Decked out in dark, skinny jeans, a tank top underneath a cardigan, brunette ponytail, and cherry red canvas sneakers, Tina Goldacker blends right into the group of Bloomsburg University students who have crowded around her in Starbucks. The 21 year old paces up to the counter, and places her order for a Tazo Chai tea latte in perfect English. While Tina appears to be your average American student, her background may surprise you.
Tina grew up in Chemnitz, Germany and has joined the Bloomsburg University community this semester as a foreign exchange student. While this is not her first visit to the states, (she spent her senior year of high school in Salem, Oregon) her experience this time around has given her a deeper appreciation of her home country and broadened her horizons.
As we nestle into a corner, away from the hustle and bustle of caffeine-craving students, Tina begins to describe the differences between American schooling and her German education. In between sips of coffee, she states that, “University in America is like high school for me because you get so many [homework] assignments, [lots] of group work, and projects. In Germany, you go to class and take a final, but that is it. You don’t [take] tests during the semester [and] there is only one grade.” Despite the increased workload, however, Tina admits that she enjoys her Public Relations class as well as Mass Communication and Popular Arts.
The differences between Tina’s new and past life exceed further than simply academics. When asked how she liked Bloomsburg, Tina openly voiced her opinions asserting, “there is not much to do [here]. There are two bars which are not very classy [and] I don’t like the trash, pop charts music they play.” Furthermore, she stated that at parties, people act like “high school kids” and get “ridiculously drunk.” In addition, “the food in the restaurants is not very good,” and she “sometimes feel[s] weird dressing up for school, which is normal in Germany, [because] people [here] go to class in sweatpants and crappy shirts.” All in all, as a foreigner, Tina feels as though “there is not much culture to Bloomsburg.”
While Tina said that she likes “the friends [she’s] made so far and the house [she’s] living in downtown,” she has “learned to appreciate [her] home country very much because of the differences in living here.” The young woman glances around the packed coffee shop and continues, “it would have been more helpful living in a bigger city or town [because it allows you] to be more independent.” This doesn’t go to say that Bloomsburg hasn’t taught her any valuable lessons. Her time here has improved her English skills, “widened [her] horizons, and made [her] more valuable to future employers.”
As the two of us swig the last of our coffee, Tina announces that she has to run. I thank her for her time and she excuses herself. She glides out the door, turns around and says, “Auf Wiedersehen.”