Practical vs Theoretical

Currently, I am taking my Master’s degree at the Hochschule Darmstadt, but my Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Studies was back in Portugal, in Madeira. Even before I came to Germany, I knew that education and life in general would be very different from what I had when I was studying back home. Because I am an international student, I know that some things might differ from the German experience, although it can be quite similar. The first thing that I felt different in Germany, especially in my Master’s in International Media Culture, is that it is more practical. From my experience in Portugal, I know that the education there can be very theoretical, and sometimes it can be really hard to do an internship, for example. My Bachelor’s was entirely theoretical, I never had a mandatory internship. When I arrived in Germany, I felt a bit left behind because everyone I met already had so many working experiences when I hadn’t. On my Master’s, right from the beginning, it was both practical and theoretical. They taught us and then we worked on it and in that way, we actually learned.

Many people are standing together, you can see that one person is holding a tablet. You can't recognize the people themselves, only their jackets and hands in gloves like a thermos cup.
Many people are standing together, you can see that one person is holding a tablet. © Elisa

Innovative education

For someone who is studying culture, it is important to talk about the past, but culture is also the present and culture is always evolving, but in my Bachelor’s, we were learning things that were taught for so many years, and many of them did not have much relevance for our future.  In Germany, I feel like everything I am learning has a purpose for me to be learning it, and I know that I will be putting that into practice, and I don’t need to just read books, they encourage to go out there and to get to know things with my own eyes. In Portugal, the education, at least my experience, was a little bit more theoretical, and I feel like a can learn more on a more practical education. 


Something that I actually find similar, is the bureaucracy in both universities. There are a lot of papers and documents to sign and deliver. I know it’s a normal thing in official places like universities, but it’s my least favorite thing when I am applying or matriculating for something.


When writing about this, I want to remind you that I studied and I come from an island, so when I am talking about my experiences, keep that in mind, because things can be a little different between an island and the mainland. One of those things is sports. Normally, universities have different sports, and for example, on the mainland of Portugal, you can even compete against other universities. But, in Madeira, we did not have any sports actually, not that I know of. In Hochschule Darmstadt, we actually have so many sports that we can choose from! Yoga, football, basketball, even Zumba! Some can have small fees, though.


Talking about fees, in Portugal we have a yearly fee, that we can pay every month for public universities. It depends on the university, but it is around 900 € yearly for a Bachelor’s, and a Master’s are always more expensive.  One of the reasons for me to choose Germany was that the costs for education, semester fees + transport, it’s way cheaper! 

Academic spirit

To finish, I want to talk about something really special about Portuguese universities, it’s called “praxe”. “Praxe” is like a ritual that some students choose to do when coming to the university for the first time. It’s where we meet our colleagues, it’s where we make friendships, and where we can talk with older students that will help us. It’s basically playing games, singing songs and doing stupid things to get familiar with the university and the academic spirit. In the end, we get baptized and then we can wear a very nice traditional “costume”. The costume is supposed to be the same for everyone, all black and white, with a black cape. Some say that J.K. Rowling was inspired by it while writing the Harry Potter books when she was living in Portugal. That’s something that I missed while coming to Germany because it’s really a nice way to meet people and feel an academic spirit.

Elisa and my friends in Paxe.
Me and my friends in Paxe.@ Elisa


Both countries have differences, of course. Even though so different, I have learned and grown from both experiences! I can understand better which type of education is more fit for me, and now I can improve on my studies and make the best out of it! 

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