Due to the pandemic outbreaks in the past three years, Chung Chi College was forced to cancel most of its student exchange programmes, which were partially resumed in the last academic year. Lam Shu Him Andy, a fifth-year Chung Chi-er majoring in Biology, embarked on a year-long journey to Bonn, Germany for an exchange programme in the 2021-22 academic year. He was one of the first batch of exchange students since the pandemic. What learning experience did Andy have in Germany? How did this global exposure change his life?
Q: Why did you choose to go on student exchange in Germany?
For many students, Germany may not be their most preferred destination for exchange as universities there do not offer any undergraduate programmes conducted in English in general. Nevertheless, I saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to practise German. Despite having been learning the language for a while, I found my learning progress stagnant without language immersion. Hence, having known that Chung Chi College was offering a student exchange programme in Germany, I was very determined to give it a try, hoping to challenge and surpass myself. Through this exchange programme, I also hoped to obtain a broader picture of the higher education system in Germany as I considered pursuing my postgraduate studies there at that time.
Andy (4th right) joined a dorm gathering with other exchange and local students.
Q: What are your most unforgettable memories in Germany?
Working as a student researcher at the Institute of Zoology of the University of Bonn, as well as conducting mudflat-related studies on Sylt, an island near the border between German and Denmark, are my most unforgettable experiences! Before leaving for Germany, I set for myself a list of goals, one of which is taking part in research projects there. At the beginning of the first semester, I was extremely fortunate to have been hired as a student researcher at the university. In the following half a year, I took part in cognitive and sensory research on African cichlids, in which I was mainly responsible for the visual recognition training of fish. They are absolutely quick learners! Within a month, conditioned organisms were proven to be capable of recognising basic geometric shapes with high accuracy. Now, the research team is conducting a further research study on neural substances released during the learning process. In the second semester, I was offered to do a two-week study at the research station of the Alfred Wegener Institute on Sylt, where I collaborated with another student from the University of Bielefeld on a biodiversity survey study. Braving gale, we collected samples from the impenetrable mudflats and brought them back to the laboratory for species composition analyses. It was even my first time presenting my research findings in German! The research experience that I had in Germany not only made up for the lack of practices of German in the past two years, but also enabled me to identify my research interests. In the coming August, I will start my postgraduate studies in neotropical ichthyology at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, focusing on a group of freshwater Amazonian catfish called Corydoras.
Andy visited the Christmas market in Frankfurt for the first time during his exchange in Germany.
Q: How would you describe your experience in Germany as an exchange student in the past year?
Apart from my academic experience, I also seized the opportunity to immerse myself in German culture and gained a lot of my “first-time” experience, for instance, my first time on the German autobahn (the German unlimited speed highway), my first sunbathing by a lake, my first visit to traditional Christmas markets... All such wonderful experiences have deepened my understanding of German culture. Thanks to the large number of international students, the exchange experience has also been immensely fruitful and global. I not only joined the National Day Celebration of Chile, but also engaged in discussions on the British education and legal system with other exchange students from the University of Oxford, all of which have profoundly expanded my horizons and social circle. My heartfelt thanks to Chung Chi College for providing me with such a valuable opportunity to spend a year abroad!