KINGSTON, R.I. – November 29, 2010 – On her first night in Hamburg, University of Rhode Island senior Maricarmen Neris had a full conversation in German with a stranger. Just one day into her study abroad program with URI’s International Business Program, Neris realized she could handle life overseas.
“I thought, ‘I can do this, I can mingle. I’m going to be fine,’” said Neris, who is spending the fall taking classes at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. “That was a small, yet very big accomplishment for me.”
Neris, a North Kingstown resident, came to URI with the intention of studying in Germany during her college career. As a sophomore in high school, she traveled to Germany as part of a summer exchange program.
“I knew that I would like to go back in college,” Neris said. “I had this in mind my senior year as I was choosing my university and my major. The International Business Program at URI seemed like a good fit.
“I came back to Germany for a study tour with [URI’s] International Engineering Program last January and visited the University where I am now studying and participated in a workshop with the company where I’ll be doing my internship. It was such a wonderful trip that I knew my study abroad was going to be a great experience.”
After her semester at the University of Applied Sciences, Neris will spend the spring as an intern in Berlin with Deutsche Bahn, the German rail system. She’ll be working with international recruiting and internship programs in the company’s human resources and marketing office.
“Being immersed in a different culture has been fun, scary, exciting, interesting, weird, and sometimes hilariously awkward,” Neris said. “There’s so much to learn from trying to understand and adapt to a different culture.”
For example, Germany does not celebrate Halloween. At least, not the way that Americans do. So the students had a Halloween party, USA-style, to share a piece of their culture with the local students.
“All of the international students showed up decked out in costumes,” Neris said. “Most of them had never celebrated Halloween, but everyone was so excited to be there. It was a really great night.”
Though she is just a few months into her full-year stay in Germany, Neris has been able to make networking connections around the world. She has met students from the United States, Spain, France, Brazil, China, Latvia, Italy, England, Hungary and more, not to mention the German students. Each exchange student is assigned a “buddy” who serves as a personal guide.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how people here, my ‘buddy’ Svenja in particular, have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable,” said Neris, who also met up with several URI students currently studying in Braunschweig when they visited Hamburg. “Being the new kid is always tough, and being the new kid in a foreign country can be much more difficult. But the people I’ve met here have been very kind, helpful and understanding. I was also surprised to see a Dunkin’ Donuts in Berlin, right in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Go figure.”
With her internship with Deutsche Bahn still on the horizon, Neris is looking ahead to the future.
“I am very much open to exploring the international job market,” Neris said. “If anything, being here has motivated me to see more of the world. Intercultural competence is a term that I keep stumbling upon in my classes. This is a really important strength and I think that the best way to develop it is to travel and see and experience another culture for yourself.”