My first semester in Mannheim
By Maddy Gray
The university is absolutely stunning! It is in an old palace, and the interior is breathtaking. Much of the ceiling still has detailed engravings, and studying or having your lectures there is really exciting! There’s also a museum dedicated to the palace and royalty who used to live there. It’s full of history, culture and beautiful chandeliers. They also still host opera concerts inside from time to time.
There are many libraries at the university, but my favourite two are in the palace. You have a captivating view of the quadrate from the Schloss (palace) and can see over the river too. It's lovely seeing the sunset from the library while you are doing your work. A funny cultural difference it took me a while to get used to was how quiet the libraries are. They are in constant silence, and you aren’t allowed to eat there. This made me laugh at first because the information commons is very different, but I found it actually helped me get more work done haha! The university doesn’t have many cafes to eat at, but it has a Mensa, like a school canteen, that serves hot meals. It reminds me of a high school musical in a funny way.
Politics at Mannheim is also quite different to Sheffield. You don’t have a seminar and lecture for each module; these are completely separate. The lectures you take have exams, and the seminars (called Proseminars) are term papers on a topic of your choice but related to the proseminar. Mannheim focuses on quantitative research, so most of the readings are research papers. I have become very familiar with its structure of it, and I think this has been beneficial in widening my knowledge of research and especially how political topics, such as free speech, are researched and measured. I have had a lot of practice in carrying out literature reviews, and it's an interesting experience, something different to theory-based politics.
The main surprise to me in Germany was how everyone uses cash. No one ever really uses cards, so it was strange getting used to carrying cash everywhere since I never do that in the UK. I also found that a lot of the german food is quite salty and the meat tastes different, obviously with different brands.
What I found the most interesting was the supermarkets. You can’t buy everything from one store. They seem to have a separate system where Aldi, for example, would mostly be food, but if you needed shower stuff, you would have to go to Rossman or Dm. They were more like Superdrug or savers. Not all supermarkets sell alcohol, either. What was really annoying was that paracetamol, ibuprofen and other painkillers were only sold in the pharmacy and were much more expensive. In the UK, you could get both for around a pound, but depending on the pharmacy, it could be around 8 euros in Germany! Another thing was tampons. They don’t seem to sell any with applicators- anywhere! That was a bit of a shock at first.