An institution of learning on highest level — that is a formal definition for a university. For someone enrolled at a college, this may seem like a very narrow definition. There are so many distinct experiences — the classes and professors, life with roommates in dorms, Greek life, college sports, et cetera.
What I have come to experience is that all of these aspects are just a specific interpretation of the concept of a university. I myself am enrolled at the University of Osnabrück in Lower Saxony, Germany, where I am majoring in Cognitive Science and Mathematics — although for me it makes little sense to even speak of “majors.” My underlying image of university looks like this: After graduating from school, you pick a subject you’re interested in and apply for a bachelor’s course in that subject at every university you would be interested in studying at. Hence, there’s no majors. There is only one subject, and you focus on that right from the beginning. Then, once you get accepted, you have to move there. This means that you must research the housing market of the city you will be studying at; you have to decide on whether to live alone or to share a flat with other people; finally, you have to sign a lease and rent a place. Studying means, for the most part, attending two-hour lectures with hundreds of people twice a week for each subject and then handing in your assignments. And if you don’t feel like attending a lecture? Not a problem, you just watch the recording of it afterwards.
Outside the U.S., American college life is often portrayed as a cultural heritage; that’s why I was sent by the German-American Fulbright commission to Trinity with 20 other students: to study here for a month and physically experience that culture. Seeing competitive college sports, many of the students organizing themselves in clubs or fraternities/sororities and the circumstance that there is a college-owned and entirely student-made newspaper like the Trinitonian transmits the feeling of a strongly knit community on campus. I’ve heard some people call it “living in a bubble,” but in my opinion, having your average conversation partner be a random college student allows for a more diverse discourse than having them be a student from your own field of study as I am used to.
I perceive the campus as a very nurturing place, both academically and personally. There is, however, one thing that I look forward to upon returning to my German university: going home after classes end. In my perspective, having a space called home that isn’t labeled by the institute you’re enrolled in is very important to find balance. While the accessibility of the university — like the athletic center, library, music facilities and so on — is certainly beneficial for students to succeed in their goals, I think that in times where one is in conflict with things at college, it can feel stifling when one’s living space is an imminent reminder of those things.
Now that my time at Trinity is about to come to an end, I have the strong feeling that I will miss it. I was privileged to enjoy highly interesting courses, explore the culture and society of South Texas and most of all get to know amazing people who will leave a lasting impression on me. All I am left to share is the wish that every student at Trinity shall be able to appreciate their environment here and make the most of the opportunities that come with it.