Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne
Exchange in Semestesr 2, 2009
Master of Architecture
Hi! It's great that you're interested in Stuttgart for your student exchange. I enjoyed my time in this compact and efficient little city immensely and was very sad to leave its fun-loving people behind. In this report I have tried to include as much practical information as possible to help you make your decision and to give you a head start when you get to Stuttgart. I've included some information about the university, the architecture faculty, daily life, cultural items, sport and travel.
The international team (IZ) took care of the international students exceptionally well. They gave out a very comprehensive information pack with lots of information about accommodation, university and life in Stuttgart before you leave Melbourne. Once in Stuttgart, the IZ organized welcome meetings, excursions and activities throughout the semester for exchange students to meet each other and local students. They were always very friendly and helpful whenever I had to visit them to make enquires.
The processes at the Universitt Stuttgart itself are a little more complicated than at university in Australia, but the instructions in the IZ's information pack were straightforward and easily followed.
The Architecture Faculty has good facilities for architecture students. There is a workshop training course offered early on in the semester so that students can use the workshop later on for model making. There is plenty of studio space available in a building adjacent to the Architecture Faculty.
There is a computer lab with about 40 I-Macs. This lab is pretty busy around the end of semester so it's probably best to have your own laptop. You have to sign your name up to a list so that you have permission to work in the labs later than midnight. This list was sent around mid-semester informally within my studio. Students are given a key to the studio space so you can always access it. This all happens at the start of semester roughly and is outlined in the IZ's information pack.
The Architecture library was very comprehensive but you could only borrow books overnight. The general university libraries let you borrow books for longer periods.
Within the Architecture Faculty an extensive range of electives are offered. These are called Seminare and are similar to lectures. Some of these are quite field-specific and aren't offered at the University of Melbourne, such as 'Wohnatmosphren' 'living atmospheres'.
Apparently anyone is allowed to sit in on lectures in German university as long as there is room. So speak to the lecturer about it during the subject selection period if you'd like to sit in on a lecture but don't need the credit points or if you don't think you will be able to complete all the assessments due to early departure dates.
I didn't need the credit points for Wohnatmosphren but went along to the classes and contributed to a class presentation. I didn't hand in the last assignment as I'd headed back to Australia already for the next semester.
I did one Entwurf (design studio), an elective, Fachsprache Archtektur ('technical language of Architecture') and Wohnatmosphren. The intensive German language course was credited towards my Master of Architecture as elective points. This was useful because I didn't need to do as many subjects during the semester and could concentrate more on my design studio subject, which was all in German and required a little more time. I could also spend more time exploring Stuttgart and other cities around Germany.
The University of Stuttgart is largely a technical university so there are lots of engineers, mathematicians and architects amongst the students. There are 2 other universities in Stuttgart which offer more humanities-based courses. There is also a wine-making school.
The intensive 6 week language course was excellent. It helps both beginners to the German language as well as students who already have fairly fluent German. For students with some fluency, the classes focused on grammar, pronunciation and discussion of topics related to our individual fields of study, and any topics that arose during our stay, such as the election. We undertook a class excursion to the Landstag (State Parliament). In my class there were students from countries as varied as Finland to America, studying fields as diverse as Nuclear Science and Traffic Engineering. This course was a great way to get to know others at a similar level of German language to yourself. I found these first friendships very important during my first months in Stuttgart.ACCOMMODATION
There is a variety of Studentenwohnheime (Student Accommodation) in Stuttgart. Some are in the suburb campus of Vaihingen and some are in the city centre.
The Architecture Faculty is in the city centre, so I would recommend you make a point of asking to live in a Studentenwohnheim in the city centre if you are studying Architecture. The University will send out a form asking you about accommodation so make a point about it on this form.
Vaihingen is a pretty campus with forests surrounding it. The Freibad (outdoor pool) is nearby. Most of the exchange students live on campus in Vaihingen as most of the courses are held there. It is about 20 minutes from the city by S-Bahn.
I enjoyed living in the city as it was close to the Architecture Faculty. I stayed at the Heilmannstrae Studentenwohnheim. It was easy to walk home after spending time in the city at night and easy to explore the city by foot. I shared an apartment with 5 German students. This Wohngemeinschaft (WG) and a neighbouring WG formed a sort of 'family' for me during the semester.
A common issue with exchange students overseas is gaining weight. After experiencing this during a highschool exchange, I was keen for this not to happen again. I shopped at the supermarket Pennymarkt which was 800m or so from my student accommodation. I tried to live mainly off fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products, which were cheap from Pennymarkt. The key items to be wary of are bread and beer, which are both everywhere in Germany.
There was a very beautiful outdoor fresh food market near the U-Bahn Stop, Schlossplatz. The historic square is called Schillerplatz. They sell fresh fruit, vegetables and lots of flowers. The vegetables are fresher and last longer but more expensive than supermarkets.
You can buy food from the Mensa (canteen) at both Vaihingen and the city campus. The food is pretty average but cheap.
Maultaschen are a specialty in Baden Wrttemberg and you can get these in soup at the mensa at the city campus.
There is a food and wine festival around September in Stuttgart, which is enjoyable even just for the atmosphere.
