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German Sport University Cologne study abroad experience (Vol. 1)

From October 1, 2019 to March 11, 2020, Mr. Ryo Morikawa, a Master’s degree student of sport sciences at Waseda University, visited German Sport University Cologne as a visiting student through the Top Global University Program. Below is a report from Mr. Morikawa.

2020 Top Global University Project
Health Promotion: The Joy of Sports and Exercise
Graduate Students Academic Travel Support

Return Report

Graduate School of Sport Sciences, Waseda University
Master’s Degree Student
Ryo Morikawa
German Sport University Cologne, Germany

1. About the Program

This report is about the exchange semester I’ve spent in German Sport University Cologne. The program was established as a part of Top Global University Project: Waseda Goes Global.

2. German Sport University of Cologne

My partner Alex

German Sport University (GSU) is located in Cologne in Nordrhein-Westfalen, western Germany.  GSU is Germany’s only and Europe’s largest sport university. GSU has been paying a lot of attention to create a global environment. International students increased from 62 countries in 2012 to 93 countries in 2019.  Staff of the international office had welcomed me very kindly, and the support they gave to the exchange students was just astonishing.

One of the systems which helped me out a lot and I enjoyed the most was the system called “Buddy system.” Each exchange student is assigned to a partner from GSU whose role is to show around the campus. But most of the buddies did not only just stop with a tour guide around the school. My partner was Alex, and we became very close. He showed me around the city and how to live and enjoy the life in Germany like a German. The first 2 months would have been much harder for me if he wasn’t there.

3. Classes

I spent my semester in  Germany as a Master’s degree student of Human Technology in Sports and Medicine (TSM).

Timetable at the class

One thing that amazed me about German education was that it shows you a clear vision of what kind of skills you can acquire and what kind of future career you may get. When you could visualize what kind of career you want to pursue, it is much easier to focus on what you are lacking and work on it for improvement and to become one step closer to your vision.

There were 2 characteristics about German classes that made the studying more efficient and effective. The first point is that it puts a lot of focus on the output. Every theory seminar required you to give a presentation and express your opinion about the topic of discussion. The second thing was that all lecturers cooperated with each other to relate all the classes to each other. For example, in the Biomechanics Lab on Wednesdays, we would capture data, and in the Data Programming class on Mondays, we would process the data we had captured last week. Besides this, I did some statistical test to the processed data on Monday afternoon.

4. Life in Cologne

I’ll summarize the life in Cologne by 3 topics: food culture, soccer, and friendship among the exchange students.

A. Food in Cologne
Needless to say, Germany has one of the best beer in the world. Every region has its own kind of beer, and the beer in Cologne is called Kolsch. We drink Kolsch with a Kolsch glass, specifically designed to drink Kolsch. Many Kolsch brands has their own restaurant, and these restaurant are called Brauhouse. There, you can get authentic, high quality German food. Every dish makes you want to Kolsh, and you’ll understand why beer is so popular in Germany.

b. Soccer
The popularity of soccer was much bigger than I had imagined. There are more than 80,000 seats in a stadium, but they are sold out every single match.  The biggest difference I felt when compared with Japanese soccer match was the intensity and tension. The stadium in the Bundesliga are all made for soccer matches, so there are no spaces between the field and the seats which makes it more real and somehow makes us feel that we are all in this together. Also, the slope of the seats are very high and the supporter seems like a screaming wall.

Soccer in Germany also made me think about the happiness of life and work. I met soccer players from the 6th and 5th divisions trying to climb the way up to the 3rd or 4th divisions where they can make a career out of soccer. They hav part-time jobs in the morning and train in the afternoon. People pursue their dream trying to overcome the odds and a difficult time. They might not have it all, but their eyes were shining bright, and it made me think that my happiness does not lie in stability or money but pursuit of dreams or trying to be a better version of yourself.

Bundesliga soccer matches in Cologne

5. Conclusion

To whomever thinking about attending an exchange program abroad, please do not hesitate and take a leap of faith. I felt scared thinking of things such as what if my English level was not enough or what if I couldn’t get along with the classmates. But when I look back, I don’t know why I had these negative thoughts. Please look at the bright side and think positively about going abroad. Your English might not be good enough but that means that you have more room for improvement than anyone else. If you don’t have experience living abroad, spending time abroad will be the first chance to learn about life abroad. Think positively, and take a leap of faith. I promise you that you will not regret it.

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