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Living Your Coursework

June 12, 2019

Year in school: Junior
Major: German, Scandinavian, Dutch
Minor: Swedish
Languages studied: German and Swedish
Learning abroad experience: Berlin, spring break 2017 and Freiburg, Germany, spring semester 2019

How did you choose your spring semester program? What is it like?

I chose my program because it allows me to study at a German university. It is important to me to take classes along with German students in order to gain a deeper understanding of the culture and make connections with people my age. My coursework is mostly in German, with one course in Swedish. The University of Freiburg also offers courses and activities in Scandinavian studies, which is important to me, as I am pursuing a minor in Swedish. As a result, I am currently participating in a Scandinavian choir where I have the opportunity to sing in Swedish and perform for special events (for example the upcoming Midsommar festival).

Studying in Germany also allows me to easily travel to Sweden during semester breaks, which I have been able to take advantage of twice already.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time abroad?

On a previous trip to Lucerne, Switzerland, I was walking down a street and saw a painting of a man on the side of a building. Underneath the painting were the words “Wolfgang von Goethe logierte hier 1779” (Wolfgang von Goethe stayed here in 1779). This painting of Goethe allowed me to see a tangible connection between my experiences abroad and what I’ve learned in my German history and literature classes at the U. By walking down an unassuming street, I was able to make a personal connection with an important figure in German history, and even though the city has evolved, it was still possible to imagine him walking down the same streets that I was on.

I believe it is important to study abroad because my story is not uncommon. Learning abroad makes real the history that you learn in the classroom. Because we are so detached from it in the United States, it can be difficult for us to understand the significance of this history to German culture without these kinds of experiences.

How has your understanding of another language enriched personal life or influenced your career trajectory?

Learning German and Swedish has increased my interest in and acceptance of other cultures. By traveling to a country with a different culture, and experiencing what it is like to feel unversed in such, I have gained a deeper respect for immigrants assimilating to our country and its culture. As a result, I have begun volunteering my time to help others through a cross-cultural discussion group at the U and an international institute in my hometown.

Even though it is difficult to adjust to a new culture, I am still drawn to return. After the first experience of traveling abroad, I gained new confidence to explore other places and their ways of life. Learning other languages has inspired me to pursue a career in an international field. Having the ability to communicate with people outside of your own culture broadens the opportunities for building meaningful relationships both in personal life and in the workplace.

If you received any scholarships, how did they aid your learning abroad experience?

I am very grateful to have received the Hella Mears Legacy Scholarship through the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch for my study abroad experience. This scholarship is important to me because it is an investment in my education and future. I am honored to be recognized for my dedication to my studies in GNSD. The scholarship allows me to have this experience without added financial pressure. The merit scholarships through the department motivate high-performing students to go beyond the classroom and experience the benefits of traveling abroad.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking about studying abroad?

Do not worry about studying abroad. It can seem intimidating at first; however, you will not be alone—others will feel the same way and be by your side to support you. The experience of living in another country is extremely rewarding and unforgettable. I have made lasting friendships with people from around the world while overseas. Some of the best times in my life have been during my time abroad!

This story is part of a larger article. Read more at Learning Abroad Is for Everyone.

This interview was conducted by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.