions are possible to Heidelberg or other smaller towns in the

area.

What to bring

   1. German-English dictionary

   2. Several VISA or AmEx cards and debit cards in case one stops working

   3. Footwear for going hiking or playing sports

   4. Laptop with good speakers

   5. USB antenna to watch digital TV transmitted through air

   6. Proper health insurance
   7. Pillow, pillow case, bed sheet, and blanket case (the ones I received at Ulmenweg

       were dirty and I did not use them)

   8. Voltage transformer with accessories

   9. Good camera with lots of SD memory

   10. Maple syrup and a Canadian flag

General Impression

       I believe that living and study in a new and foreign country will challenge anyone

who attempts it, no matter how prepared they are for the experience. The entire

experience is beneficial because it makes it really easy to understand that no matter how

much a person plans, unexpected events will occur and the real challenge is overcoming

those in a calm and rational way.

       During my stay in Mannheim, I had been in both pleasant and unpleasant

situations. Even though unpleasant situations stick in a person’s mind for longer period of

time, I think that knowing that you are able to overcome those instances in a foreign

country, barely understanding local language, unfamiliar with local laws, customs is

something that will be useful for many years to some.

       Overall, I have a positive impression of my study exchange. While I was there I

learned a lot in classes that I attended. I also improved my German language skills. Even

better, I had the opportunity to experience a different educational system, and while

German educational system is based on a different set of assumptions, it is good to see

that it works. People I had met were a fantastic company and I had a great time partying

and travelling with them. I would recommend the study exchange to other students.
For some photos visit following sites:

http://mannheim.schneckenhof.de/

http://visum.uni-mannheim.de/

				
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