Here you can read personal accounts from DAAD South Africa partners, DAAD alumni members, DAAD scholarship holders and friends of the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg. If you have an experience with or story about DAAD South Africa, we would be happy to post it! Please send an email to daad@wits.ac.za.


Living in South Africa and travelling almost 13 000 Km to get to Germany, I realised that I have been living in a bubble my whole life, and that the world is much bigger and more diverse than what I had anticipated.

Andrea Theron, ISAP University Exchange, Justus Liebig University Giessen

Read more about Andrea's experience in Germany here...

I was a participant in the Justus Liebig University’s Spring Course and Summer Semester in Giessen, Germany. Coming from North-West University in South Africa to Germany was by all accounts a once in a lifetime opportunity. Adjusting to the different way of life on the other side of the world was a bit of a challenge: their “spring,” I realised with a shock, was much like South Africa’s winter. But soon I settled in with the help of the amazing people and friendships that I have formed here.

Living in South Africa and travelling almost 13 000 Km to get here, I realised that I have been living in a bubble my whole life, and that the world is much bigger and more diverse than what I had anticipated. Coming here, I experienced a taste not just of Germany, but I met people from all corners of the globe such as Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Greece and more and got to experience their languages and culture and had the chance to show them mine. I formed not only close friendships with other international students, but with the South African girls that I came here with (we are in total six girls from the North-West University), and in this experience I did not only get to know other foreign cultures and languages, but even those from my home country such as Tswana and Zulu as we were such a diverse group.

My experience in Germany has definitely taught me so much about the world in general and about myself as a person, and I cannot wait to experience more of it in the future. I will, with no doubt, look back to this experience gratefully and with fondness, and I have the DAAD to thank for making this dream-like experience a reality. As you would say in German: Dankeschön! I know that when I leave at the end of my stay here, my heart will be full of mixed emotions as I will look forward to going home but at the same time I will grieve to leave this beautiful and diverse country.

I am really grateful for this great experience and excited for those who are yet to be given the opportunity to experience what I have experienced.

Sharon Modiko, ISAP University Exchange, Justus Liebig University Giessen

Read more about Sharon's Experience in Germany here...

I was nominated from my home university (NWU Mafikeng Campus) to be part of the exchange programme at the partnering university in Germany, Justus Liebig University, in Giessen. I am currently busy with my Masters in Sociology.  Coming to Germany has broadened my horizons as I get to attend classes that I am interested in and it helps a lot with regards to my academic life. All this would have not been easy without the support from the DAAD scholarship, which really comes in handy with regards to ensuring that I get to explore more by travelling, meeting new people and making my stay here in Germany more comfortable. I am really grateful for this great experience and excited for those who are yet to be given the opportunity to experience what I have experienced.

My time in Germany was not what I had expected and yet it was everything I could have asked for. It was strange at first with limited language skills, but slowly the surroundings and the people along with my confidence in this environment was increased exponentially.

Pierré Müller, University Winter Course

Read more about Pierré's experience in Germany here...

I was a participant in the Aachen-Berlin programme for German language and culture in January/February of 2019. My time in Germany was not what I had expected and yet it was everything I could have asked for. It was strange at first with limited language skills, but slowly the surroundings and the people along with my confidence in this environment was increased exponentially. Having visited the east and west of Germany, it was amazing to be so consumed by the German Culture. To see iconic structures such as the Berliner Dom, Brandenburg Gate, Kölner Dom and the Berlin Television Tower was truly an experience. Visiting the smaller places such as Monschau, Kornelimümster, Dreilandereck and Potsdam was also a good experience. I also met so many new friends. Some that I would have contact with forever. Doing all the activities such as going to the theatre, field trips and ice scatting (which was a first for me) with them was a lot fun.  I was also happy that I got to visit the Netherlands and Belgium. Time well spent and I would do it anytime again.

Because of the funding, I was able to increase my publication, got promoted and changed my title from Dr to Prof.

Professor M. K. Mhlolo, DIES ProGRANT Workshop in Germany

Read more about Professor Mhlolo experience in Germany here...

