“Mannheim taught me how to study efficiently”

Adrien Book comes from France. About two years ago he came to Mannheim to do the Mannheim Master in Management. He has finished his studies only recently and is now working for a consulting company in Paris. For this month’s myUniMA story, he took some time during his lunch break to skype with us about why he came to Mannheim, in how far Germans have lived up to the stereotypes and what he misses now that he’s back in Paris.

Adrien, have you always had the plan to study abroad?

Before I came to Mannheim, my CV was already quite international. I was born in France but went to high school in Sweden. I did my Bachelor’s degree in Business and Management at the University of Exeter in England. Back in Paris, I started working for a software company but after a while, I needed a new challenge. I wanted to go to a country I’d never been before. So finally, I decided to apply for master’s programs all over Europe. In the end, some of the best universities for Management had accepted me, among them Bocconi University in Italy, ESSEC in France and Mannheim in Germany.

Why did you pick the University of Mannheim?

I based my decision on various rankings. Of course, they all evaluate different criteria but some things were particularly important to me: course offer, teaching and research quality, salary after graduation and gender diversity. I also had my own criteria, like the amount of tuition fees I would have to pay or the travel distance to my girlfriend, who was living in Paris at the time. In the end, the Mannheim Master in Management convinced me.

Were your studies in Mannheim as you had imagined them?

What I loved about Mannheim was that everything is within walking distance. As for the university, I was a little surprised about how much diligence the University of Mannheim expects from its students. So far, I had mostly relied on my good memory, but that was not enough here. I realized I was studying side by side with the smartest students in Germany and that I would have to work harder. In Mannheim, I learnt how sit, keep my head down and study properly. Fortunately, I also got help from some wonderful German students. I remember that for one exam, a friend of mine invited me to his family home in Dortmund and we stayed there for a week to study.

Anything that surprised you about the city?

I wouldn’t consider Mannheim an expensive city. I managed to find a fantastic flat for a good price which is something an international student would have a very hard time doing in Paris, for example. But I never quite understood why for some reason, cinema tickets were so expensive here.

Did any stereotypes you held about Germans come true?

I remember two situations that made me think: “That’s so German!” The first one was when I had dinner with a German friend. He told me he had to make a phone call but would be back in eight minutes. The specific number cracked me up but he really was back after exactly eight minutes. Another situation was when I asked a group of students where I could have a good pretzel around town. Instead of suggesting something right away, they grouped together and intensely discussed what place would be best. It took them half a minute before they came back to me with their result.

Do you think differently about the country now that you’ve lived here?

Now that I have a clear picture of Germany in my mind I have a much closer relationship with the country. I am also thankful for receiving such a good education here. I feel somewhat indebted to the University of Mannheim.

Many Germans consider France a country of culinary delights. Are there any foods you missed in Germany?

No, to be honest I didn’t miss anything. As a student, I didn’t have much money and student foods like pasta and potatoes taste the same all over the world. However, back in France, I do miss good pretzels. We just don’t have them.

Do you have any advice for other international students who are planning on coming to Mannheim?

Try to integrate yourself. Internationals tend to group together with friends from their own country but I would have missed out on so much of the culture if I had only made friends with other French students. For example, I would often ask my friends for German songs. That way I got to know a lot about German music and learned the language through songs by “Die Ärzte”, “Sportfreunde Stiller”, “Sido” or “Die Fantastischen Vier”.

Text: Annika Freitag / August 2018