“I was so excited when I received my letter of acceptance – my heart was pounding”

Jianing Shen is 24 years old and comes from Haining – a city near to Shanghai with around 800,000 inhabitants. Before coming to Mannheim three years ago, Jianing studied in China for a year. She is now in her fourth semester of the bachelor’s program in Culture in Economy: Media and Communication Studies. In her myUniMa story, she explains the differences between studying in Germany and in China, and tells us about her new hobbies and the quieter way of life she has discovered in Mannheim.

Why did you decide to stop studying in China and come to Mannheim instead?

I spent a year studying Media and Communication in China because, in my case, it was a requirement for me to be able to study in Germany. I always wanted to study abroad. Many of my friends went to the US or Canada, but I immediately started learning German at my Chinese university. I had already heard about the University of Mannheim because of its good reputation; the palace really impressed me too. But back then, I couldn’t imagine that I would be accepted onto the program. I was so excited when I received my letter of acceptance – my heart was pounding. Of course, I had applied to other universities as well but Mannheim was my first choice.

What are the differences between student life in Germany and student life in China?

In China, all students live in student housing. You go to class together and live together. Whereas here, many of my fellow students live outside of the city and commute to university. Students also have a lot more to do here. They often work part-time alongside their studies, so you don’t get to see your friends here as much as you would in China. But you do get a lot more privacy, which I appreciate.

How do you like your program in Mannheim?

I like that I study two different subjects – it balances things out. The program of study here in Mannheim is much more academic. We learn qualitative and quantitative methods and a lot of theories. In China, my program focused mostly on TV, films and new media – we even took photography classes. In general, a lot of things are new here, which I wasn't really expecting. The program of study is very challenging, especially because a large part of Media Studies involves looking at language, and I still find that difficult sometimes. But I’ve started going to a language class organized by the Studium Generale again now. You never stop learning German.

Where do you feel more at home: China or Germany?

That’s a tough question. I’ve gotten used to life in Germany – I’ve made friends and have nice fellow students here. I don't go back to China very often, but when I do, I visit my family and school friends. My hometown feels a little unfamiliar to me nowadays. In the three years that I’ve been here, I haven’t only gotten used to the German way of life; I also appreciate its advantages. Like me, my fellow students are very helpful, and people in Germany are generally very honest, so I like that. I also like that you can get some peace and quiet here if you need it. In China, sometimes there is too much going on, and there are a lot of people everywhere. That makes it harder to relax.

Besides your studies, you also volunteer as a student mentor for the children's organization, KinderHelden. What made you want to get involved?

My parents volunteer in China, and I said to myself that I would do the same in Germany. I liked the KinderHelden program straight away. As a student mentor, you are matched with a child and spend some time with him or her every week. The girl I meet up with is a bit shy, and I want to help her become more confident. So, we always try out new activities together. She’s nine years old, but had never been to a museum. So I took her to the Kunsthalle art gallery in Mannheim. We also go to the movies, the children’s library, or have picnics, and I help her if she has problems with her homework.

What do you do in your free time?

Food has become one of my hobbies here (laughs). In China, I often only used to eat Chinese food, whereas here, I try a lot of different dishes with my friends. We often cook and bake together. I used to play the drums in a band in China as well, and now I’ve got a set here, too. If I’m stressed out, for example when exams are coming up, I play and forget everything around me. I also do sports – it's great that the university provides sports courses and has a gym. As well as that, I worked with three other students to create a website for Chinese first-year students who want to study in Mannheim. It’s designed to help them get settled by providing information on how to get to Mannheim and how to enroll at the university. I also had difficulties here to start with, and there are a lot of Chinese students who don’t speak German. I really hope the website helps them.

What would you like to do after you graduate from the bachelor’s program?

I would like to continue my studies in Mannheim. I'm not sure what I'll do after that though – I haven't thought that far ahead yet. But I can see myself living and working in Germany.

Text: Milena Gropp / August 2017