I have attended two DAAD DIES ProGRANT Workshops. One on Proposal Writing at the University of Cape Town in June 2014, the second as a DAAD alumni member at the Coordination Centre of the University of Cologne in December 2017. This second workshop hosted at the Coordination Centre of the University of Cologne aimed at strengthening the alumni’s skills in teaching in higher education. The assumption was that the members of the DIES ProGRANT Alumni Network had successfully completed each of the three ProGRANT phases and are, thus, advanced in proposal writing. This group of individuals represented a high-potential pool of professionals that would be crucial multipliers for proposal writing and subject specific knowledge. The idea is that the participants of this higher-level workshop would take on the role of trainers in their own institutions.

How has my participation in DIES courses informed my work here in South Africa? Let us recall that the two primary functions of higher education institutions will always be excellent teaching and research. Most university organograms today reflect these two primary functions. In the Central University of Technology – Free State, I am an Assistant Dean responsible for Research Innovation & Engagement in the Faculty of Humanities. My role is to promote research among the academic staff members and my motto as a leader is simple: I won’t ask you to do anything I’m not willing to do myself. To be worthy of this motto DIES has supported me to perfect my grants proposal writing skills according to international standards, and more recently DIES empowered me to design and develop a seminar/workshop on Academic Writing. As a result of my participation in the DIES courses, I was successful in getting funding for my research on Mathematical Giftedness. This in turn enabled me to recruit 3 PhD students, 5 Masters students and 2 Honours students all funded from the project. Because of the funding, I was able to increase my publication, got promoted and changed my title from Dr to Prof. More recently I got an National Research Foundation (NRF) rating and in terms of multiplying those skills in the institution I deliver workshops and seminars on grantsmanships and academic writing. I’m proud to be a DAAD Alumni!

On account of the scholarship, I came under tutelage of globally-renowned and highly venerated marine geologists such as Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer and Prof. Dr. Burghard Flemming.

Professor Effiom Edem Antia, PhD in Germany

Read more about Professor Antia's journey here...

My name is Effiom Edem Antia. I am a Professor of Geological and Physical Oceanography at the University of Calabar, Nigeria. It is most befitting that I seized the opportunity to visit the DAAD Stand at the Science Forum South Africa in Pretoria in December 2018 to register my deep appreciation to DAAD for charting my professional career through a  doctoral scholarship from 1988 - 1992 at the University of Bremen (FB 5 – Geosciences) and Senckenberg Institute of Marine Geology and Marine Biology in Wilhelmshaven.

On account of the scholarship, I came under tutelage of globally-renowned and highly venerated marine geologists such as Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer and Prof. Dr. Burghard Flemming. Prof. Dr. Dieter Futterer at Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven served as my PhD examiner. The legacies of these mentors remain a source of inspiration, while the Bremen education is pivotal to the following status I have attained:

  • First alumnus of my home University (University of Calabar, Nigeria) to attain a Professorial rank in Africa
  • First Professor of Oceanography in the Nigerian University System
  • First Professor of Oceanography to be elected as Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science; and
  • First Professor of Oceanography to be elected as Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences.

Thank you DAAD, thank you University of Bremen/Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, and thank you Captain Karl Kommer and crew of the vessel FK Senckenberg for the over 5000 hours of routine North Sea cruises.

Effiom Edem Antia, Dr.rer.nat., FAS, FAAS

Professor of Geological and Physical Oceanography

Faculty of Oceanography

University of Calabar, Nigeria

Yes! International education for mothers is possible with proper planning and enough support, both emotional and financial.

Petronella Saal, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit

Read more about Petronella's experience in Germany here...

The moment we landed at Frankfurt, I felt welcomed. This is due to the fact that one migration police officer made me feel that I belonged. He was amazed that I am from South Africa but shared the same surname as him, “Saal.” My partner, my two children (aged 2 and 6) and I moved into a two-bedroom guesthouse that is fully furnished. The University of Siegen, where I am conducting my short-term research, also pays half of the guesthouse’s rent.

