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Kassel, Germany

Sascha Steinholz

UMBC Exchange: Kassel University

Information Systems


26 February 2019
Hello UMBC,
I am Thomas Alexander Steinholz. My first name comes from my mom’s favorite Church – St. Thomas in Leipzig, Germany. My middle name comes from “Alexander the Great”, however, my parents refer to me as Sascha for short. My last name is a combination of my parents’ last names “Stein” and “Meinholz”.  I inherited my German Citizenship upon my birth in Annapolis, Maryland – due to the fact that both of my parents are also German Citizens.
I chose to take advantage of UMBC’s Kassel Exchange Program to explore some of my family’s German Heritage, as well as to expand my overall knowledge of the country, culture, and language. As I do commute to UMBC, this will also be a good opportunity for me to live on my own and deal with all of the new responsibilities of being an adult. All while being in a new and exciting setting.
When I am not at school, I am working as an Embedded Firmware Engineer in Annapolis, Maryland. Programming, engineering, and development have always been a passion of mine from a young age. My employer has given me an amazing opportunity to show what I know from the age of fifteen and expand it over the course of the past four years. This passion of mine has driven my decision to obtain a B.S. in Information Systems.
When I am not at work, I am most likely driving around. As an obnoxious baby, the only way my parents were ever able to get me to fall asleep was a nice long car ride. While driving cars don’t put me to sleep anymore, they do relax me when I am having a long day. Which is also convenient being a commuter who lives forty-five minutes away from campus. My friends and I will often go on day-long rally events over the weekends to various places around the DMV area and further.  This gives us an amazing opportunity to meet more car enthusiasts alike.
When in Germany, I am hoping to make at least one day trip on the Autobahn in a fun car. And maybe even see if I can make it to the Nürburgring. Regardless, these next few months are going to be very impactful to my life.
Thanks for the read,
Sascha Steinholz
2 April 2019

Hello UMBC,

My travels to Germany have been quite fun and sometimes stressful. While I planned my arrival with the Program Organizer many months ago, she actually took her vacation during the time of arrival for the International Exchange (Erasmus) Students. While I was fortunate enough to arrive within the proper office hours of the Studentwerk, other students were not. I was shocked to find out that quite a few (American and Italian) exchange students actually spent almost a week in a Youth Hostel, waiting for their rooms to become available. Others rented out Airbnbs. Part of this is also due to the requirement of paying the lease of the dormitory/apartment/studio in-full upon arrival. However, since the University of Kassel only accepts bank wire-transfers, this can take up to two weeks.
I spent the first week in Germany attempting to get nothing but paperwork filled out. Even though I had a studio to myself, I had no wifi (or cell plan). However, the on-campus Eduroam wifi network worked seamlessly from UMBC, which was a blessing for me. Being able to speak conversational-level German has also saved me more than it should have, for sure. Currently, we are still completing our pre-semester German course which prepares us for the semester. Next week is Orientation Week, which they have many fun events planned to get every Erasmus student ready for the upcoming semester.
During this course, I have had an amazing opportunity to befriend people from all over the world. Now I have more Italian, Turkish, French, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Brazilian, Mexican, and El Salvadorian friends than I have had before. There might even be some nationalities I forgot, since there are so many. Every single Erasmus student I have met has been very friendly and has been able to speak at least conversational-level English or better. I was sort-of sad to hear that most of them did not come here to learn German, like I did. Many are just going for scholarships, resume-building, to learn English, or just to travel. Regardless, we are able to communicate and have a lot of fun together.
The main thing I have been struggling with during my first week in Germany, was the culture around Cafes and Bakeries. Sometimes you pay before you eat, then sometimes you pay after you eat. When you pay after you eat, you’re just supposed to sit down and call a host/hostess to order, otherwise you go to the counter. When you get a dish, you pay one Euro more than the item you ordered is worth, then when you return it – you get your Euro back. This allows you to travel around with your dishes as much as you please, as long as you return it. That being said, you also need to pay extra when you get a To-Go cup. This is because it isn’t as good for the environment as a washable/reusable dish, so there is a tax for it and it is more expensive for you to buy.
This is the same with any type of bottles you buy from the store. Plastic or glass, there is a tax for buying the bottle. When you return the bottle, you get some money back. Some people do not feel like returning the bottles, so it is also acceptable to leave the bottle sitting next to a trash can. This way, a homeless person can come by to pick up the bottle for some money – this is very common. The bottles are also typically much higher quality than the American ones you can buy. In the Central Cafeteria (Menza), the bottles are made out of plastic but as hard as glass. I found it much easier to just continue to reuse these bottles since they’re made in such a high quality. It is also very convenient, given my tap-water is pre-filtered and safe to drink. It actually has a higher health rating than some of the bottled waters.
I am very happy to be able to practice my German daily, be immersed in the culture, and make so many new friends in the process.
Sascha Steinholz