Photo credit: Ye Fung Tchen

“You learn to understand the way economists think!”

In fall 2014, after the grape harvest on his parent’s estate had been finished, Giosuè Comunale (22) packed his bags and left his home in Sicily to go to Mannheim, the “city of squares”. For two years, he struggled with the German language - and finally mastered it. By now, Giosuè is fluent in German and is a fourth-semester student in the bachelor’s program in Economics. In the April myUniMa story, he tells us about his studies, birthday parties and “Dampfnudeln”.

What made you decide to study at the University of Mannheim?

Around the time of my final oral examination in school, my parents and I were thinking about where my path was going to lead next. Since finding a job is very hard for young people in Italy, my father recommended studying abroad. At first, I wanted to go to Argentina like my sister, but that would have meant hardly ever getting to see my family, so I decided to go to Germany. I have relatives in Germany who recommended the University of Mannheim and, honestly, the university’s website was the only one I understood (laughs). I then also did some research and found out that the University of Mannheim had very good rankings for both the Economics and Business Administration programs. My journey to studying was very hard. I didn’t speak any German, so at first I worked as a server in an Italian restaurant in the Neckarstadt and struggled through German courses at the university. In the beginning, I didn’t even have an apartment and lived in boarding houses and once even in a basement. But I didn’t give up. The day I finally passed the DSH test and was able to apply to the university was one of the best days of my life. I wanted to use the months before the beginning of my studies to strengthen my German skills, so I worked as an au pair in a family in Rhineland-Palatinate for six months. It was a great experience and I still keep in contact with this family today.

How do you like the Economics program at the University of Mannheim?

To be honest, this semester has been a little tough for me. We learn a lot about abstract models and don't work a lot with concrete data. I didn't think it would be this theoretical. I actually wanted to study Business Administration at first, but my English language skills weren’t good enough. Yet, I now like Economics better and enjoy my program of study. You learn to understand the way economists think!

Do you have any tips for other international students wanting to come to the University of Mannheim?

I would definitely recommend savoring the time you have. It’s beautiful here, especially now in spring and summer time. I think Mannheim doesn’t have that much to offer in terms of tourist attractions, but it’s a great city to experience - I love Mannheim! You have to get to know every little detail of this city and integrate. You miss out on so much if you just stay with your group of other international students and don’t share experiences with the people who have grown up here. Especially as a degree-seeking student, you should make an effort to learn the language as well as you can and spend a lot of time with Germans. And my little bit of advice: Taste everything! Particularly Italian students like me should not solely stick to the Italian food we know and love but also have a taste of the German cuisine. I love German Schnitzel, for example, and the first dish I tried and will never forget was potato soup with “Dampfnudel”. Generally, I really enjoy the food here. During my time as an au pair, I gained nearly ten kilos! 

You have been living in Mannheim for more than three years and you say you’ve experienced a lot. What are your fondest memories?

The exams in the second semester were very hard and after the last exam, my fellow students and I were so relieved that we spent the entire day together and partied far into the night. I also have great memories of the second birthday I celebrated in Mannheim. On my first birthday, I didn’t know anyone here, so it was very sad. But one year later, I had gotten to know so many people that I celebrated my birthday with more than 30 guests in a big function room. It was a great day and I had a lot of fun.

What do you do in your free time?

Of course, I like to go out and party. I am now representative in my residence hall and organize parties there. I go on walks or long bike tours which take me from Neckarau along the Rhine to the Schloss and then further along the Neckar all the way to the SAP Arena. What I especially like about Mannheim is the fact that there is something for every type of person or scene. If you like to listen to punk music, you have lots of options and if you like techno, you can go to Hafen 49, for example. I only think the city is lacking clubs with live music. There are a lot more of those in Italy. But apart from that you can do anything you want in Mannheim.

Do you already know what you will be doing after you’ve finished your bachelor's degree?

That’s a tough question. On the one hand, I would really like to get a master’s degree, but on the other hand, I also want to become more financially independent from my parents. That is why I’m thinking about studying in a cooperative study program. I would like to stay in Mannheim, but I also liked the Palatinate and could see myself living there. A friend of mine recently asked if I would like to go back to Italy to live and work there. My answer was ‘No’. I have experienced so much during these last three years in Mannheim; I’m staying.

Interview: Kyra Hoffmann |  April 2018