Jump label

Service navigation

Main navigation

You are here:

Main content

Week1: Dortmund, Duisburg-Essen, Bochum and Cologne

My name is Chatarin Wangsanuwat from Bangkok, Thailand. I am a rising senior in Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at Princeton University. I participated in this program because I think it will be a good opportunity for me to spend a summer in Germany, immerse in German culture, learn German language, learn German industry and university experiences and travel around Europe. I have had good experiences so far!

Mon Jun 1st: Moving in and welcome dinner

I arrived at Dortmund Hbf by train around 1:30PM on June 1st and was met by three German buddies (host friends) picking me up, Dennis, Frederic and Alex, who is my “Double” (specific host friend). We took the train to TU Dortmund University, and Alex showed me to my room in Emil-Figge street building 3.


I have to admit that I knew nothing about the Ruhr area before I got here. This is not uncommon, as the Initiativkreis Ruhr explained they want people to know about the area. To me personally, I expected the university to be more city-like. It somewhat is because the university is 3 train stops away from Dortmund city. However, there is a big field near my dorm, which is not what I am used to at all. I like it though: very safe and serene.


I have a single room in Emil-Figge building, which is 3 bus stops away from the main campus, 15 mins walking and 4 mins by bus. The room is really nice: much bigger than a typical single at Princeton. There is a bathroom and a tiny kitchen (with a small fridge!). I am still missing cooking utensils, a chair and a curtain, but they are coming soon!


The lock on my door is very different from any lock I have used before. Normally, you just unlock and open the door, but for my door, you actually have to turn left about three rounds and then you have to turn left a little more to the last click and push the door open right when you have that last click. Obviously, I didn’t know that and neither did Alex. So we went downstairs to ask the maintenance guy to help us. I was glad that Alex was with me because I don’t speak any German. He came to our room and very easily opened the door. He gave us one good look and then just walked away without saying anything. He must have thought we were very stupid.

Q: How many engineers do you need to open a door in Germany?

A: They can’t. You need to call maintenance.


After that we took the train to Dortmund and Laura Hope, our program coordinator, treated us to a traditional German dinner. Quite a good first day I would say.


Tue Jun 2nd: First German class, Culture and Technology class and Meetings

After a brief campus tour, we had our first introductory German class. I found the whole “sein” verb, which is an equivalence of “is/am/are” in English, very confusing. They have more in German, and they also differentiate between you-singular, you-plural and you-formal. This is going to be a challenge…


Then we joined in a regular class called Culture and Technology, which quite a few German Engineering students here are taking. Since my devices were not yet connected to the internet, I didn’t have any distraction and actually paid a lot of attention! We talked about how identity affects technological invention and distribution.

Afterwards we had a series of introductions to new people who have worked to put this program together, as well as lots of group photos:  we had a lunch meeting with Dr. Ursula Gather, Rector of the university. We then were introduced to ESN (Erasmus Student Network), an international student organization that has planned a few events for us and also gave us our German sim cards, which made them very popular! In Essen at the Welcome Reception at Initiativkreis Ruhr we were introduced to the Ruhr Area and the objective of the program. We also had a group picture here. Apparently, we are going to be famous! (well, not really) 


Wed Jun 3rd: More German class, opening the bank account, IKEA trip and pizza with doubles

The title pretty much sums up the entire day. We had more German class, this time from 9 to 12. We sometimes get a little off topic, but are learning about quirky parts of the German language. The most interesting one is “Die Nutella” v. “Das Nutella.” People are apparently passionate about one or the other. Out teacher, Matthäus, strongly suggests ‘Die’ because of the ending “ella” which is obviously feminine. We did end up looking it up in der Duden but it says people use both. On another day we had a small talk with a lady on the train and asked whether it should be ‘die’ or ‘das.’ She looked unsure and said probably ‘die.’ But then another lady nearby just shouted “das. Das Nutella!” So the first lady just said “das” too. I am now convinced that people are passionate about the article of Nutella.


We were also introduced to the “Mensa”, the university’s lunch cafeteria.  The food is really cheap (for Western standards anyway), since it is subsidized by the government. There are generally three prices: lowest one for students, middle one for people who work at the university and the third one for guests. The student price for food is really low; I can get a full-cost meal for 2.50-4 Euro!


