I went abroad in my first semester of college, and knew that I just had to go abroad again in my junior year. I went to London that first semester through my home school, and then I petitioned to go to Germany when I was a junior.
Why did you choose IES Abroad Freiburg?
I wanted to go to Germany partly because my minor is German, but also because my dad grew up there, so I have a lot of cultural and familial connections. My major is environmental studies, and the program I found through careful research was an environmental studies and sustainability program in Freiburg, Germany. All the other programs in and around Germany seemed to be mainly geared towards environmental science, which isn't my major, so it seemed like the perfect fit.
How did local IES Abroad staff support you throughout your program?
The staff were very good at checking in with us and making sure everything was okay. We had several meetings throughout the semester, where we could talk about whatever we were concerned about, or even just small things that we wanted to share. They were also really awesome at making sure we had all the resources we could possibly need to experience as much of Freiburg and the surrounding area as possible. They were supportive in both areas.
What was your favorite part about Freiburg?
My favorite thing about Freiburg is the fact that it had so much more to offer than I initially thought. There are the quintessential touristy things to do there, but I learned so much more about its history and sustainability initiatives through the classes I was taking. Everyday I discovered or learned something new that I probably wouldn't have otherwise known from just observing the city as an outsider. There are districts of Freiburg that have been carefully designed with environmental consciousness and social inclusion as the top priorities. The city is so well thought out: it was a privilege to be able to get to know it.
What made your experience abroad unique?
The group of people I was with were some of the greatest people. My study abroad experience was unique because they were a part of it, and also because of the people I met outside of the program. That includes my professors, my housemates, and all of the other natives that I had a chance to meet.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish that I had been more committed to learning German. It was easy to speak English a lot of the time, because all of my classes were in English, and all of my program mates were native English speakers. There was no language prerequisite for the program, so many of us came in with varying levels of proficiency: some had never spoken a word, while others had spent more than 10 years or so learning. It was difficult to practice with each other because of disparities between abilities.
Describe a typical day in the life of the IES Abroad Freiburg program.
I would wake up, have breakfast with my flatmates, then walk about half an hour to class at the center. I usually had class until early afternoon, then I would get lunch with friends, spend the afternoon doing something like reading at a cafe, going on a hike, going on a small day trip to a nearby area or city, or just exploring Freiburg. Then I would do homework, cook dinner at a friend's place, and take the tram back home.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
Most of my free time was spent outside, either hiking, walking around, exploring Freiburg, or taking trips to neighboring places. I also spent a lot of time at my favorite cafe.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I lived in a residence hall with 13 other students. We shared two bathrooms, four showers, two kitchens, and two living areas. All of the other students spoke German, and I was the only student from my program. We all had our own rooms, but we shared a lot of things: bread, spices, baking basics (sugar, flour), milk, butter, potatoes, onions, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and anything else that we wanted to share. Whenever we bought something communal, we'd write the item and cost on the list, and at the end of the month, someone would be responsible for tallying up the costs so that it was all balanced out. For chores, there were a set of cardboard cards that had some sort of task on it, like cleaning the bathroom or putting away the dishes in the kitchen. All you had to do was do your chore and then pass the card on to the next room. The whole system was really fair and efficient.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in the IES Abroad Freiburg program?
Every participant should know that their experience is totally shaped by how much they put into it. Get to know your flatmates, introduce yourself to others, don't be afraid of the language barrier.
It's so important to step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there. It makes the whole experience so worth it.
Now that you're home, how has studying abroad in Freiburg impacted your life?
I have a greater perspective of life outside of the U.S. I was exposed to so many different countries and cultures through my travels while I was abroad, and I have definitely noticed I am more confident in my ability to be independent and get out of my comfort zone.
Would you recommend IES Abroad Freiburg to others? Why?
I would absolutely recommend this program. Freiburg is one of the best cities to study in. It isn't a huge city, so it's not overwhelmingly expensive, but it's not so small that you get to know it within a week and run out of things to do. It's a student city, so there are young people everywhere, and there are constantly new experiences to have. Freiburg is also famous for being one of the most sustainable cities in Germany, and it's an amazing place to learn about sustainability.
The program is really well organized, and the supplemental field trips were probably one of my favorite aspects of the program. There was plenty of time to travel around and get to know the city, because the classes were divided up into modules. This meant we only had one class at a time, so we could focus on and put all of our efforts into one subject. I retained so much of what I learned because of that. Plus, you'll end up meeting lifelong friends.
Manuela is from a small suburb in northern New Jersey. She is going to be a senior at Skidmore College in upstate New York. Manuela went to London in her first semester of college and knew she had to go abroad again. She ended up going to Germany in the second semester of her junior year. Studying abroad changed her life, and she would not trade her experiences for the world.