Tales From Abroad: Germany Jul27

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Tales From Abroad: Germany

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about Study Abroad. Not just my experience, but the entire purpose behind Study Abroad and what I was told coming into the program.  I was bombarded by fliers and social media posts to apply for Study Abroad before I even fully committed to my college. I had a professor give a lecture every Friday my Freshman year about all the reasons you should Study Abroad, things like “making life-long best friends” and “Seeing cool history”. By the time I was convinced this was something I wanted to do, I had signed up for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to travel, vacation, and be social. Former abroad-ers said things to me like, “best experience ever!”, “most fun you’ll ever have”, “chance of the lifetime” and “you won’t regret it!”.

While I think all of those things came true, this is the best semester and I have traveled and been social, along the way I discovered that there is so much more to Study Abroad than the memories and the fun.Colosseum

I’ve had more fun this semester than I have in a long time and I think I have enough memories to last a lifetime. I’ve played Mafia in hostels all over Europe with my peers and our professor. I’ve sprinted through a train station to catch a train we inevitably ended up missing by mere seconds, only to laugh about it for the next two weeks. I’ve struggled to learn the German language alongside my classmates, poking fun all semester at each other’s attempts to order food. I’ve walked to the top of Dresden, Lisbon,Prague, Barcelona, and Vienna and looked out over each beautiful city. I’ve climbed mountains in eastern Germany. I’ve seen the sun set in seven different countries by now, and the sun rise in at least as many. I’ve stood where Martin Luther stood, and I’ve seen where Bach and Mozart are buried. I have had some AMAZING experiences.

Girls in SalzburgBut this semester I have also stood in the crematorium of a concentration camp. I’ve walked past refugee camps here in Leipzig. I’ve been through the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and stood mere feet away from Hitler’s bunker. I’ve watched women literally sell their bodies to people passing by in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. I’ve been in the room Anne Frank was in when she and her family were discovered. I’ve seen poverty and homelessness in every city I’ve been to and I have witnessed alcoholism and drug addiction. I’ve walked through the Old Jewish Cemetery (Google it) in Prague and realized the conditions this group of people had to live in. I stood in the Brussels airport three weeks before it was attacked.

I am not exaggerating when I say the experiences I have had this semester have changed me forever, but you have to understand that Study Abroad is not all about the fun and the memories. It’s your eyes being opened to the unspoken parts of humanity. It’s Jacob in Greece
standing in historical places and realizing that where you stand and where ____ stood is only separated by time and at that moment you are connected. It’s witnessing history in the making. It’s being outside of your comfort zone, sometimes 24/7, and learning to live there. It’s being moved to tears by the way humans have been treated. It’s moving halfway across the world, having no idea what you’re doing, and loving it anyway.

Study Abroad, put very simply, is about seeing the world.

I don’t regret a single second I have spent Abroad this semester. The fun, the memories made, the things I have learned, and the hard things I’ve seen this semester will stick with me for the rest of my life. It is unfair to the Study Abroad experience not to share the hard parts of the semester with others. Those moments in time have been every bit as, if not more, influential to me as the good times. I’ll be careful when convincing future students to take the leap to Study Abroad to mention the fun and the memories, but also to mention the uncomfortable factor and the personal growth that comes with it.

As my time in Germany comes to a close, I keep reflecting on all of the ways God has blessed me this semester. A huge “THANK YOU!” to the Honor’s College for giving me a Travel Grant and lessening the financial burden of Study Abroad! This semester would not have been possible without you!

Portugal Speedboat