Eine Person trägt ein hellblaues Hemd, einen hellblauen Pullunder sowie einen schwarzen Blazer und steht in einem Flur. Die Person heißt Erije Boughattas.

“I Have Learned a Lot Here – Not Only for Exams, But Also for My Personal Development“

Erije Boughattas comes from Sousse, the third largest city in Tunisia. She is currently in the eighth semester of her bachelor's degree in Business Administration at the University of Mannheim. To find out why her start in Germany wasn't easy, where she spent her semester abroad and what kind of culture shock she experienced at the beginning, read her myUniMA story.

You've been in Germany since 2012. What are your first memories?

In my first year in Germany, I experienced a real culture shock: We went to the carnival parade in Mainz without really knowing what to expect. Then, when I saw a carnival float with a provocative depiction of Angela Merkel, I was very confused. In Tunisia, you wouldn't dare to do that. My highlight, however, was the music: At that time, I still knew very little German, but the song lyrics were so simple that I could understand them and even sing along (laughs).

Despite this experience, you stayed in Germany. Was Mannheim your first choice?

After a one-year language course in Heidelberg, my goal was to study electrical engineering, which is why I enrolled at the University of Stuttgart. But I quickly realized that the program didn't suit me at all and that I didn't like the subject. A friend of mine then told me about the University of Mannheim and the bachelor’s program in “Culture and Economy: Romance Studies”. Since French is one of my native languages and the combination with Business Administration appealed to me a lot, I immediately applied to Mannheim – and luckily, I was accepted.

How come you are now studying the bachelor's program in Business Administration?

In the first two semesters, I really enjoyed the program in Culture and Economy. But then, unfortunately, I failed the orientation examination in Romance Studies in the third semester and lost my eligibility to take exams. That was a tremendous shock for me – I didn't know what to do next. When the International Office learned about it, they contacted me and offered me their support. They explained to me that I could apply for the bachelor's program in Business Administration, nevertheless. I am immensely grateful for their support during this time. Without their help, I would not be about to finish my bachelor's degree now.

What do you particularly like about your program of study and the University of Mannheim?

At first, I was a little afraid that Business Administration would be too difficult for me. But it is going very well, and I am glad that I had the chance to stay at the University of Mannheim. What I really like about my program is that it is so multifaceted. There are a lot of interesting topics. What I like most is marketing and management, especially the subject of sustainability. Also, it's an advantage for me that many courses are taught in English because it's easier for me to understand. I can definitely recommend studying at the University of Mannheim. I have learned a lot here – not only for my exams, but also with regard to my personal development: By studying I have become more self-confident and gained many skills, for example logical thinking and a good power of judgment. That's why I definitely want to complete my master's degree in Mannheim. I keep telling my family that I was really lucky to have ended up here despite my difficult start in Germany. The atmosphere at the university is very pleasant and I'm happy that there are so many international students here with whom I can exchange ideas. Once at the Schlossfest, when I was standing on the palace terrace together with my fellow students, enjoying the view, I thought to myself: It's so wonderful to have the opportunity to study here.

You spent a semester abroad at the University of Exeter in the UK. What did you experience there?

Though the city is smaller than Mannheim, the university campus is impressive: There are even a hospital and a police station there. With around 22,000 students, it felt like a city of its own, with only students living there. It was especially interesting for me to see how other German exchange students manage their Business Administration studies. I don't think anybody else was thinking about studying as much as I was – that was probably due to my “Mannheim mentality” (laughs). However, this attitude also helps me, because it means I don't get too stressed out during the exam period.

You also work as a student assistant at the university. Where exactly do you work?

I've been working at the International Office since January this year. My primary responsibility is to support the team in assisting international students, especially refugees. For example, the International Office arranges German language courses for them, which they can attend free of charge thanks to DAAD grants. My tasks in this regard are of a purely administrative nature. I also work on the IO’s social media presence. I really enjoy writing texts for our LinkedIn page and creating graphics.

What are your plans for the future?

After completing my master's degree, I would like to stay in Germany for a few more years in order to gain some work experience. I feel very lucky to have the chance to study and work in Germany. At some point in time, however, I would like to explore another country, work there, and get to know a new culture. My dream would be to work at the UN one day. But I can also imagine a job with an NGO. It's always been important to me to get involved in issues like climate protection, human rights or equal opportunity.

Text: Jessica Scholich / April 2022