Photo credit: Kathrin Holstein

“I think it’s great to spend a part of your program abroad”

Ukrainian student Maryna Ivantseva has always wanted to study in a German-speaking country. During her first years of school, she went to an elementary school where they offered extended German classes to the students. When she switched to high school, these classes were no longer offered. So Maryna decided to continue studying German by herself. It was worth the effort: Thanks to her German language skills, 17-year-old Maryna didn’t find it difficult to adapt to student life at her German university. Maryna is now 19 years old and in her fourth semester of the bachelor’s program in Business Administration. She likes to travel, collects post cards and tells us in her myUniMA story what makes studying in Mannheim unique to her and which places in the region everyone should have seen.

Why did you decide to study at the University of Mannheim?

To be honest, it was coincidence that brought me here. Initially, I thought I had to be at least 18 years old study in Germany as a non-EU citizen. However, I was only 16 when I finished high school and didn’t want to waste time waiting. This is why I first applied to the University of Vienna as I knew they accepted students under the age of 18. Nevertheless, I also decided to send my application to the University of Mannheim. I had never really heard about the University of Mannheim before, but it was ranked first everywhere I looked. And then, surprisingly, I got accepted. I opted for Mannheim and against Vienna, which turned out to be a great choice as the University of Mannheim has helped me jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops.

Speaking of bureaucratic hoops. Which challenges did you have to overcome once you had received the letter of acceptance from the University of Mannheim?

First of all, I had to make an appointment with the German Embassy to apply for a student visa. Unfortunately, I had to wait for about four weeks, until the end of August, for my appointment. At the same time, the Welcome Week for incoming students started in Mannheim. That was a little bit stressful for me. In addition, I had been told that it could take some time following the appointment until the Embassy was able to issue the visa. Thanks to the support provided by the International Office at the University of Mannheim, I received my visa only three days later. That was a wonderful moment for me as I didn’t expect it to work out so quickly. When I had my visa, I still needed to book a flight and find accommodation which is why I missed the entire Welcome Week and all the orientation events. When looking for a place to stay, I got help again from the people at the International Office who offered me a spot in one of the student dormitories.

Sounds as if your first weeks in Germany were quite stressful. Were you able to adapt to student life despite all that?

Definitely! I felt relieved when I knew that I already had an apartment. However, there were still a lot of things for me to learn. In contrast to my fellow students, I had no idea how an e-learning platform works and how to register for courses and exams.  But I think I was able to adapt to everyday life on campus quite quickly.

What else do you like about studying at the University of Mannheim?

I love it. Compared to Ukraine, the entire system works completely different. For example, here you don’t have exams during the semester, just a final exam at the end and that’s it. And other than at Ukrainian universities, students have a lot more freedom when it comes to organizing their studies, and can also create their course schedules quite flexibly. I don’t have classes every day and I'm also able to travel during the semester which I think is very practical. Moreover, I’m already looking forward to my stay abroad in the United States next semester.  This is another thing I  find outstanding: The fact that you’re able to spend a part of your program abroad.  In addition, I simply like being part of the campus community.

How do you spend your time when you’re not studying?

Partly with work. I have a job as a tutor at the university, which means that I get to help other students understand the subjects taught in the basic courses of the bachelor’s program in Business Administration . I teach my courses in German and English. Instructing others in a foreign language really helped me get out of my comfort zone. Besides that, I do sports in my free time. The university’s sports program offers a lot of different activities. I think it’s amazing that you have so much choice – and all that for free or nearly free!

Do you have any favorite spots in Mannheim or the region you would like to recommend to other students?

In Mannheim I can definitely recommend Luisenpark. It’s a beautiful park and a good place to enjoy the beauty of nature. The Neckarpromenade is also great for all those seeking to relax a bit from their studies. Thanks to its location just outside the city center, it’s easy to get there from school. Of course, Heidelberg is a place to go to when living in Mannheim. And Strasbourg is worth a visit too. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen and it’s easy to get there.

What do you miss about home?

Above all, I miss my parents. As I was really young when I first came to Germany, things were not so easy for me at the beginning. Family is really important in Ukraine, so I miss them a lot. Apart from that, I also miss my cat and Ukranian food of course. Things we eat in Ukraine every day, can’t be found here. Or only in special grocery stores. Every time I travel back to Germany from home, I take Ukrainian groceries with me – that makes my life a little easier here.

One of your hobbies is to collect post cards. Have you ever received a really special card?

I did indeed! One post card from Mauritius actually took more than two years to arrive.  I didn’t expect it would still arrive and was actually slightly disappointed about that. So I was really surprised when I found it in my mailbox one day.  I think this is what makes this card really special: the fact that it has “traveled” for so long to finally reach me.

Do you know what you want to do after you finish your bachelor’s program?

If I get accepted into the program, I would like to do the Mannheim Master in Management. Financially, things have tightened up a little bit as non-EU citizens need to pay tuition fees now while studying in the Land of Baden-Wuerttemberg. After my studies, I would like to gain some work experience here in Germany. Let’s see how things develop. For now, my number one priority is to plan my upcoming semester abroad.   

Interview: Kathrin Holstein / May 2018