“Studying Abroad is Possible for Everyone, You Just Need to Be Bold Enough”

Santiago Alvarado Esquivel comes from Costa Rica and is studying the bachelor's program in Economics in his fourth semester. He chose the University of Mannheim because here he can take many courses in Political Science as part of his degree program in Economics – a special feature offered in Mannheim. In the latest myUniMA story, Santiago reveals why he appreciates staying in Mannheim even during the pandemic, what he particularly likes about his program of study and what he does in his spare time.

In order to pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Mannheim, you need to have a good command of German. How come you speak German so well?

I attended a Humboldt School in Costa Rica and have been learning German since kindergarten. That was somewhat crazy: In geography classes, for example, I learned the German names of Costa Rican rivers and mountains, and in math classes, I knew the German term for triangle ruler rather than the Spanish one. After graduating in Costa Rica with the German Abitur, I realized that it would probably be a linguistic shock for me to study at a university in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, I tried it and started to study political science in Costa Rica until I got the letter of admission from Mannheim and decided to move to Germany.

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

On the one hand, the university rankings are an important factor, of course. On the other hand, the possibility of combining Economics with Political Science as a minor was of great interest to me. And I like Mannheim because the city is just the right size, not too expensive, and very international, just like the University of Mannheim itself. Here, international students have a lot of contact with each other and thus can settle in well, which was another aspect that convinced me.

What else do you particularly like about your program of study?

What is important to me is the fact that my program in Economics offers a high degree of flexibility and that I can put together the majority of courses that I want to attend myself, which means that the program is very multifaceted. In addition, the courses are not only attended by students from my degree program, but I also get to know students from the programs in Business Administration and of the bachelor's program in Culture and Economy as well as students enrolled in a master's program. I think this is a good preparation for my professional life, because in the workplace, you also have to deal with people from other departments or disciplines.

What do you like about Mannheim?

The friendliness of the people. I have been to Aachen and Munich before, and everyone was nice there, too. But when I arrived at the train station in Mannheim, people immediately offered to help me with my suitcase and spoke to me not only in German, but also in English. In my residence hall, too, everyone said: “If you need help, here we are.” All in all, I feel very comfortable in Mannheim and don't want my studies to end after only six semesters! I want to enjoy my studies as long as possible, gain new experiences, and get to know new people. Many students are in such a rush and want to complete their studies as quickly as possible, but I do not.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Since the beginning of my studies, I have been active in the UNICEF Hochschulgruppe Mannheim and since this year, I have been chairing the board for the first time. In my future career, I would like to work for UNCIEF or another international organization. Therefore, and because of the experiences I have gained in Germany and Costa Rica, I am very interested in political science, especially in international relations, in addition to economics.

Besides, you can do a lot outdoors in Germany and especially here in Mannheim. Just hop on the S-Bahn, the suburban train, and explore the city’s surroundings. As for me, I also like to take pictures. And in the evenings, I often go to the banks of the river Neckar, play basketball, and watch the sunset. I have even made new friends there. Before the coronavirus pandemic, I also regularly went to the Gym D2 and to the 55 CrossGym. Playing sports is important for me as it helps me to relax.

Has the coronavirus pandemic affected your life in any other way?

I am grateful to be healthy, but I am also more alone since many of my friends have returned home. As a result, I talk to my family and friends on the phone more often. However, I made a conscious decision to stay here in Mannheim. Last year, I was at home for a longer period of time during the exam phase and had to write my exams at 3 a.m. in the morning due to the time difference. Two weeks prior to the exams, I started going to bed at noon and getting up in the evening in order to get used to it. Then, according to the economists' motto, I weighed my opportunity costs: Have no life and be a night owl? Or stay alone in Mannheim, but see the sun during the day?

What advice would you like to give to other students, including non-international students?

If you really want to study at the University of Mannheim, then it will work out: When it comes to finances, language skills, and other important concerns, you will always find support and a solution! In my opinion, you should always keep the following in mind: “Studying abroad is possible for everyone, you just need to be bold enough”. And once you're here, you should get involved in a Hochschulgruppe or student organization. There, you get to know new people and easily become integrated. And what is even more: Who does not want to study in a palace? Sometimes, I sit in the library and think: I'm in a baroque palace – cool!

Text: Luisa Gebhardt / March 2021