By Miranda Metheny
Koblenz, Germany. Where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet, an enormous statue of William the Great towers over a plaza dedicated to German unity. After the World Wars, Germany wasn’t reunited until the beginning of the 1990s, and for years German news broadcasts ended with a glance towards this Deutsches Eck, a.k.a. German Corner, as a reminder that the country was still broken and divided. With reunification, the symbolic role of the corner came to a happy end, but the plaza remains as a monument to Germany’s 16 states… and as a beautiful place for a picnic by the river.
I headed to Koblenz one Saturday with some other international students from the orientation program, and we sat on the steps of the German Corner to eat a lunch of Chinese rice cakes, Portuguese sausage, Korean sushi and Italian cheese.
Altogether, we were seven students, representing five countries and five majors. Martin (Slovakia) and Diogo (Portugal) study medicine, Corbin (Chicago) studies computer science, In (Korea) studies economics, and Shan and Di (China) study Germanic studies. Needless to say, our paths would never have crossed if we hadn’t each, for our own reasons, decided to come to Germany for a semester. And yet, there we sat on the German Corner together.
Although it is a monument to Germany’s domestic unity, it could also be re-imagined, with foreign flags, to represent the country’s current role in fostering the world’s most international academic community. Germany is currently the number one choice for international students around the world. It’s amazing that, less than 100 years after the end of WWII, Germany is now seen as one of the most welcoming countries for foreign students and researchers.
I love the international atmosphere on campus, the fact that five of my seven roommates come from other countries, and that I can find Indonesian, Turkish or Korean food as easily as German food here. But this phenomenon is by no means unique to Germany — you’re likely to find a vibrant international community if you study at any large university. During my semester in Spain, for example, some of my closest friends were from Austria, Lithuania and Taiwan. This diversity is one of my favorite things about studying abroad!