There are so many things that I love about being here in Germany! Firstly, it is safer than South Africa. I am not surrounded by high walls and burglar bars, neither is the school my daughter is attending. Education is FREE, from day-care straight to university. I have uncapped internet connection, for FREE. Students and pupils travel for FREE with public transport, which includes busses and trains. I even have a television with more than a 180 channels to watch. I have not seen any reckless driving so far. However, I have to look twice just to make sure that there is a driver in the car. My supervisor also had to ensure that my children get car seats, since children cannot be transported in a car without car seats. So far, I have experience Germans as law-abiding citizens and people that love proper planning.

So, where am I and what am I doing? I am continuing my PhD (article-based) under the supervision of Prof Ingo Witzke and Dr Melanie Platz, at the University of Siegen in Siegen, a smaller town in Germany. My study focusses on the implementation of educational technology in mathematics instruction in primary schools. The study is mixed method and comparative between Germany and South Africa. Dr Melanie Platz arranged an office for me right next to hers. I felt honoured, because in South Africa I had to work in the research commons. The cherry on the cake is that here I am regarded as a guest lecturer where I was just another PhD student in South Africa. For the rest of this year I will still be writing articles on my findings in South Africa, but will start with data collection in German primary schools early next year.

I still have to remind myself while doing shopping that the price you see is in Euro and not Rand. For example, I bought a jacket for my daughter that was 29.99 Rand according to me, but the price was in Euro! Meaning I paid about 500 Rand! I had to make peace with the fact that the exchange rate between Rand and Euro is mostly 16 Rand, so I had to adjust our lifestyle accordingly.

Yes! International education for mothers is possible with proper planning and enough support, both emotional and financial. I would like to thank the DAAD, both the team in Johannesburg and in Bonn. They were always so helpful and never delayed in responding to my endless emails. I am forever grateful to them. With the support of my partner Maj. Solomzi Myeni, travelling from South Africa to Germany with several suitcases and two children was so easy and convenient. I do not think I would have been able to manage without his support. I am excited for the busy year ahead with my family in Germany!

I have not seen much yet and there is loads to explore in Europe. I would recommend this trip to every student who wants to broaden their horizons.

Siviwe Majali, CPUT - Ravensburg University Exchange Programme

Read more about Siviwe's experience in Germany here...

My experience in Europe has been one of the best experiences of my life. It is a new life started at the age of 20. What I am currently experiencing here is one of the things I never came across before. CPUT had selected me to be part of the exchange program. The culture is not that shocking because we have been doing studies around Germany as a country before our departure.

When it comes to the German education system it is way different than how we do it at home. I have not seen much yet and there is loads to explore in Europe. I would recommend this trip to every student who wants to broaden their horizons.

Most importantly I get to meet new people from other countries, make friends and tell them about my country and school and also learn more about their cultures.

Mihle Tyala, CPUT - Ravensburg Exchange Programme

Read more about Mihle's experience in Germany here...

I haven’t even been here for a month but the experience is great: learning a bit of German in class, attending the Octoberfest, travelling to Switzerland to the Rhine falls, going to Stuttgart. Most importantly I get to meet new people from other countries, make friends and tell them about my country and school and also learn more about their cultures. I am enjoying Europe so much and still looking forward to more traveling! It is a great experience!

I was the only South African at the Institute so I was slightly nervous, but I was quickly adopted by the 30+ Brazilians that had also received DAAD scholarships. With them I got to visit many places and form some of the most beautiful friendships that are still lasting now, 6 months later.

Anna Du Plessis, University Winter Course

Read more about Anna's experience in Germany here...

I applied for the DAAD Hochschulwinterkurs scholarship in Düsseldorf in August 2017. I was then informed that I had received the scholarship in November 2017. My journey started on the 1st of January as I left Cape Town to fly to Düsseldorf. I had applied for this scholarship with the hope of meeting new people and learning more about the German language and was completely blown away by what I experienced. In the 7 weeks spent in Germany, I learned a lot about this beautiful language at the IIK-Düsseldorf (Internationale Institut für Kommunikation). My favourite part, however, was meeting all the people from different countries all over the world. I was the only South African at the Institute so I was slightly nervous, but I was quickly adopted by the 30+ Brazilians that had also received DAAD scholarships. With them I got to visit many places and form some of the most beautiful friendships that are still lasting now, 6 months later. It was amazing to form such wonderful friendships and gain this experience in Germany with people from other countries.