In Baden Wrttemberg there is a tradition called Besenwirtschaft, where winemakers open their doors and offer samples and traditional food on their premises. (Traditionally brooms were put up at their door to indicate that it was this time.) Check out this site for opening times:
The Turks brought Dner Kebab to Germany. These are pretty healthy, well-priced and keep you full for hours.
New clothing is not cheap in Stuttgart but there are sales after Christmas. There is a Flohmarkt (flea market) at the start of semester in Vaihingen where you can get cheap furniture for your room, books and some clothing. There are lots of expensive hairdressers in Stuttgart. I used to go to Top Ten on the Neckarstrae. They gave a good short cut for about 15 Euro, which was very cheap! Say you're a student for discounts.
There are bars on campus in Vaihingen. On the city campus next to the U-Bahn stop Friedrichsbau there is a Mexican restaurant called Cantina, which was a popular spot for cheap cocktails and good food. Matahari in the Stadtmitte was pretty popular with uni students. Schocken and Kellarklub were two popular dancing venues.
The Volksfest is the second biggest festival in Germany, after Oktoberfest and it's in Stuttgart. It's better, in my opinion, because you can enjoy the same fun music and carnival atmosphere, without the extreme crowds. There are rides, tents and traditional Volkslieder.
There is a Christmas Market at the Schlossplatz in December, where you can ice skate and browse through traditional German handcrafted items.
The city of Stuttgart puts on a Welcome Week at the start of semester. This was great and offered opportunities to visit museums and events in Stuttgart (generally for free). There were also events for students like club nights etc. This information is all outlined to students in the IZ's welcome pack.
There is some great architecture in Stuttgart such as James Stirling's art museum, a new Kunstmuseum, the Mercedes Benz Museum, Porsche museum, the Weissenhofsiedlung, Killesburg Turm , as well as the more historical buildings. Check out this site to find good contemporary architecture in any city you visit:
Stuttgart takes excellent care of visitors. Every student gets a free Stadtpass for the first 6 months in Stuttgart. This entitles you to free travel on all trains, (S-Bahn and U-Bahn) and buses. (S-Bahns are heavier-set trains, U-Bahn are light rail that also go under the ground.)
It's worth making the most of the free Stadtpass and spending some time exploring the lines. (Stuttgart is not geographically that big so it doesn't take as long as it would in Melbourne). You will find some beautiful natural spots and interesting architecture in the green suburbs. For example, at the U-Bahn stop called Pragsattel there are beautiful vineyards with walking paths and picnic tables, with views over Stuttgart. The great thing about public transport in Stuttgart is that you don't generally wait more than 5 minutes for the next train, so you really can move quickly.
The discount airline German Wings departs from Stuttgart airport. This is great for getting cheap flights to other European cities. Getting from the city to the airport is really easy with the S-Bahn.
If you are planning to use some of your weekends to travel around Germany then I'd recommend you buy a Bahncard50. This gives you 50% off all high speed ICE trains throughout Germany. These trains are clean, comfortable, fast and on time. It's easy to book seats when you buy your ticket.
There is also a system called Mitfahrgelegenheit. This is a car pooling system organized online. This was popular with German friends who were short on cash. I preferred the train as you didn't have to plan it in advance. If you have run out of money and are with other people Mitfahrgelegenheit might be a good way to get to another city.
If you want to keep fit or meet more people during your exchange you can join up for sports at the university. They have everything from swimming to trampolining, fencing to 'Bauch-Beine-Po' aerobics classes.
There are beautiful running/cycling paths through the Schlossgarten, which runs next to the Hauptbahnhof.
The Freibad (outdoor pool) is open in summer. It has several outdoor pools, water slides and lush lawns for relaxing or playing soccer. I was surprised to discover that the outdoor and indoor pools I visited in Stuttgart seemed to be a free for all. There were no swimming lanes as in Australian pools.
There is also a football stadium in Stuttgart if you want to go see a soccer match.
AND LASTLY, SOME OTHER THINGS
I found Stuttgart to be the perfect sized city for a 6 month exchange and would have happily spent another semester there. It is big enough to have many pockets to explore, but is not so large that one finds it too large to comprehend.
It is centrally located in Europe and easy to travel around. I found the people very friendly and interested in hearing about life in Australia.
I wish I had done an exchange earlier, during my undergraduate years. As it was, I combined this exchange to Stuttgart with 2.5 months of travel around Europe and Northern Africa before the intensive language course began in September.
I had saved most of my wage from my year out working in between the Bachelor or Architecture and Master of Architecture. I spent about $18,000 (excluding accommodation*) over the 2.5 months travelling beforehand, on life in Stuttgart, weekend trips around Germany and 3 weeks traveling around Scandinavia over the Christmas break.
(*The state Baden Wrttemberg offers a scholarship for students studying at the University of Stuttgart. It is generally about 300 Euro a month, which easily covered the cost of accommodation. A requirement of this scholarship is participation in the intensive language course.)
It's definitely worth trying to combine travel with your study, especially if you're an architecture student.
All the best in preparing for your exchange. I am sure you will enjoy life in Stuttgart as much as I did!
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