I think that one of the main privileges in life is to be able to experience and learn from different cultures. The Intercultural Communications Course run by Eileen Küpper in Rheinbach encourages this privilege and offers students opportunities that go beyond the everyday lectures and case studies in a student’s life. For me as a student, ICC was a truly dynamic and interactive experience, that enabled me to not only learn about a different culture, but to truly experience it. When I attended the ICC class in fall 2011, I heard about the B2B (Bonn-to-Bordeaux) project for the first time. It involved getting in touch with French students from Bordeaux via social media and preparing a trip to Bordeaux, which was to take place in spring 2012. First I didn’t really know what to expect of a project like that, but it was a great opportunity to get active as a student and take responsibility for a project on our own "from students for students". It was really fun for all of us to organize our trip to Bordeaux together with the French students: First of all we set up a Facebook group to establish first bonds with our French friends. But to properly introduce ourselves and exchange some cultural anecdotes we prepared videos about the student life in Germany and our French friends sent us videos about the French student life. Although we were supposed to mostly talk about student life in Germany versus France, we had a blast watching the videos, because they contained amusing German and French cultural stereotypes. A video conference in January enabled us to talk to our French friends face-to-face for the first time and we really couldn't wait for our trip in May any longer. We were so excited to finally discover Bordeaux and go on some great adventures with our French friends. When we jumped out of the bus in Bordeaux in May, we were greeted by our French friends with big hugs and the typical French "bisous". We had only four days, but together we made the most of it. There were so many impressions and encounters that it is hard to describe them in a short report like this.
The night of our arrival we moved in with our French hosts and went to a welcome reception at the university. I felt comfortable from the beginning, because my host was a really easy going, open-minded person, who was very curious about Germany, since he spoke German too. I have some really funny memories of "FreGerlish", because we constantly switched between French, English and German. In the next couple of days we visited a typical French vineyard (since Bordeaux is a famous wine region), discovered the marvelous city of Bordeaux and heard about new French innovation projects. Apart from the official program, our French hosts took great care of us. We were never on our own and they went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable by organizing many group events. It was fun to discuss the differences between Germany and France and it was even more enjoyable since most Germans had already been to France and most French students had already been to Germany. When it was time to leave Bordeaux, we were both happy and sad at the same time; sad, because we knew that a great time was over, but happy, because we knew that we would see each other again.
Four months later we welcomed our friends from Bordeaux in Bonn. Our French friends had organized their trip to Bonn independently from their university and we were happy to show them around in Bonn for the next three days. We went to a museum, amazed them in the German Haribo factory outlet, showed the around the cities of Bonn and Cologne and went to real German Brauhaus. But this wasn’t the last time we would see our French friends. The spring after a bunch of Germans travelled to Paris to meet up with our French friends. Most of them are originally from Paris and were eager to show us their home and introduce us to their families. Once again it felt like having a second home for a couple of days.
I can only say that I will never forget those three trips and the friendships that were built in a very short period of time and still last. Nowadays thanks to social media, it is no problem at all to say in touch with friends from all over the world and we can still keep track on each other's lives: exciting trips, university stress, the first jobs and just … life. Without the ICC class, I wouldn't have met those amazing people and learned to appreciate the French culture, although I still can't get used to the French bisous. I can only recommend participating in such projects, because you learn a lot about yourself and more importantly about other people. It is a great opportunity to embrace other cultures, but also an opportunity to share your cultures and bring a "a piece of Germany" to others.
© Vanessa Pomp