Some of my favourite experiences included going to Berlin and Luxembourg with my newly acquired friends/family and experiencing everything it had to offer. I would definitely recommend applying for this scholarship as it taught me so many new things about the language and people in Germany and definitely moulded me into becoming a different and perhaps better person.

This winter course has given me the opportunity to get to know the everyday life of Germans and to better my German. I saw a lot of great places in Germany and also visited the Netherlands during my stay. This has really been a dream come true!

Lee-Ann Amsterdam, University Winter Course

Read more about Lee-Ann's experience in Germany here...

As a person who gets anxious outside my comfort zone, I was initially very scared to travel to Germany for the Hochschulwinterkurs in Essen, Germany. I did not know what to expect, but after 6 weeks I fell in love with Germany and met a lot of great people from all over the world. I enjoyed this course a lot and took away a great deal from the German lessons and excursions. This winter course has given me the opportunity to get to know the everyday life of Germans and to better my German. I saw a lot of great places in Germany and also visited the Netherlands during my stay. This has really been a dream come true! My first visit to Germany has been a remarkable experience that will always stay with me. A big thank you to DAAD and and the Winter Course 2018 in Essen!

While I was waiting for a train on my last night in Germany, I saw my reflection in another train passing by. I realized that the person in the reflection was not quite the same person who arrived six weeks before. I learned so much, grew so much emotionally and a lot of my dreams became a reality.

Nicci Harmse, University Winter Course,

Read more about Nicci's experience in Germany here...

 

On the eve of my last examination of my three year Language and Literature degree, I received news that I had been waiting to hear for three months, namely that I had been awarded a DAAD scholarship to attend a language course for six weeks in Kassel, Germany. My time in Germany was truly amazing and unforgettable. I learned so much about Germany’s rich history, saw the most beautiful buildings, improved my German language ability so much, and met the kindest people along the way. At the same time I also learned a lot about other countries, cultures and languages.

While I was waiting for a train on my last night in Germany, I saw my reflection in another train passing by. I realized that the person in the reflection was not quite the same person who arrived six weeks before. I learned so much, grew so much emotionally and a lot of my dreams became a reality. I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity. DAAD – no words will ever be enough to describe my thankfulness for this life-changing experience. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this experience.

Listening to the stories and experiences of other DAAD Alumni members from Africa has encouraged us to look into possibilities to do our Master degrees in Germany in the future. We would love to learn more about the interesting country with its friendly and open people.

Funani Owen Ramalamula, 2nd World University Challenge, Munich

Read more about Funani's experience in Germany here...

My two friends, Simphiwe Obed Zwane  and Charles Ngcobo, and I won an all-expense paid trip to Munich, Germany in the 1st University Challenge Africa, hosted at the IFAT Africa Science Fair in South Africa in 2017. Travelling to Germany was a great experience, since it was our first time travelling out of Africa. We were overwhelmed on arrival by the love the German people showed us, the transport system and the infrastructures. Before competing in the 2nd World University Challenge, we got to tour Munich and learnt a lot about Bavarian culture and history. We also attended a social event, a Bavarian Night, where we got to meet DAAD Alumni who later showed us a ton of support during the competition. We competed against students from Germany, Jordan, India, Turkey and China and won 1st place for Integrated Water Resource Management. Listening to the stories and experiences of other DAAD Alumni members from Africa has encouraged us to look into possibilities to do our Master degrees in Germany in the future. We would love to learn more about the interesting country with its friendly and open people.

Wits University’s size amazed me immediately. There is such a different vibe here that I have never experienced in Germany. Since the campus is not only a place of study but also the place I call home, I feel a strong sense of community among the students, who never let you feel homesick.

Duy Linh Nguyen, Exchange Student from Hamburg University

Read more about Linh's experience in South Africa here...

My name is Duy Linh Nguyen. I am a 22-year-old exchange student at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. As a part of my 4-year degree in International Geography at Hamburg University in Germany, I have chosen Wits University to spend my year abroad.  Coming to a new country and a new school system, my first 2 months have been joyful and full of excitement. Joburg welcomed me with heavy showers as I landed in OR Tambo Airport and these showers have gradually became my favorite thing about the city.

