An interest in German that started in high school has already taken Ruohan Zhao to Berlin and Freiburg.
“When I finished high school, I still didn’t feel like I’d mastered German yet, and I wanted to take it to an academic level at university,” says Ruohan.
ANU is one of the few universities in Australia that teaches German, and it was this, with the ability to combine this with a Bachelor of Laws, that prompted Ruohan to make the move to Canberra from Auckland, New Zealand.
In 2014, Ruohan headed to Germany for a semester-long exchange at Freiburg University, after six weeks of language training in Berlin, an experience she says was “like falling in love with Germany, their language and their culture all over again”.
Among the highlights of her trip was watching the Soccer World Cup with her fellow students.
“It was really fun because all the students would gather in the beer garden and watch the matches together. And when Germany won the World Cup final there was a spontaneous street party!”
Ruohan got to experience the life of a regular German university student, living in a flat with six other local and international students.
“It was so much fun living in a flat, my housemates had done lots of interesting things and had completely different life experiences to me. You also throw parties together, cook together, watch TV together… it was a great experience to be able to live like a local.”
While she says that settling into life in Germany was a challenge, it was ultimately a fantastic experience.
“It was hard to settle in at first, but the longer you spend there and the more people you get to know, the better it is,” she recalls.
“Exchange is good because it opens your mind to different possibilities and different perspectives that you don’t get when you stay at ANU. It helps you develop as a person, and learn more about yourself rather than just learning more about a subject.”
Ruohan’s time in Germany even helped her to appreciate her life at ANU.
“I felt really energised when I came back to Canberra,” she says.
“It’s really extraordinary how unique the campus lifestyle is. It’s a really dynamic environment and a nice community feeling, and you get to meet so many new people. It’s a really rich social life.”
Ruohan has since graduated from the university.