A German meets America

Featured Image: Konstantin on the first day of school. Konstantin Schremmer | Courtesy

I landed at Norfolk International Airport on an American Eagle. I went outside, surprised at how much warmer it was than inside the building. This was the first sign of Americans’ secret love: air conditioning.

I took a look on Google Maps to see how to get to my hotel for the first night; it’s only 3 miles from the airport. In Germany, one would take the subway or bus because airports are well connected to the nearest city by public transport. However, contrary to my expectation, there is no bus available at the airport, and the station is a thirty minute walk away. That’s too far, even for a European with a suitcase.

My Uber driver shows me on the way where the gun store is. Every second car on the four-lane highway is a pick-up truck. The initial stereotypes have been confirmed so far. 

In my hotel, it feels like winter in Germany without heating; the AC is on maximum. I turned it off and left the door open so that the warm air can come in and I won’t get sick. In Germany, we do not frequently use AC, so it is usually 77 degrees Fahrenheit inside in the summer.

The next day, I was picked up by Mandy Reinig and driven to the VWU campus: my new home for the next 4 months. Immediately, I noticed so many differences from my home university in Hannover, Germany.

The VWU Campus is more like a gated community. In Germany, the universities are often located in the city and campus areas are scattered across the city; anyone can enter the university unchecked except on weekends or at night.

Additionally, sports play a less important role in the university and on campus. In Germany, there is a separate campus for sports and exercise. There, you can find sports fields and areas where student athletes can exercise. Moreover, you won’t see many people in their sports jerseys of their respective sports in the dining hall.

One aspect on campus I appreciate the most is the unlimited food and drink access in the dining hall, so you don’t have to pay for each dish separately. However, the tastes are totally different. The tastes are so varied and extreme, ranging from extremely sweet desserts to extremely salty entrees.

On the way from the dining hall back to your apartment, you run into so many people who you know, which is a great advantage of campus life and a small university.

Also, classes at VWU are much smaller than those in Germany, where it is not unusual to find around 100 students in the lecture hall. The larger numbers result in much less participation and attendance, and the professor is not able to care if you don’t understand the topics or are not present. Except for some assignments without grades or one presentation per class a semester, there are not as many weekly assignments in Germany. Instead, you have to study much more for the final exams and therefore experience much more pressure, because only one exam makes your grade.

The location of VWU in coastal Virginia and the proximity to the beach is so cool! I am so grateful for the hospitality and excited for all the new adventures I will experience in the coming months.


Konstantin Schremmer is an environmental studies major and enjoys windsurfing. He can be contacted at kschremmer@vwu.edu.


By: Konstantin Schremmer