Wits University’s size amazed me immediately. There is such a different vibe here that I have never experienced in Germany. Since the campus is not only a place of study but also the place I call home, I feel a strong sense of community among the students, who never let you feel homesick.  My classes also bring students and professors closer together through serious, yet sometimes emotional discussions about the problems South Africa faces: poverty, inequality or pollution. The passionate discussion sessions, where students speak from their hearts and defend what they believe in are a real inspiration for me.

Outside campus you find another world: the concrete jungle of Johannesburg. Joburg and its people make my heart beat fast and often spread a smile on my face. I have lived in big cities my whole life, but the unique culture and energy of this city make me curious to learn more every day. Walking down the streets and listening to the inhabitants who do not hesitate to tell me their stories has helped me learn so much more than I ever imagined. Listening to other people’s stories is the best way to make life-long friendships. I always remind myself of that every day. I hope this experience will contribute greatly to my field of interest in the geography of inequality and urbanism. Two months have gone by, eight more to come. I can’t wait to be exposed more to the exciting stories and possibilities here.

I was surprised to meet many people from different countries, such as Serbia, India, and Tanzania etc. I thought Germany was a country where there is no diversity of people. I also found out that German people are so friendly and welcoming; they do not like people who do not respect time, though!

Mikasi Sello Given, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit

Read more about Mikasi's experience in Germany here...

Firstly I would like to express my gratitude to the DAAD-NRF Scholarship for giving me an opportunity to do a Short-Term Research Visit at the University of Wurzburg in Germany during my Master studies in 2016. Germany is an extremely exciting and beautiful country to me. It is very, very safe.

During my first week, I made new friends with whom I explored the city with. I was surprised to meet many people from different countries, such as Serbia, India, and Tanzania etc. I thought Germany was a country where there is no diversity of people. I also found out that German people are so friendly and welcoming; they do not like people who do not respect time, though!

Academically I did very well. My host professor was an understanding person. He also advised me to tour around Wurzburg to see the beauty of the city. I visited places like the Residence, the famous castle (Marienburg Fotress) and Alte Mainbruecke (a bridge), where people sit and drink beer. Each weekend I went out with friends for supper, drinks and wine as the city is known as the centre of the Franconian wine country. While in Germany, I also got an opportunity to attend a conference at Erlangen, Germany. I had to use a train every morning to attend the conference, which was a great experience as they have a good transport system. The DAAD-NRF Scholarship gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn and gain international exposure from a University with an excellent research reputation.

Diversity, Honesty, Kindness and Vitality. These words best describe my experience in South Africa over 10 months as the DAAD Language Assistant in the German Department of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Nina Keller, DAAD Language Assistant at Wits University, 2017

Read more about Nina's experience in South Africa here...

As language assistant I taught language, culture and conversation classes in all three years of German Studies. This gave me the opportunity to engage with many different students and cultures. During my year at Wits, I had a lot of freedom to create the schedule for my courses, to conduct various field trips or to start different projects with the students. In cooperation with the former director of DAAD South Africa, Ms Philina Wittke, we did a multimedia project with the Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Mozambique to enhance intercultural exchange and highlight the importance of German language and cultural education in Africa. I also conceptualized and edited a magazine for the German Department, Wits-Herzschlag, which is funded by the German Embassy in South Africa. The magazine publishes literary work of the German students, news about German Studies projects and produces a platform for creativity within the German department.

Thus, the DAAD Language Assistant programme offers a wonderful opportunity to gain insight not only into teaching but into project planning and intercultural communication as well. Many thanks go to the School of Literature, Language and Media at Wits and the German Department with Anette Horn as Head of Department. I must, however, especially thank the DAAD South Africa Team and Ms Philina Wittke who served as my mentor. Without their help and encouragement I would not have come so far. Vielen Dank!

I am very grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the German Academic Exchange Service and would highly recommend this position to any young teacher in Germany who would like to engage with the wonderful people and diverse cultures of South Africa.

