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Culture

Palo Alto/CA: German Students at Stanford University

Many German students flock to the US because they feel studying at American universities and colleges will open up new career roads for them.

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Gerald Engel, Stanford student says companies invite him out to fancy dinners

Stanford University, some 30 miles south of San Francisco, is a world-renowned private university. The atmosphere at Stanford is very international and multi-cultural: About one-third of all upper semester students come from abroad.

The school is attractive for them because of its high academic standards, but also because it's located in the heart of Silicon Valley - the center of the American high-tech and internet industries.

"Stanford is a great mix of languages and nationalities," says Markus Gärtner, a 24-year-old student of electrical engineering from Nürnberg in southern Germany. Around 200 of the 15 000 Stanford students come from Germany. There's even a German students' club, which organizes parties and discussions with German guests.

At first sight, the Stanford campus looks almost like a big park or country club with flower-beds, fountains, and exotic trees. The campus is green and spacious.

The most prominent buildings on campus are in the California Mission style -- built of local beige sandstone with red-tiled roofs. There are excellent athletic facilities on campus, including a swimming pool, a golf course and tennis courts.

Markus Gärtner says that even though the campus seems very laid-back and pleasant, studying at Stanford is actually a lot of hard work. But he says it isn't very different from studying in Germany. Lectures and seminars are pretty similar to those back home, he explains.

The only shock was the amount of homework: "There's really a lot of homework here. You spend hours every day and every night just to get the required class work done."

American professors look after their students' academic careers better than their German counterparts. In the US, students have a given time frame in which to complete their studies. In Germany, however, no one tells them when they should graduate: It's largely up to them to decide when they feel fit to tackle their final exams - be it after four years or after fourteen.

The result is that in the US, students usually graduate quicker than those in Germany. That's one thing that makes studying at American universities so attractive for many German students.

Another advantage of American colleges and universities are the excellent academic conditions many of them provide for their students - especially Ivy League schools and expensive private institutions.

But Markus Gärtner says that there are also drawbacks to studying in the US: "One thing I miss is the academic freedom students have in Germany. Here in the US, the professors basically stipulate what needs to be done. Everything is regulated."

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