“My degree program is definitely a challenge, but it is worth it”

Olfah Elshall from Egypt has been studying in Mannheim for three years. She is currently in her seventh semester in Mathematics in Business and Economics and is writing her bachelor’s thesis. She completed her Abitur at the German School in Cairo and thus has been speaking German since childhood. In her myUniMa story, Olfah relates how she organizes her studies in Germany and reveals her plans after completing her bachelor's degree.

Why did you decide to study in Mannheim?

I just went with my gut. I had to choose between Mannheim and Munich, but after doing some research on the internet, I knew that Mannheim would be the better city for students. Having grown up in Cairo, I am used to big cities. Mannheim is smaller and therefore it is easier to get to know people. My dream was to live in a real student city. When I came here, there were many student initiatives and I got directly involved in some of them. Every day, there are numerous events or parties that you can take part in.

Would you make that decision again?

If I had another chance to choose a subject matter, I would choose Mathematics in Business and Economics again. My degree program is definitely a challenge: in the first semester, the courses were very difficult for me and I considered changing my degree program. However, now, I am very happy that I’ve followed through with my studies. It has been worth it. As far as Mannheim as a place of study is concerned, I can say that I love Mannheim and have had a great time here so far. However, I need variation. That's why I'm happy to gather new experiences in other places after completing my studies.

How does life in Germany differ from life in Egypt?

A big difference to Mannheim are the long distances you have to cover in Cairo. Getting to university may easily take one to two hours. That is why students usually spend the whole day on campus. In Mannheim, on the contrary, you need five to ten minutes to get home. Therefore, you are a lot more flexible here. Moreover, in Cairo, it is more dangerous for women to walk alone around the city at night. In Mannheim I feel safe and can walk home at night after partying.

Is there anything you miss about Germany when you are visiting your family in Egypt?

When I am in Germany, of course, I miss my family most of all. I also miss speaking Arabic, because I can still express myself better in my mother tongue. Yet, I feel at home in Mannheim. When I am in Egypt, I always look forward to coming back to Mannheim, because here, I have my own apartment andl I am my own boss. No matter whether I am in Germany or in Egypt – I always miss the other one a little.

What do you do in your free time when you are not studying?

I am a member of the student initiative VISUM, which organizes several events for exchange students every week. I almost always take part in these events and it's great fun for me because I meet a lot of new people there. As an international degree-seeking student who does not only spend one semester abroad in Mannheim I have a special position. In addition, one month ago, I started playing ukulele because I like singing and wanted to learn something new that I enjoy. I like to be active and regularly attend Zumba classes. As of recently, I also dare to ride my bicycle in the city, which is rather unusual in Cairo. 

Have you ever had a “typically German” experience?

In the beginning, I had some problems with being on time; in the meantime, however, I have become a real German in this regard.  When I go out for dinner with my friends, everyone pays his or her bill separately and it’s exactly calculated down to the last cent. That's typically German.

Do you plan to stay in Germany after you’ve finished your bachelor’s degree?

I have already planned everything. In that respect, I have also become a real German. I would like to take a gap year after completing my bachelor's degree to do internships in risk management or in a financial department and to travel to South America. Afterwards, I would like to pursue a master's degree in Germany and gain a few years of professional experience before returning to Egypt. 

Text: Helena Sicko / October 2018