Christel Celis Martin / Photo credit: Ye Fung Tchen

“I really like living in Mannheim and now think of Germany as my home”

After growing up in Venezuela, the USA, and Spain, Christel Celis Martin decided to come to Mannheim to study Sociology. Now, the 22-year-old is in her seventh semester of the bachelor’s program. In her myUniMa story, she tells us why Germany means so much to her, what her life in Mannheim is like, and what she wants to do after she graduates.

Why did you decide to study in Germany?

Christel: German played a big part in my life when I was growing up. My mum is a German teacher, and she wanted me and my brother to learn the language. I had to practice a lot before I could speak it really fluently, and because I put so much effort into learning it, I wanted to move to Germany after finishing high school. Studying in Germany is a lot cheaper than in the USA or Spain, and I really liked the sound of student life in Germany. I chose the University of Mannheim because of its excellent rankings and its international semester dates. This makes it easier for me to visit my family, and means that I don’t have to spend Christmas learning for tests.

You’ve lived in Venezuela, the USA, and Spain. Tell us a little bit about your family and your life in these countries.

Christel: My mom is Argentinian and my dad is Colombian. They both went to German schools, and my dad got his master’s degree in Germany. I was born in a city called Maracaibo in Venezuela. We lived there for a while but we eventually left because of the political situation in the country. I was eight years old at the time. We then spent five years living in Texas, before moving to Spain. I went to the German school in Madrid, and did my Abitur there, and then I came to Germany. My parents still live in Madrid, and my brother recently started studying in Karlsruhe.

How do you like Germany? Are you enjoying your studies in Mannheim?

Christel: Deciding to study in Germany was the first time that I had chosen the country that I wanted to live in. Of course, when I was younger, my parents were the ones who decided where we would live next. But moving to Germany was my choice. I really like living in Mannheim and now think of Germany as my home. The city is so vibrant and it’s just the right size. There’s always something to do – from joining a student organization to going to parties. I am really happy with my sociology degree program. I also study psychology as a minor, and the two subjects go really well together.

What do you do in your spare time?

Christel: Until recently, I was a member of IDEiAS+ e.V. which is a student organization for people interested in Latin America. The members organize different activities, including film nights, discussions, presentations, and workshops. I was on the board for one and a half years, but was a member of the organization for two years altogether. I also regularly go to Zumba classes, especially because of the Spanish music that we dance to. When I lived in Spain, I found reggaeton music boring. But now I live in Germany, I miss this type of music. It just makes you smile when you hear it. That’s why, secretly, I would actually like to give my own Zumba classes.

Other than the music, is there anything else that you miss about the countries you grew up in?

Christel: I really miss Spanish and Venezuelan food, and my friends who live in the USA and Venezuela. The distance means that I don’t get to see them very often. But the majority of my friends from high school now live in Germany as well – that’s really handy.

What would you like to do after you graduate?

Christel: I definitely want to do a master’s, I’m just not sure about the subject yet. I could see myself studying sociology or maybe even economic psychology or social work. I would like to do my master’s in Germany, and then, once I’m finished, I can see myself settling down here too.

Interview: Louisa Gille   |   November 2017