"Raclette cook-offs, walks on Philsophenweg, late nights in Heidelberg’s historic university library, parties at one of the oldest fraternities in the world, trips to the Hannover State Archives, pouring over the crumpled memoirs of a 17th Century pfälzische Princess, cycling around the cobbled streets of Heidelberg; these are a handful of salient memories from my year abroad.
In 2006 - 2007 I was lucky enough to be awarded a 12 month scholarship to study at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. The scholarship was arranged through my home university (Cambridge) and was distinct from Erasmus in that there was complete freedom to select from all courses that the University offered. Over the next year, I read modules from the Languages, Sinology and History Faculties and tried my hand at classes ranging from Mandarin to the History of the Ottoman Empire. It was a year of working and playing very hard indeed.
Outside of university I worked for a fairtrade charity in the city centre, initially as a volunteer and later as a member of the payroll. This gave me a chance to meet local HD residents and contribute to an important community project.
Although my original target for the year was to become fluent in German (a target that was achieved thanks to the trip), I actually gained far more than pure linguistic skills from my time in Germany. One of the most valuable takeaways from the of Year Abroad was meeting a culturally diverse group of fellow international students (including my long-term partner) who I still count today among my closest friends. This year we are meeting in Heidelberg to celebrate our fifth year reunion. From an academic perspective, the year in Heidelberg allowed me to experience new courses at a leading university, in addition to developing my research and analytical skills through archival research for my third year dissertation. Studying in Germany, also gave me the chance to compare and contrast first-hand the different research methodologies of two different academic institutions.
Upon graduation I worked in the not-for-profit sector for a year before joining a leading international bank as an International Manager. In my role with the bank, I am one of a cadre of globally mobile managers who rotate between countries and business lines according to business need. Adaptability is key and my experiences of adapting to life in Germany during the Year Abroad greatly helped me to prepare for this career path.
Five years on from the Year Abroad, I look back on my time in Heidelberg fondly and feel very lucky and privileged to have had the chance to partake in the Scholarship. I will always remember my Year Abroad for the formative role it played in my personal and professional development and am thankful to both Cambridge and Heidelberg Universities for making it possible. Long live the Year Abroad!"