Hannah Alff(22) was a last year student in the Law School of Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she was also born and raised. She is now a master student in the same University.
How did you get informed about the Buddy Program and how did you decide to join it?
I was a participant in the Winter Program of the International and European Studies on January of 2018. The IES already told the participants when we got accepted that we would be part of the Buddy Program as well.
Who were your buddy and what do you think about that match?
My buddy was Alicia Bitzer, we started of changing e-mails to get to know each other a little more, and, to be fair, it was a match since the beginning. We are both passionate by the things we do, and even though the activities are not the same (I mean, she lives in Germany and I live in Brazil), it’s always a good thing to share being passionate about what we do. We love taking pictures, we love gathering around with friends in beautiful little coffee shops (or for any situation actually), we do agree on music taste, and well, we also love intercultural programs and exchanging experience.
How was your experiences with your buddies until now?
I left Germany 5 days after the program was due. And I spent these last days in Alicia’s house with her, her father and her friends. I enjoyed my time a lot, it was like I was staying in a family of my own. And I think we can both agree the funniest experience was trying to call the SIM-Card company through video chat. THAT WAS SOMETHING. Beside that one, the time spent with friends and with the other participants of the winter program was always a reason for a good laugh.
Are you still in contact with your buddy?
Yes, I’m very happy to say that we keep in touch, and even though the Post office doesn’t help a lot in Brazil, we have sent each other a few cards. And about the communication, we fortunately didn’t find any obstacles. Alicia’s English is great, and my German is quite good, so between us we usually spoke German for me to train, and used English when I couldn’t find a German word or expression I wanted, and then she could assist me with that.
Do you think that this program has lacks and needs to improve or fix something?
I think the program itself is well constructed. But of course, for a match to be good, there must be two people interested and open to an intercultural relation. Sometimes people just don’t fit together, and that’s okay, but there’s no program to blame, that’s how humanity works, sometimes we work through, sometimes we don’t.
What have you done during this program for your buddy to make you unforgettable?
Alicia made a lot of things to make me thankful. She picked me up at the airport the first day, and she also drove me there in the last one. She participated in all the activities the IES invited us, she offered me her room for the last days I was in Germany and she took me to see Tübinger Fasnet simply because I told her I wanted to see how that was. She offered me an honest friendship, and I felt included in each activity we would do with her friends. Also, even this year, she was part of my graduation ceremony in Law School sending me the cutest card ever. I think that’s essential for an international student to know that home is everywhere we decide to leave a piece of our hearts.
What would you like to say to newcomers about this program in general?
The most important thing I would like to say is: Always be open to new experiences and new points of view. Sometimes you will miss your hometown, sometimes you can think some traditions are too different from your reality of life, but that’s what exchange is all about. It’s talking to people from different countries, it’s tasting various new flavors, it’s being open to learn with others and also being able to teach them when you feel they also want to learn about your life. It’s not having fear to make mistakes to learn a new language and it’s not making pre-judgements, you’ll learn to listen much more than you ever had, because sometimes your necessities are different from people that were not raised in the same surroundings as you were, and you must have the sensibility to understand how their culture works, and why things are how they are. Reading all that, you all can understand how I became a more flexible person and how international experience influenced my life. Drastically, fondly, and one step at my own time.