Wismar: Little but lovely
Could there be a nicer idea? Studying at a university and breathing in fresh sea air at the same time? This is an experience you can enjoy every day in Wismar. And it's not the only advantage the town has to offer.
by Christoph Berger
Wismar at a glance
Wismar's Altstadt, or old town, is idyllically located above an 800-year-old harbour where ships still drop anchor today. Nowadays, however, it's container ships rather than merchant ships that load and unload there cargo there, although small boats do still moor in the old part of the port. Some of them have small stands where you can buy all kinds of smoked fish. The harbour is lined with cafés and restaurants where you can while away pleasant summer evenings. Just a few steps away is the Altstadt. Almost all of the buildings here have been renovated since German reunification, and are evidence of the town's history: Wismar is believed to have been founded in the year 1226. The town hall, which has been rebuilt in classicist style, the impressive "Alter Schwede", which dates back to 1380 and now houses a restaurant, and the Schabbelhaus, which was built between 1569 and 1571, all bear witness to the different phases of Wismar's past. Even if there's no concrete proof, it is generally believed that the famous pirate Klaus Störtebecker was born in Wismar. Wismar has a population of almost 45,000. Since 2002, Wismar's old town has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites together with the town of Stralsund.
Wismar University of Applied Sciences
The University of Applied Sciences is a 20-minute walk from downtown Wismar – although, of course, buses also operate along the route. Through a park area, you reach the site of a former barracks, most of which has now been modernised. Students here are impressed by the university's equipment and facilities. In 2010, 6,208 students were enrolled in the faculties for Technology, Business and Design. They are taught by 138 professors and 85 lecturers and research assistants.
A matter of particular importance to the university are its students' children: campus kindergarten, changing tables, nursing areas, parks and playgrounds, a counselling and seminar room with children's room and information for parents on the Internet are just a few examples of available services and facilities. Not surprisingly, the university was awarded a certificate for being a "Family-friendly university".
Recreation in Wismar
Despite its size, Wismar offers a broad range of cultural activities. There's not only a theatre, but every year in October, the town hosts a film festival, while Galerie Kunststoff focuses on exhibitions of contemporary art. If you're more interested in history, a visit to the Stadtgeschichtliche Museum von Wismar is an absolute must. And, of course, you should also take a look at the town's Brick Gothic architecture: St. Georgen, St. Nikolaia and St. Marien are just three of the magnificent churches to be admired in Wismar. Some of them, however, can only be seen from the outside because restoration work is still going on in interiors.
For evening entertainment, try the student club Mensakeller and Block 17. The latter has been around since 1969 and is a meeting point for everyone connected with the university – students, post grads and professors alike.
The music festival CampusOpenAir takes place annually in September. For just 5 euro, you can listen and dance along to well-known bands. At the Swedish Festival the town recalls its historical relationship with the Scandinavian country. As a result of the Thirty Years War, Wismar was taken over by the Swedes in 1632 and remained under Swedish rule until 1803. To commemorate the period, the historical Marktplatz goes Swedish for one weekend with costume processions and numerous other live events.
If that's not enough, the bigger towns of Schwerin and Rostock are not far from Wismar. And fellow students will undoubtedly invite you to lots of private house parties.
Sporting activities at the university are varied, and thanks to the town's maritime location, you can take part in courses other universities can't offer: sailing, for example. Diving, sailing, angling and yachting clubs also exist outside the university. The town has a very maritime flair.
Rent in Wismar is moderately priced. For a room in one of the five halls of residence you will pay between 185.50 and 320.00 euro a month. In private shared accommodation, prices for a room are similar.
If you're keen to earn some money alongside your studies, be prepared to wait a while before you find a job. Private tutors are always in demand. But temporary work is easier to find in nearby Rostock or Schwerin.
Interview with Magor József Sándor Hegedűs from Hungary
Magor comes from the town of Debrecen in Hungary. He is 22 years old and is studying architecture. He has a one-year grant to study in Wismar. After completing his Bachelor degree, he'd like to stay on and do an MA in Wismar.
Magor, you come from Hungary. What made you decide to come to Wismar?
At my university in Hungary, a grant was offered for a one-year exchange. I was able to choose between two places, Wismar or a university in England. I'd already learned German at high school, so it made sense to come to Wismar, where I could improve my language skills. And apart from that, German architecture has a very good reputation, it's highly respected.
How do you like the university?
It's super, really good. On the one hand, the professors are really laid back. You can just say "hi" to them. Unlike in Hungary, where contact with professors is always very formal. And then studying conditions in Wismar are really good too. As a student of architecture, I need a studio to work in. There's a studio and workshop available for students to use. With my university identity card, I can go there any time of day or night.
Any time of day or night, that sounds good. What's your average day like?
I'm especially creative at night, that's when I work best. Sometimes I don't leave the studio until five in the morning. Although obviously only if I don't have to go to university in the morning. If I don't come home until late, I sleep a bit longer. I eat lunch in the canteen. The food there is good and inexpensive. Then I continue working on my plans, attend seminars or have meetings with my professors. In the afternoon, I also like to go to the university fitness room. And every so often, we foreign students get together in the evening. We're like one big family. Next to our residences, we have a lovely garden where we have barbecues. Or we go to the park behind the zoo.
Do you have a favourite spot in town?
The harbour with its old boats. I enjoy spending time there. Or I go for a walk through the old part of town. I love looking at the old architecture, especially the Brick Gothic style. I like these buildings. The old town is very well-kept. And the people are really nice.
At the moment you live on your grant. Is that enough to get by on?
I have enough money, and I can get by fine on that. But because I want to save money, I've got a job too. I work in the Mensakeller, a student club.
What are your plans for the future?
My grant runs out in September 2011. Before that, I'm going to work in a German architect's office for two months. A year ago, I'd never have even dreamed I'd be able to gain experience in a German architect's office. In September, I'll go back to Hungary and finish my Bachelor degree. But my biggest wish is to come back to Wismar again and do my Master's in architecture.