Tobias Kirchebner has taken up the challenge of the double degree program. This dual degree program includes an intensive transatlantic education through a one-year study abroad in the second year at our sister university in Omaha, Nebraska. Since August 2019 Tobias is staying in the USA. While his three fellow students returned to their home countries because of Covid-19, Tobias decided to stay in the States. Find out, what his current student life looks like:
What made you decide to do a double degree at the UNO?
When I first heard about the possibility of studying in the USA for a year, I was immediately enthusiastic about it. During my Bachelor's degree, I hadn't had the opportunity to study abroad and the idea of not only studying abroad for a year, but also getting the chance to do another degree sounded just perfect to me. Both the curriculum and the joy of adventure made me take this step into the distance. This program allowed me to expand my knowledge and to grow and mature whilst facing new challenges.
How did you like your first time in the USA?
The first half of my stay in the USA was marked by countless wonderful moments. Starting with my adventurous apartment search, the settling in phase in Omaha and the successful orientation at the university, up to the almost countless contacts with the most different people that I got to know on the way. Of course it was possible to use the little free time I had for one or the other trip. For example, I set off and visited a friend of mine during his semester abroad in Hawaii. Together with other friends I made various city trips by car and luckily friends from home could visit me before the whole world turned upside down and made all further travels impossible. Even if much more would have been planned, I am still incredibly happy that I was able to collect so many wonderful memories.
Why did you decide to stay in the USA despite Covid-19?
I probably made this decision unconsciously already in Innsbruck when I was thinking about my living situation. At that time, however, I could not even know what influence it would have on me. Unlike my fellow students, I decided to live outside the university campus and not to move with them into the student dormitory. So finally, after some interim solutions, the wonderful opportunity arose to move into a private dormitory. Now I live in a house with a garden, which I share with a helpful roommate and a lively cat. In spite of everything it was not an easy decision to swim against the current and stay here. I really realized this when I took my fellow students to the airport and said goodbye to them. I often asked myself whether my decision was the right one or whether I should have gone home. Many of my friends asked me about my situation here in the USA and at some point it became clear to me that I had to take this decision for myself and that nobody could take it away from me. This moment happened two months ago and I am still very happy to have taken this decision. In addition, Omaha allows a lot of freedom, despite the Corona crisis, because of its spacious construction. So there was also the possibility, as a compensation for my obligations, to make numerous racing bike tours and thus to get to know my surroundings even better. On this way I was able to pursue my original plans, even if differently than expected. If everything works out, I will start my journey home at the beginning of June. So my adventurous double degree program is slowly approaching a good and satisfying end, although under slightly different circumstances.
How has your student life changed since Covid-19?
Perhaps most excitingly, my student life has not changed at all in terms of my obligations at the university. Fortunately, I have been able to complete all my courses online and to continue researching for my master's thesis, Internet access is essential. Although my physical presence here would not have been necessary for my graduation from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, the time difference and the many group activities required made it much easier to complete the courses on site. In the end, I used the free time I gained in this way to concentrate fully on my studies and so I am happy that I was able to complete everything to my complete satisfaction.
I am happy and very grateful that everything worked out so well and in retrospect I can already say that it was a good decision to stay in Omaha. The realization remains that I had a very special experience in a unique time!