Fulbright scholars experience San Antonio, call Trinity home

This semester Trinity will be hosting a group of German students as part of the Discover America Via San Antonio program.

“With the support and cooperation of the German-American Fulbright Commission TU will host 20 German university students for DASA from August 17-September 5. DASA has three main elements: inclusion of the Germans in International Student Orientation and New Student Orientation, an ESL-type customized course, titled “˜American Society and Culture,’ and enrollment in a bona fide TU course, “˜Exploring Entrepreneurial Opportunities: Social Entrepreneurship.’ The visitors will be housed in TU dorms with resident mentors,” said Peter O’Brien, professor of political science and coordinator of the program.

Current Trinity upperclassman probably cannot recall something like this ever happening at Trinity before. So, how did this all come about?

“A Fulbright is an exchange between United States and all kinds of different countries. In fact, all the countries with which the United States has formal diplomatic relations,” O’Brien said.

The students found out about the DASA program in a number of different ways, including from their high schools and families. When asked why they became interested in the program and why they wanted to come to the United States, answers varied.

“I was thinking about studying in the US for my master’s [degree], since the US is really good in psychology and that’s what I want to do,” said Winuss Mohtezebsade, from Hesse. “I [also] wanted to see how college life is in the U.S. and if it was the right thing for me.”

“The main reason why I wanted to participate in this program is that our main topic is Social Entrepreneurship, and I’m planning to go [into a] career in that field,” said Nadiya Taghipour, from Cologne. “So I thought it would be a good experience to be in a country like this, because social entrepreneurship is also very strong here in the US.”

“First of all, I wanted to come to the US because I wanted to gain some experiences, to experience campus life in the US, and I’m really interested in spending the semester abroad. And I also want to study in an English-speaking country, especially in the US, and I also want to improve my language skills,” said Mohammad Khanjar, from Berlin.

“I’m also here to decrease prejudice,” Laabich said, “because I’m originally Moroccan and the whole Arabic world often [is subject to] prejudice, and I want to decrease that through being here.”
Since it is many of the students’ first time coming to the U.S., they looked forward to a variety of things:

“What I was most looking forward to was actually college life in the U.S., because it’s so different from what we experience in Germany,” said Hayam Mohseni, from Munich. “In Germany, [there are] not [usually] campus universities, most times, and it’s just a completely different experience in what you’re involved in, what you’re doing in classes.”

“I was really looking forward to Reese’s Peanut Butter cups,” LaàŸmann said. “I was also really looking forward to just generally meeting people from America and getting to know their mentality and like just seeing it firsthand. I wanted to talk to people who experienced a completely different environment than [the one] I grew up in, so that was really exciting.”

Coming to the US, they were in for a great many surprises. Things did not always go as the students had expected, but most of the time, they agree, it was for the better.

“I wasn’t expecting that the Spanish culture, or the Mexican culture, would be so integrated in the American culture or of San Antonio. I thought about the stereotypes like the cowboys, and a lot of barbecue, but it’s actually more Mexican food that we eat than barbecue or something like that. That’s really interesting,” Taghipour said.

“I never expected that they [would be as] friendly and polite as they are, even when it comes to paying or going out with friends, and you’re going to eat, they don’t separate it,” said Taghipour. “That’s our experience [in Germany], and I never thought that [Americans] would be so different and similar to Middle Eastern culture.”

“When I was in Germany, I did already know that sports are popular in the US, especially in the universities and colleges, but when I arrived here I was like, “˜Wow, everyone is an athlete, everyone loves sports!'” Dogan said.

The students even discovered some unexpected, unique surprises
“Bathrooms here are really different, like the way they’re built. When you look at the doors, in Germany you have more really closed stalls that are like, really private, but these are more or less open, so [that’s] kind of uncomfortable for me, I guess,” Mohseni said.

“Also, tap water tastes different here than in Germany.”
“I’m surprised about the relationship between students and
professors, because [professors] are very nice, very friendly to the students, and in Germany there’s much more distance between the students and the professors,” said Anojan Selvalingam, from Nuremberg.

Regarding what they like most about San Antonio, the group rapidly comes to a consensus: the people.

“I like the people most here because they’re so friendly and so nice, and even if you don’t know the person, they just come and talk to you and get like really close and, for example [one] night, some of us went out with [some] students. We didnt know them before, and it was just awesome sitting around talking to them because people are like really, really nice here,” said Mohtezebsade.

They also said that they enjoy the laid back demeanor and sense of humor they have seen in the people of San Antonio and at Trinity.

“Just the fact that you can just strike up a conversation with almost anyone is really cool,” said LaàŸmann. “And then it’s also that the people here seem to have a really cool sense of humor, so you can basically just joke around with them, and you can’t do that as easily in Germany.”

Lastly, the students recalled the differences between universities in the U.S. and those in Germany.

“I think the big difference is that in university in the U.S., you have campus life that you don’t have in Germany,” said Taghipour. “[There] you have only the buildings where you have your classes and you go there and maybe you have buildings for sports, but it isn’t a whole environment for campus life, and that is very good because you have this team spirit here, and you have the feeling that you belong together, and in Germany it isn’t like this. You go to the classes and when you go out you’re on the street or in a city, but not in the university anymore.”

“I think that what’s also really different is that in Germany, you choose your university based on the subject you want to study,” LaàŸmann said. “You already know what you’re going to major in, basically, or the equivalent of major, and in here you choose your university because of the university, and then in the university you have like two years of orientation until you really have to decide what you want to study. That is a huge difference, like two years to decide that we don’t have.”

“One thing different between American and German universities is that German universities are for free, we have nothing “” almost nothing “” to pay for,” Selvalingam said. “And yes that’s a big point of German universities, but it’s also a bad point because the buildings are not so modern like [they are] here, and the equipment is not as good as here in America and American universities.”