However, the drinks are still pricy, especially when you add on the deposit.  This is not specific to TU Dortmund but to Germany in general. They are obsessed about recycling. For example, when you go grocery shopping, you should bring your grocery bag with you because usually it costs money to take plastic bags. Also, you have to pay a deposit for plastic bottles. For example, I bought a 500mL coke, and it should cost 1.10 Euro but it ended up costing 1.25 because 15 cents are for the bottle. I have to return the bottle and get a 15 cent coupon for my next purchase.


After organizing things like bank accounts and supplies for the rooms (thanks to the Ikea employee who brought us to the front of the line!), in the evening we had pizza and Turkish food with our buddies and were introduced to “Flunky ball” (actually I’m not 100% sure on the name). It was pretty fun: each team lines up and one person throws a tennis ball at a water bottle in the middle. If the water bottle falls down, people in the team can drink their beverage of choice (it’s Germany, so of course, beer) while the other team runs and sets the bottle back up. After the other team is done, we have to stop drinking. You win when everybody drinks his/her entire bottle. As you can see, that involves a lot of drinking for everybody! Also, the winners drink more, which is the total opposite of the US games!


Later in the evening, there was a school wide party because the next day was a national holiday. I went there to hang out a bit. It was quite fun.


Thu Jun 4th: National Holiday and Cologne

Kölner Dom_2015June 4th is a National Holiday in Germany. Surprisingly, not many people know the significance of the holiday. Apparently, “there’s something to do with Jesus,” one said. Anyway, we took advantage of the day off to go to Cologne, which can be reached by train using our semester ticket within one hour and a half. We spent our morning and afternoon there. We split off into groups because our interests were different.  I went to the Chocolate Museum sponsored by Lindt, walked along the Rhine River and got up to the Köln Triangle to have a nice view of the city.


By the way, all regional trains are free because we have student semester ticket. Pretty sweet. However, we are starting to notice that German efficiency and reliability doesn’t always apply to the trains:

  • On our way to Cologne, four of the others could not make it in time for the train so we went ahead. Unfortunately, our next train to Cologne was delayed 55 minutes and later cancelled. We had to take the same train 1 hour later, which was also 20 minutes late, so we spent 1.5 hours waiting for the train (this happens a lot). The four people who didn’t make the early train went the other way, hopped on one other train and ended up in the same train as us. They got extra sleep AND arrived at the same time!


  • On the first day, we were supposed to take the train from the university to Dortmund Hbf. We met at the train station around 4:45PM. The person told us to get off at the next stop so we did, but what she meant was the next major stop, which was 2 stops away. So we ended up waiting for the next train, which was then cancelled. We ended up waiting for about 45 minutes at that stop; but, still, it was a great bonding time.


Fri Jun 5th: U-Duisburg-Essen, Cenide center visit

Facilities TourWe took a morning train to visit University of Duisburg-Essen and Cenide, which is a nanoscience center at the university. They have really great facilities and not many people were there because people just took Friday off to have a four-day weekend. In the evening, we went with our buddies to West Park to have barbeque.


Sat Jun 6th: Ruhr University Bochum 50th anniversary

Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Ruhr University Bochum, and we were invited to the ceremony. The ceremony was very fancy with live jazz music and small cocktails. During the ceremony, the President of Germany gave a speech and they celebrated the collaboration between Bochum and a university in Krakow. I learned quite a bit about the history of the Ruhr area and how they had to fight to have a university established in the industrial area back in the 50s through the speeches. There was also a dance show and an a cappella group with orchestra.


Sun Jun 7th: ZOOM Zoo

One of the perks of the program: We went to the Gelsenkirchen zoo on Sunday since one of the companies in the program is a zoo sponsor and sponsored free tickets for us. The zoo contains three sections: Alaska, Africa and Asia. Almost ten of us went there together and it was amusing for me to see each of my friends suddenly get super excited about one animal for not so obvious reasons. They claimed that animal is the best or the coolest.  

Sub content


Studenten USA 02.06 (16)


Week 1 Welcome Dinner web