My studies in Germany through the DAAD support afforded me valuable international study experience. I definitely had a major fulfilling exposure and access to the high quality academic standards and state of the art facilities that Germany remains revered for.

Professor Pamela Dube, Master and PhD at the University of Siegen

Read more about Professor Dube's experience in Germany here...

Professor Pamela Dube completed her Masters and her PhD in English Studies in Siegen, Germany. For both, she received a DAAD scholarship. Today, she is the Dean of Students at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town.

  • 1990 – 1992 MA, Anglistik, University of Siegen
  • 1993 – 1996 PhD, Anglistik, University of Siegen

This is how she remembers her stay in Germany:

My studies in Germany through the DAAD support afforded me valuable international study experience. I definitely had a major fulfilling exposure and access to the high quality academic standards and state of the art facilities that Germany remains revered for. Being the largest economy in the heart of Europe, Germany provides a rich holistic international study experience. I benefitted immensely from the broad scope of intellectual and cultural activities Germany always has on offer as well as from the intercultural and academic networks within the country and beyond as I made utmost use of the opportunities to travel to other European cities. In addition, my acquired proficiency in the German language has not only enriched my academic network base, or my access to the wealth of German language heritage as expressed in the cultural, social and economic ethos of the country, but also won me valuable everlasting friendships.

The value of the international education exposure and experience I have had is reflected in the kind of the responsibilities and positions I have held in my career which all have aspects of advancement through international collaborations. I have been instrumental across all my roles in government, research councils and higher education institutions in fostering and promoting international cooperation and partnerships in research, capacity building and exchange of shared expertise. My Germany Alma Mater, the University of Siegen has also played a major role in this. As cliché as it may be, I believe, the high regard for quality of German academic standards as well as of the country’s work ethos has more often than not also stood me in good stead to access the kind of job opportunities I have had.

Being so far away from home has enabled me to be independent, to grow as a person, to treat both the challenges and fun times with equal grace and it reminds me everyday why it is important to look at the world with open eyes. It is the best thing that has happened to me.

Merushka Peterson, Master at the Martin-Luther University

Read more about Merushka's experience in Germany here...

Guten Tag! My name is Merushka Peterson and I have been a student at the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) for the past two years in Halle an der Saale; a real student city, which is the largest city in the state of Saxony-Anhalt and its early history is connected with the harvesting of salt.

Initially, I started the Nutritional Sciences Bachelor’s degree which awakened my passion for Economics and in turn, resulted in my studying International Business Economics. Thus far, my experience has been both challenging but also very eventful. Coming from the “Rainbow Nation” where my fellow South Africans are much more extroverted, it took some time to build good friendships. On campus, you cannot help but to feel the buzz floating around, some rushing off to class, others chatting away, and some sitting on the nearest steps reading some schoolwork. A great atmosphere indeed! Just like all German Universities, the MLU is also a university which puts emphasis on quality and is always advancing in the latest research and technology which guarantees the best education.

Of course students need a break too and Halle offers a variety of possibilities to relax, explore the nightlife and to experience the rich German culture; whether it be visiting the biggest chocolate factory in the whole of Germany, enjoying drinks along the “Kleine Ulrichstrasse” which is the longest street filled with bars and restaurants, or strolling along the river Saale and setting up your own little barbeque right there in the middle of a huge green open space and picnicking.

Being so far away from home has enabled me to be independent, to grow as a person, to treat both the challenges and fun times with equal grace and it reminds me everyday why it is important to look at the world with open eyes. It is the best thing that has happened to me.

The only problem I had while in Germany was that I was overwhelmed daily by the level of development and systems in place. Top of the list was the efficient transport system and double-decker trains.

Tebogo Vincent Makhubela, Short-Term Research Grant at the GFZ Helmholtz-Zentrum in Potsdam

Read more about Tebogo's experience in Germany here...

My research visit to Potsdam, Germany: a visit to the whole world.

