“I wanted to come to Mannheim and it was the right choice“
Jaramillo Chujón (19) from Quito in Ecuador studies psychology in her third
semester. Thanks to her time at a German school, her German is very good and
she has settled in so well that she probably wants to stay in Germany. In her
myUniMA story she tells us about how much she enjoys the international
character and the extensive support for internationals in general.
What brought you to Mannheim?
Isabel: I graduated from a German high school in Ecuador with an Abitur from Baden-Wurttemberg. With this degree, I was able to start my studies right away. After two stays abroad in Germany in my high school time, I knew very early that I wanted to study in Germany. I like the country and the people here are very nice. Apart from that, the education in Germany is of higher quality and less expensive. My sister studies in Ecuador and has to pay a lot for her studies. I always wanted to study psychology and applied to seven universities. I specifically looked at the rankings, because I was really ambitious and wanted to study at the best university. Mannheim always comes off well in the rankings in psychology. Finally, I was accepted by one university in Berlin and here in Mannheim. Even though I have many Ecuadorian friends in Berlin, I think the city would be too big for me. I wanted to come to Mannheim and it was the right choice.
How do you like your psychology major?
Isabel: At the beginning, adjusting from high school to university was difficult. I knew that at the University of Mannheim the research focuses on empirical methods but at the beginning it was still a challenge. In the meantime, I have got used to it and it is fun. I would even say that my favorite subjects are the methodology classes, because you have to develop your own thoughts and get active. My study program is generally taught in German, only two seminars so far were in English. We are about 120 students in my year and only about four of us are internationals. For me, the language is not a disadvantage. Since I went to a German school, I understood everything from the beginning. But I still think that it makes a difference whether you study in your mother tongue or not. Generally, I really like it here at the university. My professors are great and the support is extraordinary. In my first semester, I was supposed to write a term paper and I was very nervous. But my professor really supported me and I even could have written the paper in English. Ultimately, it worked out well in German. In my first statistics exam, my professor came over three times to make sure I had understood everything. This is certainly not the case at every other university.
How did you organize moving here?
Isabel: It was not easy at all. At the beginning, I stayed with my cousin in Karlsruhe and commuted to Mannheim every day. Later on, I found an apartment via “WG-Gesucht” and now I live with a friend of mine from Colombia. Before that, I had to organize everything from Ecuador, but I received support right from the beginning. I received many e-mails with all necessary information and the myUniMA platform by the International Office helped significantly to organize my stay here. I never felt left alone. When I finally came here, there were several introductory events. At the “Ersti Party” I made my first friends here. In my first semester, I didn’t have any German friends. In Latin America, everyone is very open and it is easy to start a conversation. Here everyone is very nice, but you don’t make many friends right away, you have to form a friendship. Now, I have my best friend Eva who is definitely a real friend.
Do you spend time with friends from Ecuador here?
Isabel: No, in Mannheim I don’t know anybody from Ecuador, but many others from Latin America. I didn’t want to go to Berlin or Karlsruhe where I know many Ecuadorians, in order to get to know something new. By now, most of my friends here have been Germans and I study together with the majority of them. This is the best thing about the University of Mannheim: you can meet people from all over the world even though the university is rather small. I like to cook with my friends. Sometimes I visit a friend of mine who lives in a student residence where they have a piano and I play it, too. I also like to do sports. The Institute of Sports literally offers every kind of sports from A to Z. I also like to go to Heidelberg, because it so pretty. Still, Mannheim offers many beautiful places, too, like the Wasserturm area or the Luisenpark. I even stayed here over the entire summer because I think that in the summer time there is a special atmosphere in Mannheim.
How did you experience the adjustment period from everyday life in Ecuador to everyday life in Germany?
Isabel: Of course, there are differences. For example, we don’t have pedestrian traffic lights and you just try to cross the street anyways (laughing). But since I am from the capital, the differences weren’t too big for me. Because of my time in a German school, I did not experience a cultural shock. The stereotype that everyone here is very organized and always on time is really true. Another difference is that most students are very self-sufficient after graduating from high school. In Ecuador almost all students live with their parents. I work as a student assistant in the International Office in the department for room and language course placement and my boss is always surprised by the fact that 22-year old students from Latin America don’t write their e-mails on their own but their parents do. During the first month, I really enjoyed my new independence, but during the exam period I had no idea how to manage cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning all by myself. But in the meantime, it all works quite well again.
Do you miss Ecuador?
Isabel: I think because I was very young when I came here, it was quite easy for me to settle in fast. Nevertheless, sometimes I have my days of homesickness. Unfortunately, I can’t just go home because the flights are long and expensive. It takes about 24 hours. The living situation in Ecuador has improved, but it is still a developing country. As a student assistant here, my salary is higher than the minimum wage in Ecuador. I am very glad that I have the opportunity to study in Germany. I probably won’t go back after graduation. I like the life in Germany. But generally, I think that most Ecuadorians who study abroad return to Ecuador eventually.
What are your plans after graduation?
Isabel: I don’t really know. I dropped pedagogical psychology but I haven’t decided between clinical and economical psychology, yet. Research is an option as well because I find statistics and methods very interesting. The professors here are highly motivated and have conducted rather interesting research themselves so that they are really convincing about research as a profession. In the next semester, I will do two internships, about twelve weeks in total, and make a decision afterwards. I definitely want to do a master’s program. But I think I will go into another city in order to see a little more. I am still very open about that.
Interview: Lina Vollmer | Photo: Elisa Berdica | December 2016