Adriana Duarte - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
Last summer Rice University gave 10 Intermediate German students the opportunity to take an intensive German course in Leipzig, Germany for the summer with the Roy Jones Fellowship. While I had a great time and learned a lot of German that summer, I felt like I had just started to let go of my fears of speaking German in public and of living abroad alone. That summer I had seen many great small towns in East Germany and had the opportunity to go to Italy with my Mom and sister at the end of the program. I met so many great people, took lots of photographs that I was later able to use to make great paintings, and felt I had grown so much, so I was ready to go abroad again.
Why did you choose IES Abroad in Freiburg?
I chose the IES Abroad Freiburg language and area studies program because they offered all German courses in small class sizes. I also love nature, as I am an avid landscape painter and used to run cross country. The prospect of getting to live near the Black Forest was very exciting to me. I mentioned my love of nature on my housing form and to my great joy, IES Abroad placed me in a beautiful Wohngemeinschaft that was two blocks from the Black Forest.
What was your favorite part about Freiburg?
As aforementioned I loved being able to hike often in the Schwarzwald. I had an internship at a community supported agriculture garden in a nearby village called Burg am Wald. I was very impressed that one could just hop on the regional train and visit such beautiful small towns and villages with ease. Locals are very friendly, so don't be surprised when someone strikes up conversation with you on the train out of the blue.
What made your program experience unique?
Our student affairs workers were so friendly. Whenever I had a problem or even was just having a bad day I always felt like I could come talk to them. We had such flexibility in the classes that we could take. There was the option to take IES Abroad courses, university courses, take a painting course with Georg Schell, a local artist, and/or have an internship. I took all IES Abroad courses plus the painting class with Georg and an internship at a local farm.
I partly came abroad because I am the type of person that gets very anxious about school, so I chickened out of taking uni courses. I can't say whether or not I should have taken one, but in this semester I definitely overcame a lot of my issues with anxiety, and feel like my idea of academic success is more balanced and much more focused on finding my true interests instead of feeling like I have to achieve for the sake of achieving.
How did the local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff was so nice and always available for questions. They definitely helped us with our transition to life in Germany. I was intimidated with a lot of simple things in the beginning like writing emails in German and writing a German resume, but our academic advisor was very helpful in teaching us the ins and outs of these processes.
Do you have any regrets?
I don't really have any regrets. I really feel like I've gotten to see a lot and I lived a balanced life here in Freiburg. I came here looking to live peacefully and was able to do that.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
I would typically get up around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., depending on what I had that day, go to class, and have lunch with a friend. Some days I had my internship in the afternoon. The days where I didn't I would try to spend time with friends downtown before I would go home. I'd get groceries on my way back to my dorm, and then work a little bit on homework before bed. Right before bed I'd read for fun, usually books in German.
What did you enjoy doing outside of the classroom?
I loved when we went on day trips with IES Abroad. They took us snowshoe walking up Feldberg. We went to Colmar in France. My favorite trip was hiking Engelberg in Switzerland. It was so beautiful there that I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I got to pet a cow there, but he licked my pants shortly after and ran away. I never thought before that I'd ever go to the Swiss Alps, much less pet a cow, but there are a lot of firsts that I had this semester. I hope to fill my life with many more.
What was your housing like? What did you like best about it?
I lived in a dorm with a kitchen, in German they call that a Wohngemeinschaft, or WG for short. I had my own room with a shared balcony. We had two bathrooms to share with five people. My only complaint would be that my bathroom mate always flooded the floor after his showers without wiping it up, but other than a few wet socks, I had no other bad experiences. My roommates were all very friendly and expressed concerns about the WG clearly and politely whenever they came up.
How has studying abroad impacted your life?
I leave Freiburg in a few days. I'm not actually going home until December because I'm doing a second semester abroad in Denmark with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. Speaking to the effects of my program though, I'd say I'm now a much braver person and much more confident in my abilities. It's not necessarily that I sprouted a million new skills over night, but my German improved while I was here, and the confidence from that helped me realize that I already had many assets before coming abroad that I hope to develop over my last year of college and throughout the rest of my life.