When I was awarded the DAAD research scholarship to spend two months at the Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ) Potsdam I was very excited! Not only excited for what would be my first travel experience outside Southern Africa, but also excited for the opportunity to visit Germany (very top in my bucket list). I landed at Tegel Airport, in Berlin, on a Thursday afternoon (02 of October 2014) and was lucky enough to have Nonhlanhla (a friend of mine from South Africa studying her Masters at TU Berlin) waiting for me at the airport. Without her there I would have broken down before my two months experience even started. I was extremely exhausted from my two flights (Johannesburg à Frankfurt and Fra à Berlin), bloated with a headache, and needed to complete some forms at the Lufthansa Baggage Office after my luggage was left behind in Frankfurt due to my delayed first flight. Nonhlanhla was my very helpful guardian angel who took me from the airport, treated me to curry wurst lunch at Curry36 in Zoologischer Garten, Berlin, and further accompanied me to Potsdam, around 30 km southwest of Berlin, where I had arranged accommodation.

In Potsdam I stayed in a flat with a young couple: Gerald, a German guy married to Emma a Mexican lady. They were incredible hosts who rented me a bedroom and shared the rest of the flat with me. Staying with them was one of the best things that happened to me in Germany because they took very good care of me. I remember that on my first Saturday they took me to the Sanssouci Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of 18th century palaces and baroque-style gardens. On the following Sunday they took me along to a flea market in Berlin where they sold old stuff that Gerald inherited from his grandmother. We bonded very well during my first four days (Thursday to Sunday) of arrival until I started going to the GFZ from my first Monday, and they started complaining that I was always busy and not spending time with them. They even started suspecting that I had found a German girlfriend haha.

The GFZ Helmholtz-Zentrum in Potsdam was my day home during the entire two months stay. I loved being there because of all the lovely people who work there, as well as all the laboratories I could visit to view and learn about the state-of-the-art instruments and equipment they have. That place is the ideal Disneyland to any geoscientist and I feel very lucky to have worked there with highly skilled people from different parts of the world. While there I even got myself a co-supervisor for my PhD study. I had visited the GFZ to do a short-course on the secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and to do measurements using the Cameca 1280-HR SIMS instrument after the short-course. The SIMS short-course was my best experience in Germany. I was very happy to be in a class with students from different parts of the world: China, Japan, United States and Europe (Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Italy and Bulgaria). This was a great learning opportunity for me at an international level (another bucket list). When the short-course was over I started working at the laboratory, preparing my samples for measurements of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes. My samples were part fossil-bearing sediments collected from caves in the Cradle of Humankind (CoH) UNESCO site, 40 km to the northwest of Johannesburg, where human evolution fossil bones have been discovered. As part of my MSc in geology, I had dated Fe and Mn oxi-hydroxide minerals found in these sediments using 40Ar/39Ar and U-Th-He dating methods. This was part of exploring radiometric dating methods that can be used to date the fossil-bearing cave deposits of the CoH, and thus constrain the ages of the fossils found encased within these deposits. Following the success of dating these sediments, we needed extra information on their formation and evolution, and measurements of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes using the 1280-HR instrument could help us obtain such information.

Unfortunately, the 1280-HR instrument experienced some challenges while I was busy with my measurements and fixing these challenges took over two weeks, due to waiting for the specialist engineer and required parts from Cameca in Paris. Inconvenient as it was, it was also a blessing in disguise. During this time I travelled to Hungary to attend a two day methods in geosciences conference in Sopron, hosted by USRA Houston. After the conference I proceeded to Vienna, Austria, where I spent two days. Upon return to Potsdam and finding out that the 1280-HR was still down I joined two colleagues on a four days trip to Krakow, Poland. Luckily I ended up being able to finish my measurements but at the cost of my planned trip to explore Germany by train. I guess I will visit Munchen, Cologne and Bremen during my next visit to Germany. At least Gerald took me to Nurnberg when we visited his family in Pegnitz for a weekend.

