The City of Mannheim isn’t Germany at its Prettiest

By Michelle Chen, Foster Undergraduate who participated in an exchange with the University of Mannheim in Mannheim, Germany.

Germany Michelle Chen

I am going to be honest. Mannheim is not a city that a tourist would visit in Germany. It is a small town surrounded by industry that lost its European charm after the bombings in WWII destroyed it. Lonely Planet even says “Surrounded by factories and heavy-industry plants, Mannheim, situated between the Rhine and Neckar Rivers, near their confluence, isn’t Germany at its prettiest”. As students here we joke that whenever friends or family come to visit the only place we can bring them is Heidelberg—a beautiful quintessential German town 20 minutes away by train.

Yet as hard of a time as we give Mannheim, we have all grown quite fond of it and here are a couple reasons why.

  • It is a town inhabited by a large population of college age students. The University of Mannheim is really what attracts these students as it is known to be the “Harvard of Germany”—especially in the fields of business, economics, and political science. Besides the University of Mannheim there are also two other schools in the neighborhood. As a town somewhat centered around this student community one can imagine that there is great night life (students from Heidelberg come to Mannheim to party).
  • Even as a smaller town there always seems to be something going on—whether it is the largest wine festival in the world 30 minutes away by tram or a party hosted by faculty on campus.
  • There are a number of unexpected restaurants, bars, and cafes hidden within the town quadrate that offer character and add diversity. Traditional German food, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Cuban, Turkish…
  • Mannheim is a really affordable place to live in compared to many cities in Europe. One can easily eat out for five euros or grocery shop for the week for under 30 euros.
  • Mannheim is very centrally located in Europe. This allows all the exchange students here to easily travel and do weekend trips to neighboring countries.

And finally it is about the people. Mannheim has a large group of international undergraduate and graduate exchange students—834 to be exact, with about 300 alone being business exchange students. We are in a position where we all have accents speaking English. Whether a posh UK accent, a strong Aussie accent, a French accent, a Finnish accent, or a Jack Sparrow sounding accent…we are from all over the world. This diversity has offered a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and perspectives. Such as why one would vote for Brexit or that potato scones exist in Scotland. The people from this international community are those who have become my exchange family away from home.