The charm of libraries, and life between East and West – Interview with international student Andreas Goller

Enlarge image There are as many unique background stories as there are people, and that is especially true for those living abroad. Recently, we met with Andreas Goller, a 23-year-old student, whose up to date travel experience spans several cultures, countries, and continents.

Following his high school graduation, Andreas did volunteer work in Thailand for one year, during which he also travelled to other Asian countries. The experiences he made while abroad motivated him to study East Asian Studies and political Economics in Heidelberg, Germany. But staying in one place for a longer period of time was never an option for him. Andreas left Germany to study for a year in Taiwan and, after that, enrolled as an exchange student at the University of Toronto in August 2013.

You have spent one year each in Taiwan and Thailand, speak fluent Chinese and have travelled all around East Asia. How come you choose to study at the University of Toronto?
Andreas Goller: Having spent time in Asia, I realized how many people in Asia tend to see Europeans and Americans as part of one cultural sphere. But after meeting many North Americans I realized that this is not the case. Sometimes I even feel like there is more of a cultural difference between North Americans and myself than between myself and Asians. I wanted to really get to know the North American culture and applied for a scholarship via the Ontario-Baden-Württemberg exchange program.

You have been studying in Toronto for almost one year now. What are the big differences between Germany and Canada in regards to the university system and student life?
AG: Student life in Canada revolves a lot more around campus than it does in Germany. There are many university-related activities for students organised by the university or by other students. I am part of a choir and several sports clubs and I often meet friends at the university for spare time activities. Also, students here are very committed and serious about their studies.
However, we are often given more tasks than we can complete in an appropriate way. In less than one year of studying here I have written more papers than during my entire time in Heidelberg. But none of the papers I submitted here I was really proud of. In Germany you might only have one or two papers every semester, but you are able to do profound research, give it time to mature and really get into the subject matter.

Enlarge image Are your fellow Canadian students interested in Germany? Do you see a strong cultural connection between Germany and Canada?
Actually yes, there is definitively a cultural connection between the two countries. Coming here, I was surprised to find that a lot of local students study German language, have travelled to Germany before, want to go there for an internship or even have relatives in Germany.
Nowadays Germany seems to have become something like a brand, much more fashionable than what I grew up believing it was.
The title of our interview-series is "I am German". Can you identify with that?
Yes, most definitively. I am German in every regard. I enjoy being abroad and exploring new places. It makes me get to know other cultures, learn other languages and learn about foreign customs. But it also makes me very aware of my own cultural identity and that is without a doubt German.
What was the most memorable experience you made during your time in Toronto?
The most memorable and most beautiful experience was certainly my trip to Kilarney National Park last fall. We were 12 friends driving up there in bright autumn, there were hardly any other people. We took a canoe trip, it was a post card scenery.
And that was right before the onset of the longest and harshest winter I have ever experienced. Especially because I cycle. That’s another thing I will remember from Canada for sure.

Enlarge image What is your favourite student hotspot in Toronto?
That really depends on the time of day. During the day, usually Robarts Library, the biggest library on UofT Campus, is a place to socialise.
I also really like Hart House on UofT campus, that’s where I often meet with friends to play squash, or to go swimming or to the gym, play pool or chess.
At night, Madison pub on Madison Avenue is very popular. It is big, and has a piano bar and the pianist there will take song requests. Most of the other students I know go there on Thursday nights.
And as a last thought…
AG: One of the coordinators of our exchange program warned us not to take too many classes. He told us if we did so and people would later asked us about our Canadian experience, all we had to say would be: “Oh, a beautiful library.” And I think this is what happened to me. But I don’t think that was a mistake, I have very dear memories of studying here.


Ontario-Baden-Württemberg exchange program

Robarts library

Madison pub

Hart house

Andreas Goller

Group of students

Picture gallery international student Andreas Goller in Toronto