When I arrived in Mannheim, Germany I was nervous about how I was going to befriend people. Was I going to get the opportunities before classes began? When classes began? Will it be more towards the first couple of weeks of classes? What will my roommates be like? Will we get along and have adventures together? Will I barely see them? I do not consider myself a very outgoing person; I need support from an event, a class, anything that can help me start up a conversation.
Luckily there is VISUM. VISUM is an organization for incoming exchange students who organize trips, parties and cultural events. VISUM has a Facebook group where they posts events they have organized, and international students can posts anything from inviting others to an outing, or just asking questions regarding phones, places to visit, etc. VISUM has also created events that will be occurring throughout the semester.
For example, every Monday there is an event called International Stammtisch, which is where all the international students gather at one location and socialize. Moreover, there have been parties – a Welcome Party, an International Party with the theme of Black and White, a Raise Your Flag Party – and much many are on the horizon. In addition, every other week VISUM gathers international students at a café to learn about different languages and cultures. The first one was themed German, and the upcoming one will be French, then Spanish and so forth. Moreover, VISUM also plans trips to other cities such as Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin.
Within the first couple of days I came to the realization that there are a minimum of three events each week, and the chances of coming across the same international students are very likely. I have come across a couple of students in more than one occasion, and we ended up adding each other on Facebook. From there it is easier to communicate plans, add people on a group chat and form events among ourselves. Moreover, Mannheim is a small city; It takes about 30-40 minutes to walk across the city, so it makes it easier to meet up, or just come across someone when going about the city.
While I was setting up my bank account with Deutsche Bank, I started a conversation with a girl from Seattle, and I ended up seeing her at an International Stammtisch, Raise Your Flag Party and at the Black and White Party. By the second encounter we decided to add each other on Facebook, and we have met up to explore the city. We’ve also exchanged information on registration, classes and anything needed to be done before classes began.
I am truly thankful for VISUM and the events it offers. Their events have helped me keep in contact with those who don’t live near my residency, and meet new and exciting people each time. They made the transition of meeting new people a lot smoother for me. I might have only been in Mannheim for three weeks, but because of the various social interactions that VISUM has provided, I feel that I have known my new friends for far longer than that.
Sayra Flores is a junior studying business management with an emphasis in human resources. She is studying abroad at University of Mannheim, Germany.