A total of 50 guest stu­dents had planned to come to Halle for the past sum­mer semes­ter. Twelve of them have actu­al­ly enrolled and have attend­ed their cours­es online. But no more than two stu­dents real­ly made it to Halle, one of them being John Bermudez Vera. He is major­ing in Food Tech­nol­o­gy and came here from the coastal city of Valen­cia in Spain. Orig­i­nal­ly John comes from Colom­bia. In this inter­view, he tells how things went for him in Halle in the time of COVID-19.

What made you go for an Eras­mus semes­ter?
I am a very open-mind­ed per­son and I enjoy get­ting to know oth­er cul­tures and new peo­ple. I see Eras­mus as a chance to expe­ri­ence this.

And why did you choose Ger­many?
That is hard to explain, as I used to be quite fran­cophile and Ger­many was not exact­ly a des­ti­na­tion I con­sid­ered. But then I became friends with some­one who did his ex­change in Spain, and since then we’ve been vis­it­ing each oth­er and I came to Ger­many once in a while. That’s when I saw that going to Ger­many was not as bad an idea as I used to think. The gov­ern­ment, the peo­ple and the cities seemed quite inter­est­ing to me. And then I thought I should make use of this lan­guage which I’ve learnt a lit­tle through our friend­ship and which I didn’t speak one bit before that. That’s where I want­ed to improve. Besides, beer is very excit­ing for me as a stu­dent of Food Tech­nol­o­gy because it is pro­duced with microor­gan­isms, and Ger­many is a beer coun­try. (chuck­les)

Foto: Mile­na Giskes

How were things going when you start­ed your semes­ter abroad in the time of COVID-19?
Very bad­ly. Eras­mus is all about going to lec­tures, attend­ing “real” class­es and get­ting to know new fel­low stu­dents. But none of this was pos­si­ble due to COVID. As every­thing took place dig­i­tal­ly, I could ask no ques­tions to my pro­fes­sors in per­son, just via email. Then I had to wait for the answer, some­times a day, some­times two. And all was done in Ger­man. That was not an easy task. But all has turned out well and I passed the exams. Still, it took some effort to arrange these, too. The pro­fes­sors assumed that I was in Spain and they could not meet me for the orals – when I was here all along, since Feb­ru­ary. (chuck­les)
Anoth­er impor­tant point: As an Eras­mus
stu­dent you usu­al­ly get to know many fel­low Eras­mus stu­dents from oth­er coun­tries. Unfor­tu­nate­ly this did not apply to me. I didn’t get to meet any of them, which is a real shame.

So how did you get to know peo­ple here?
For one thing, here in the dorm. At first, I was liv­ing alone in the shared flat, but one by one more peo­ple arrived. For anoth­er, I made a great catch with my bud­dy pro­gramme part­ner. He intro­duced me to his friends, which was real­ly nice.

Beyond the bud­dy pro­gramme, has there been fur­ther sup­port from the uni?
Not real­ly. How­ev­er, one of the faculty’s pro­fes­sors, Corin­na Brand­sch, has helped me a lot with reg­is­ter­ing my Bach­e­lor the­sis and get­ting in touch with oth­er pro­fes­sors. I even met her in per­son and she has helped me a lot in my sit­u­a­tion. I can always ask her for advice. Besides, I get help from friends.

How did you expe­ri­ence the time of COVID-19 in gen­er­al?
It’s safe for me to say that I’ve been lucky to have stayed in Ger­many, as things were worse in Spain. Before the lock­down I phoned my tutor and she advised me to stay here. I can’t say it was a bad Eras­mus expe­ri­ence because sure, I can’t do the things I should nor­mal­ly do, but it is a pan­dem­ic after all and the whole world is a dif­fi­cult place. So it’s fine for an Eras­mus semes­ter … in a pandemic.

Now that the semes­ter is over, what are your plans, what is next for you?
I have just sub­mit­ted my Bach­e­lor the­sis, which means I have fin­ished study­ing. Cur­rent­ly I am in a two week place­ment in the Lands­berg­er brew­ery which is close to Halle. This means I must get up very ear­ly, but oth­er­wise it is great fun. After­wards I want to remain in Ger­many because I think there are more oppor­tu­ni­ties for me here. Lat­er this month, I will move to Berlin, where I have a cir­cle of Ger­man and Span­ish friends. This makes quite a dif­fer­ence for me because it makes me feel more like at home. In fact, I am some­what sad to leave Halle because I have got very good friends here as well. But fortu­nately I’m stay­ing in Ger­many and Berlin is not that far away.

Trans­la­tion: Kon­rad Dieterich

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