First of all, I have to add, that there has already been a more than 33 years lasting relationship between the University of Regensburg and Vanderbilt University in terms of implementing regular exchange programs: by the way, in the year 2001, the 30th anniversary had been celebrated. At this stage, I finally realized that I had won the first prize in a lottery, having been selected for this spectacular adventure by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) of the University of Regensburg.
From now on, I was sure that I was not 'just another face in the crowd', which made me fairly proud indeed. After taking an Early Bird's breakfast in the hotel lobby our connecting flight to Nashville was ready to go and the location of truthought to be reached pretty soon.
Taking a cab from the local airport to downtown Nashville, however, turned out to be rather feasible. This was my first encounter with the southern accent which sounded rather strange to me, at least at the beginning of this trip.
Listening to the driver carefully, I could actually imagine how a stranger might feel when making holiday in Bavaria. Neverheless I could detect a few linguistic similarities between this southern style and my Bavarian origin.
Sometimes the campus area was just a skip, hop, and a jump ahead of us, making my heart feel a bit nervous and bewildered now, because I did not know what was to be expected from me in terms of fulfilling university requirements.
Never mind, this trembling feeling was just overwhelmed when we approached the lush greenery, the picturesque brick-wall buildings and the countless squirrels, diversifying amongst the numerous trees – resembling a national park, just the perfect setting for inhaling the inspirational atmosphere of the American spirit.
The majority of those really beautiful looking old buildings was strategically scattered around Kirkland Hall, which was the administrative heart on campus, due to the fact that the Dean stayed there. Furman Hall, another impressive piece of architecture with its well-known arts & science department was constructed 1907, thus representing the architectural style of the Victorian age.
The famous Own School of Management should not be neglected as well, when talking about some essential sites on campus.
In fact just before I entered the final gate I could admire a superb eye-catcher, the Parthenon located in mid the Centennial Park, that was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897 and this full-size replica of the Parthenon in Athens was the exposition of centerpiece.
Oh boy, all this was unbelievable like a dream but in fact part of reality; it was love at first glance. Therefore, nervousness was gone immediately and I was ready to face the music.
Next topic on the 1st day agenda was the arrangement of my first accommodation, which was located a bit off-campus; its name was Lewis House. My local permanency turned out to be a real melting pot, consisting of all kinds of international students squeezed together in fairly small rooms; This scarce space was basically inhabited by 2 people, who were forced to share one bathroom, one kitchenette and ponder about the perfect way of managing one's life within one sleeping room and one living room.
I must admit that I was not yet – used to this situation of being a roommate, but it definitely happened to become the genuine spice of life from now on.
Unfortunately I lost the rally obviously throwing the wrong dice, ie I had to agree with the living room which was my little empire for the next 3 months. Being fully aware of this matchbox-situation I tried to deal with it in terms of motivational composition. In the long run, however, I was lucky to move into the Intl. House of McTyeire on campus.
The concept of this dormitory was characterized by 4 halls, ie you could have applied for the German section, which was kind of logical because of my origin, or you might have chosen the French or Spanish hall or go for the Russian floor. This distinction proved to be a perfect way for studying a foreign language and ideally dive into its cultural roots. So this kind of 'dormitorian' lifestyle meant to be rather different compared to my first choice.
This decision was, due to many vital reasons, very wise; primarily I was involved in a wide variety of social events, let alone to mention the famous in-house coffee hour, that collected lots of interesting international students who really symbolized the food for thought during this occasion. Beside, I was grateful for participating in several seminars and workshops held by international professors, scientists, and / or famous writers.
Moreover I was part of the organization of an international week at McTyeire, displaying many colorful booths of all nationalities registered at Vanderbilt; it turned out to be an event, which successfully managed to bridge the gaps between the cultures. It goes without saying that enjoying the incredible variety of delightful food was one of the topical highlights.
Furthermore it should not be neglected that making good and long-lasting friendships was made very easy as a full-time member of this dormitory. This impression of feeling like in a huge family was already enhanced during my first days at Vanderbilt, because then an orientation program was organized by the university administration, where all foreign students got to know their companions and collections, already forging basic contacts for further hilarious events taking place apart from university, too.
In this way, I felt very content and happy, since nearly every effort was made to make life as bearable as possible.
The fact that Vanderbilt University also provided a special walking and vehicular service for female students which was the dot on the I concerned a convenient, safe and unconcerned life there.
Looking forward to taking and passing the mandatory TOEFL exam on the second day, I was finally game for entering this new horizon of mental and physical distraction, personal development, and invaluable experiences to come.
Beforehand, I would like to give you a brief summary about Vanderbilt University: this wonderful place was founded 1873 by Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) as a response to the cultural decay of the Southern states after the civil war. It aimed to maintain the spiritual heritage of the South. Vanderbilt University is (still) often titled as a “Harvard or Yale of the South”, which perfectly fits in terms of raising the incredible fees (1987: 20,000 $; 1996: 27,000 $) to obtain entry for registration.
Beside, the very high standards of education and its excellent ranking among all private American universities can not be denied either. What a coincidence that I was glad to take part in the celebration of the Founder's day – March 17, 1988 – the 115th anniversary of Cornelius Vanderbilt's finding gift.
By the way, Mr. Vanderbilt – entrepreneur, treasurer, and king of trains – also got involved in the 'creation' of the Grand Central Station (NY) in the year 1873. Moreover it is absolutely worthwhile to stop by one of his colossal mansion, the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina.
With regard to the university system I would like to stress the outstanding ratio of 1: 6 between professors and students, which simply seems unbelievable in the eyes of European standards. The philosophy of competition and a high degree of presence and pressure primarily predominated the student's life; however this momentum kept the students busy in finally achieving their goals and miles according to a very tough syllabus with its precise information of requirements, basic procedures, and even lists of necessary literature.
From my point of view, I tried to do my best in order to cope with these circumstances, willing to master this challenge by all means.