German students explore UWO journalism

Amy Woyth, Staff Writer

America is not the greatest country in the world. But then does any country deserve that title?

Looking through the lens of a German exchange student – or rather visitor – the many differences between the two countries are revealed on a day-to-day basis. And, in some ways, they prove the European perception that the U.S. way of life is more flawed than advantageous. Subjectively and at risk of sounding like a typical German, of course.

While I have been in Oshkosh for only a week, I have been in the country for over a month and have had the opportunity to explore the vast landscape of American customs and conventionalities. Some may be common knowledge around the world while others are observations one has to make for themselves as a tourist – whether that may be weird-tasting tap water (shouldn’t that be clear and not cloudy anyway?) or lawn signs (what a waste of paper!).

Advance-Titan photo
Emma Luebbert and Amy Woyth visited UW Oshkosh to attend journalism and radio/TV/film classes, The Advance-Titan production nights and a live Titan TV news

But why am I even in the States, and what brings me to Oshkosh specifically? I am here because of a three-week journalism scholarship, organized by the RIAS Berlin Commission, learning about large media markets, like those in cities like New York City, and local ones, like those in the Midwest.

RIAS – “Radio in the American Sector” – was responsible for radio and television broadcasting in the American Sector of Berlin, and founded in 1946 by the U.S. occupational authorities after World War II in order to provide the German population in and around Berlin with news and political reporting. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1992, the RIAS Berlin Commission has made it its goal to promote exchange in the field of broadcast journalism between the U.S. and Germany. I am now one of the first lucky students to be able to take part in such an exchange program.

During my short time here I have, of course, been able to get to know what media production on a smaller scale looks like in practice – I wouldn’t be writing a story for the Advance-Titan if I hadn’t – but I have also been able to experience campus life as a whole. A side effect is the constant comparison of college life here vs. university life at home.

For example, take one of the most obvious differences: tuition costs. While tuition for a year at UW Oshkosh is around $7,800, one semester at my university at home (University of Applied Sciences Mittweida) costs €100, so around $110. That’s around $220 a year. Obviously, Americans in many ways get what they pay for: an amazing campus infrastructure, as well as many social, educational and recreational opportunities. But would you be willing to give all that up for less tuition and a merely good campus infrastructure? Also, the standard duration of study in Germany is three years, not four (and we do not have names for the year you are in).

Walkability has also been a big concern for me. Getting to and around campus is not a problem when you live close by or on campus, but what if you live even a little further away? While Oshkosh does provide city bus services, it seems like the city infrastructure, especially concerning public transport, forces you to own a car or build up a carpooling network. Never mind commuting from another city or town!

Issues that are nonpartisan topics back home – free tuition, healthcare and the expansion of public train networks and transport – are, as I would argue, unfortunately highly politicized here. From what I have been able to witness, this infrastructure is more impractical than helpful and does more harm than good. Being able to commute to university by train, for example, allows me to live in a larger city and work a job that I would not be able to find in the 14,000 inhabitant town I study in.

This short rant aside, I have found myself to be jealous of American life on various occasions, too. The meaning of a campus here, a place to get together, to connect to fellow students, to spend the entirety of your student-life at, is an entirely different one than back home. It allows you to cherish your time at college on a whole other level, actively rather than passively.

And honestly, if I could swap the classes I have visited at UW Oshkosh with those from my home university, I would. Every single one of them. I was surprised to find out how practice-oriented they were, with all professors being very friendly and accomodating. Some of the radio-TV-film classes were especially interesting: I really had to make an effort to suppress a laughing fit when first seeing fellow students practice sports commentating. Go Titans!

All of that being said, I will no doubt be coming back to the United States as soon as possible. This program, originally set to take place in March 2020, was postponed four times after the pandemic hit and I only grew more and more excited to finally visit New York and Wisconsin. And I can confidently say that this trip has not disappointed. One of the most notable observations, and something I have resolved to bring home with me in any case, is the spirit of kindness, openness and random compliments. Although Germany may not be keen on taking over the American infrastructure, it could definitely use more of the American mindset!