By Maria Flores, Nov. 16, 2021

From the University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd, a German university of 2,999 students, to Cal Poly Pomona, a public university of 27,915 students, Miriam Herceg, a German international student, broadens her comfort levels through diverse cultural encounters.

At the beginning of fall, Herceg soared 5,866 miles from Schwäbisch Gmünd and arrived at CPP’s University Village, where she takes online classes when she is not on campus for her in-person courses.

“I really wanted to experience things how I usually see them on television,” said Herceg. “I know movies sometimes depict things differently than they actually are, and one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here is to really see it.”

Herceg recalled watching “Gilmore Girls,” where Rory Gilmore, the main character, arrived at Yale University. According to Herceg, growing up she saw how passionate the characters were about attending an Ivy League University and she aspired to do something similar.

According to Herceg, when she arrived in the United States, she was shocked to discover the misleading representation of the United States through media.

“Most people in (American) movies are usually white, then I came here and saw that it was not accurate at all,” said Herceg. “Most of the people here are Asian or Hispanic so I don’t get why there is not more representation in movies.”

Herceg shared that based on her experiences at Cal Poly Pomona, she is captivated by people’s openness and willingness to express themselves freely.

“I feel like a lot of things that people still feel like they can’t talk about in Germany, are not that way over here, especially like sexuality and gender,” said Herceg. “It’s really a big debate in Germany and I was really relieved to see people feel more comfortable here to express themselves.”

 

Miriam Herceg poses at the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Science. (Maria Flores | The Poly Post)

According to Herceg, it was challenging to transition from a German online environment to America’s hybrid mode of instruction. While adjusting to CPP’s hybrid courses, Herceg noticed the United States school system drastically differed from her German university.

“Here most of my classes are twice or even three times a week, but I have less classes,” said Herceg. “In Germany, I have 10 to 12 classes and we only meet once a week.”

In Germany, a winter semester initiates in October and ends in February, while their summer semester begins in April and continues until August. Herceg’s German university schedule left her one week to prepare for CPP’s fall semester. Herceg shared that for the duration of this week, she was eager to commence her classes.

“I have a children’s literature class, a poetry writing class, a philosophy class and a Harry Potter class, and I enjoy them way more than my German classes,” said Herceg. “For example, we would never ever have a class about Harry Potter.”

Despite having fewer classes than she is accustomed to, Herceg enjoys the lessons assigned and the relationships established from student to professor.

According to Herceg, German classes range from 100 to 200 students which can be difficult to get one-on-one interaction with the professor. She stated that with smaller classes, professors “know your name” and it “feels more personal than just being a face or a number.”

She shared that her curiosity for American culture brought her to the United States in hopes to become a German and English teacher in the future.

Herceg went through an extensive process at Schwäbisch Gmünd where she had to provide her resume, proof of English proficiency and an English motivational letter to state her reasons for seeking to study abroad. After the application process, her university examined her application and conducted an English interview to discuss her career goals.

As the holidays approach, most of the CPP community may go home and visit their families and friends, but for Herceg it’s not the case.

According to Herceg, seven weeks after the fall 2021 semester, she will return home to Germany to prepare for the summer semester.

She stated that she will always cherish the experience to be on her own and to “go out of (her) comfort zone and learn more about (herself) from the United States.”

Featured image courtesy of Maria Flores. 

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