German student says “hello” to RPC culture

By Maria Flores, November 16, 2021

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

In early fall, Herceg climbed 5,866 miles from Schwäbisch Gmünd and arrived at the PPC University Village, where she takes online classes when she is not on campus for her in-person classes.

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

Herceg remembers 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 college, and she yearned to do something similar.

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

“Most of the people in (American) movies are generally white, so I came here and saw that was not right at all,” Herceg said. “Most of the people here are Asian or Hispanic, so I don’t understand why there isn’t more representation in the movies.”

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

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

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

According to Herceg, it was difficult to switch from a German online environment to the American hybrid mode of teaching. In adapting to the hybrid CPP courses, Herceg noticed that the American school system was radically different from his German university.

“Most of my classes here are two or even three times a week, but I have fewer classes,” Herceg said. “In Germany I have 10 to 12 lessons and we only meet once a week.

In Germany, a winter semester begins in October and ends in February, while their summer semester begins in April and continues until August. Herceg’s German university program gave him a week to prepare for the fall semester of CPP. Herceg shared that during this week she was eager to start 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 a lot more than my German classes,” Herceg said. “For example, we would never have Harry Potter lessons.”

Although she has fewer classes than she is used to, Herceg appreciates assigned classes and established student-teacher relationships.

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

She explained that her curiosity about American culture had brought her to the United States in the hopes of becoming a German and English teacher in the future.

Herceg went through an in-depth process at Schwäbisch Gmünd where she had to provide her resume, proof of English proficiency and a cover letter in English outlining her reasons for seeking to study abroad. After the application process, her university reviewed her application and conducted an interview in English to discuss her career goals.

As the holidays approach, most of the CPP community can go home and visit family and friends, but for Herceg, that’s not the case.

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

She said she would always cherish the experience of being alone and “stepping out of (her) comfort zone and learning more about (herself) from the United States.”

Image courtesy of Maria Flores.

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