Hello, My name is Sara. I am a third year student in the Bachelor programme Comparative Literature Studies at UCL. My sense of vocation for the German language was sparked by my first visit to Germany which was to Aachen in North Rhine-Westphalia. I will be soon starting my final year in September 2022. For my third year of Comparative Literature Studies I participated in an academic year abroad at Universität Heidelberg, in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg which helped to create a lifelong passion for German Literature. My year abroad has enabled me to read across a wide range of genres and time periods in German Literature and has enabled me to also understand why these German literary works are still relevant to current society today.
Which city in Germany have you been studying and what were the reasons for choosing it?
I have been studying in Heidelberg at Universität Heidelberg. I chose Heidelberg University because it is academically very renowned and is a leading research university in Germany. Another reason was because I wanted to explore southern Germany for the first time. I had heard that famous German writers such as Eichendorff and Goethe had also visited Heidelberg as well which inspired me to also embark on a literary journey. The Heidelberg Romantics Clements Brentano and Achim von Arnim also stemmed from Heidelberg which captivated me.
What do you like in or about Germany? Can you give an example?
Thankfully, throughout my experience the vast majority of Germans I met were very friendly and my German friends are tolerant of other cultures and beliefs. The food is very delicious such as Grießknödel and also Marmorkuchen and Käsespätzle too as well as Brezel. Many people appreciate the literature which has stemmed from Heidelberg and across Germany and this appreciation of German literature marked a turning point for myself. I decided to participate in the Heidelberg Literature Festival in June 2022 and performed a poem in German that I wrote for an audience. I too, have learnt to appreciate the enriching quality that German literature offers.
Is there a (German) book or (German) author or maybe German film you always return to? If yes, why?
The works of Karoline von Günderrode and Thomas Mann have inspired me throughout my studies in Heidelberg. It is very powerful to see how especially Günderrode and Mann both wrote about themes such as the environment and intercultural interactions.
Which is your favorite city/ place in Germany and which in the UK/Ireland and why? Are there any similarities or differences?
Heidelberg is one of my most favourite cities in Germany. I admire the beauty of the Neckar river and the forests which create a picturesque landscape. The combination of the lovely Altstadt combined with the tranquility of the botanical garden makes Heidelberg a place full of tradition and also great adventures. Despite the fact that Heidelberg is not as large as London, it is a city full of warmth in its people and a city that exhibits a culture of tolerance, diversity and beautiful architecture, similarly to London. The river and the castle are great inspirations for creative writing.
Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one and where have you learned it?
I would still require the recipe but one of the best recipes I baked with a good friend of mine has to be Marmorkuchen. Marble cake is delicious. It was great to learn new German words along the process of making the cake together! Intercultural exchange at its best.
What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study/research?
If you are considering to study the German language read widely across different time periods. For example, across my time at Universität Heidelberg I studied literature from Christa Wolf, Günderrode’s prose and poetry and also plays from Schnitzler and Gerhart Hauptmann. I would also advise to start engaging in creative writing in German. I started writing poems in German more frequently especially when in Heidelberg and it made me more confident in my German language skills. Be confident as much as possible and push yourself to speak as much German as possible. The more you speak in German the more you can have good conversations and learn more about German culture and perhaps you could even learn some German proverbs and idioms too!
Are you interested in studying in Germany? Get in touch with your university and enquire about the Turing programme and the funding opportunities to spent some time during your studies in Germany. Further funding opportunities are provided in the DAAD funding database.