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Vallendar: Different.

Different.

This enigmatic word can take on numerous meanings depending on the context in which it’s used.

In some instances it can take on a negative meaning, implying something is not the way one wants it to be.

But in the case of my first week studying abroad in Vallendar, Germany, it is only used in the most positive way possible.

Vallendar itself is a quiet, quaint town in central Germany. Most of the full-time residents are well past their college years, but students definitely still dominate the town. The primary attraction to the area is the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, bringing people from around the world to the village to get a degree in business.

This international draw was evident from the moment I arrived at my flat just five minutes from campus. As I walked up to the second floor of the building to move into my room, I heard numerous languages being spoken. Naturally, German was one of those languages, but Chinese was among them, along with French and Spanish. I could tell right away that I would be exposed to many cultures during my four month stay.

Then came the numerous orientation activities. This further expanded the cultural reach, as I met people from even more countries and walks of life. I quickly became well known at the university by bringing real Wisconsin maple syrup…and presenting it to the exchange students shortly after the Canadians talked about how maple syrup is a big product from their home country.

Finally, we just began classes on Monday. The first thing I noticed was how long the classes were. Back at UW-Madison, the longest class I’ve taken was one hour and 15 minutes long. Here in Vallendar, my first three classes were all three hours. Granted we get a break in the middle of the session, but that’s still a long time on the same subject in one day. The other thing that stood out to me was how sporadic the schedule was, as some of my classes vary greatly in location and time from week to week.

With all this said, I’m greatly looking forward to my time at WHU. The campus has great spirit, and despite the fact that its 1,400 student population pales in comparison to that of UW-Madison, it makes up for it by creating a tight-knit community that fosters relationship-building and professional development. Like I said earlier, it’s different, but certainly in the most positive light.

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