Overall, my research stay in Germany was unarguably the best experience of my life. I enjoyed the German culture, especially that of eating and drinking. The canteen at the GFZ and the Heisser Wolf restaurant, at the Potsdam Haupbahnhof, were heavenly! Contrary to popular stereotypes, Germans are very friendly people, except the cashiers at all supermarkets: Rewe, Kaufland and DM. They refused to help me in English because my German language was non-existent. All I knew was greeting them and saying goodbye. Constructing sentences was a challenge but it will be fixed once I start taking German language classes at the Goethe Institut in Johannesburg. The only problem I had while in Germany was that I was overwhelmed daily by the level of development and systems in place. Top of the list was the efficient transport system and double-decker trains. In fact I remember that the transport system was so efficient such that I got left behind by a train (after being two minutes late) even when there was a strike. Such you never see in South Africa! And so it was a great experience for me. I then realised and concluded that it was the people that were developed in Germany. That is why everything was efficient.

I would recommend a Summer or Winter Course to any student in South Africa who has an interest in Germany and the German language. It offers one the opportunity to learn about other cultures, languages and ways of life. One makes new friends and experiences Germany and its people with them. The memories I have made this August will stay with me forever.

Jaco Herbst, Summer Course at Tübingen University

Read more about Jaco's experience in Germany here...

Four students, myself included, in the German Department at the University of the Witwatersrand had the privilege and pleasure of taking part in the International Summer Course hosted by Tübingen University in Germany this past August.

The students  are Monray Louw and Luca Pontiggia in first-year German, Anwyll de Leeuw in second-year German and yours truly, Jaco Herbst. I finished my Bachelor's in German Studies last year and currently work for DAAD South Africa.

The Summer Course offers intensive German language and culture courses over the month of August at Tübingen University in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Upon arrival we registered and were assigned our rooms. On the second day we wrote a test in order to access our German language skills. We were then divided into classes with those who more or less share our knowledge of German.

Throughout the month, we attended intensive German language classes in the morning and took part in exciting cultural events in the evening. These included theater groups, salsa dancing, film seminars, swabian cooking courses, parties and much more. We had the weekend free to spend time or travel over Europe with our new international friends.

Also included in the course were excursions to towns and interesting landmarks and museums around Tübingen. The best day of the Summer Course by far was the excursion to Constance on the Bodensee. It was rainy and wet but one makes friends so easily with others in the Summer Course that not even bad weather can spoil your collective fun.

I would recommend a Summer or Winter Course to any student in South Africa who has an interest in Germany and the German language. It offers one the opportunity to learn about other cultures, languages and ways of life. One makes new friends and experiences Germany and its people with them. The memories I have made this August will stay with me forever.

A special thanks must go to my director and former German teacher, Philina Wittke, who, shall we say, lightly coerced us into seeing her beautiful country for the first time. I must also thank Tübingen University for awarding us with these scholarships. This Summer Course has changed the way I see the world and there DAAD once again delivers on its mission: Change by Exchange 🙂

I left Tübingen finding myself speaking German to even the airport check-in counter people - where it's probably not the best idea to speak a Language where you may not understand something.

Luca Pontiggia, Summer Course at Tübingen University

Read more about Luca's experience in Germany here...

I arrived in Tübingen with a great willingness to speak as much German as I could, yet as soon as a native speaker spoke to me, I'd panic and just respond, "Entschuldigen, mein Deutsch ist nicht gut, sprechen Sie Englisch," - even if I knew exactly what they asked. I left Tübingen finding myself speaking German to even the airport check-in counter people - where it's probably not the best idea to speak a Language where you may not understand something. 

It's not that I went from A1 level German to fluent in one month - not even close -, it's that I learnt to be okay with making mistakes and to show that I am still learning. My one amazingly beautiful month in Tübingen was filled with the happiest of people, from all different cultures and a multitude of different languages. For example, there was an Israeli guy, studying Medicine in Italy in English, speaking German to a guy working in France from Burkina Faso.

The summer course is the kind of course that gave me back tenfold anything I put in. A shy and unsure hello can turn into ten friends. Ten friends that I explored the city with, ate with, drank with, laughed with and, in the end, cried with. I could not help but want to immerse myself in the many, many activities (Yoga, rock climbing, Salsa, painting, Choir, Theatre…) where I got the opportunity to learn and hear context-based German. From the teachers, tutors and participants to the student-filled streets and picturesque sceneries, the Tübingen Summer course is something that will forever be with me.