Linnea Lagerstrom - 2015 Program Participant
Showing Amsterdam some love in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I decided to apply to go abroad because I wanted to experience a different culture than my own, and I was very intent on becoming fluent in another foreign language. Cultural and language immersion were my most important goals for studying abroad and the program with IES Abroad enabled me to accomplish those goals.
Why did you choose IES Abroad?
IES Abroad had a variety of opportunities and I felt like I wasn't closing off any of those opportunities by studying through their program. They were very wellconnected with the local German university, they had classes that were in 100 percent German, they had optional pre-planned trips around Europe, they had internship opportunities, and they offered many different housing options (living in your own apartment, living with a German host family, etc), and they have been around for a very long time.
In front of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany
What was your favorite part about Berlin?
I love Berlin for its willingness to accept many different types of lifestyles, it's cultural diversity, and its practicality. There is always something to do and there is a huge young population, which was appealing to me as a college student. I loved how efficiently the city is organized and how I rarely felt in danger, even as a woman living in a foreign country.
What makes IES Abroad unique?
I think what makes IES Abroad unique is that they are extremely thorough in making sure their students are always getting the best services and that there aren't any doors closed to students because of any interests or other obstacles they might have.
I felt not only accommodated, but truly at home with IES Abroad. I would encourage others to learn more about their programs if they're interested in studying abroad.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
They checked in on me multiple times to make sure that I had all the resources I needed, as someone with a learning disability, and they also met with everyone to make sure that their host family housing situations were acceptable and comfortable. Also, when I was very sick, they helped me find a doctor who was able to see me that exact same day, even as a walk in patient with no German health insurance. It felt like I was being taken care of by family and I really appreciated how supportive they were.
At the top of the highest hill in Prague, Czech Republic
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have gotten more involved with volunteering with nonprofits in Germany. I doubted myself because I was worried my German wasn't good enough, but I think it would have been better for me to try anyways and see what happened.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
I would wake up and look out my window to the park across the street to see what the weather was like. Then I would get up, get dressed, make some breakfast (chamomile tea and wheat toast with ricotta and jam on it), and head out to go to class. I walked through an area with shops to my U-bahn (subway) stop and took the train to Mitte (the middle of Berlin) and walked for about three minutes to the program building. I liked getting there a bit early to say hi to people, so I would enter into the lobby area and see who was seated there. Then we would go into class, and depending on the day, I would have between one and four classes.
Between classes I would grab lunch with friends in the surrounding area, or go to a local coffee shop with free wifi to get some homework done. Many of my classes had fieldtrips to various areas around town, which was very enjoyable and really great learning experiences. After class I would grab food or go home to make dinner with my host family. If I had some homework I would get that done and, depending on the day, I would go out with friends for drinks or check out other seasonal events going on.
Traversing the bridges and canals of Bruges, Belgium
What it something you liked doing on your free time?
I really liked going to Markthalle Neun, which was a Thursday food market where you could get a bunch of different types of food. There were always interesting people to meet there and the atmosphere was something I had never seen in the U.S. before.
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I lived with a host family. I liked that if I needed help from them they were there for me, but also that they weren't overbearing or too parental. They treated me with autonomy, which was perfect because I'm a pretty independent person as it is. That being said, they made me feel welcome and at home when I was feeling homesick.
Overall, how has your time in Germany impacted your life?
I think I don't take people at face value anymore and I'm much more open to hearing diverse opinions about politics, religion, international relations, and pop culture. Also, I'm a better communicator and don't have a problem taking constructive criticism, because Germans are much more direct when they want something or feel like something can be different. That type of blunt honesty was very refreshing for me to experience and I think it has helped me now in the U.S.