Yi Li - 2014 Program Participant

Colosseum in Rome, Italy

In front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

How did you decide studying abroad was right for you?

Coming from China, I was already an international student in the U.S. I didn't choose to study abroad to challenge myself to live independently, or to understand what it’s like to be considered “international”, but simply to see more of the world and immerse myself in a different culture.

Europe had always been on my list of destinations to visit. The IES Abroad European Union Program offers a perfect combination of learning about the EU and traveling between the countries. The excellence of the program and the good reviews from its alumni convinced me to choose the program in the end.

Where did you live while studying in Germany?

All the students in my program lived in apartment-like dorms with local students who attend the University of Freiburg. There were three locations of dorms, each with its own perks. I lived in a seven person dorm near the city center area. All rooms were single and most were pretty big. The seven people in my apartment shared a kitchen and two bathrooms. There was a big table and a couch in the kitchen so it also worked as a common room for people to hang out in.

I was very happy with the apartment itself, and with the fellow German students that I lived with. They were all very friendly, helpful, and great to talk to.

View of Vienna, Austria from the Belvedere

Looking into the city of Vienna from the Belvedere.

What was your most memorable experience while studying abroad with IES in Europe?

During my third field trip with the program, my wallet was stolen on a subway in Rome, Italy. In it I had my passport, other IDs, cash, and credit cards. IES provided me with an excellent support system at this time of emergency. I was given emergency cash and booked an extra night in the hotel at the cost of the program. The program director emailed me copies of my passport and visa and the IES Abroad center in Rome helped me book a night train back to Germany. I had to go through lots of trouble to recover my passport and everything, but looking back, it was certainly a good lesson for me to learn about travel safety.

List the top three reasons you would go back to Freiburg if you have the chance.

  • I would definitely want to visit some of my professors and the IES Abroad staff again. Many of them were such interesting people with great stories to share! I’m still very thankful for everything they did for us during our time in Freiburg.
  • To visit my German/international friends again! I had incredible friendships with many locals (students, restaurant owners, etc.) in Freiburg too and it was difficult to say goodbye.
  • To go back to the farmers market for the amazing hot dogs and cheap yet very tasty local wine! And to the many other great bakeries and restaurants in Freiburg, of course.

Gardens in Versailles

    Versailles had the most beautiful gardens Yi has ever seen!

    How has your life been impacted by studying abroad in Europe?

I fell in love with Germany. I’m now continuing studying German and considering moving back at some point in my life. The thought would never cross my mind before I studied abroad there.

Traveling around Europe also made me much better at talking to strangers on buses, trains, and flights. You never know what amazing people might be sitting next to you!

I’ve also become much more aware of events happening around Europe, now that I’ve learned so much about the EU. Now when I watch European news on TV, rather than thinking, “I don't really know what’s going on”, I can understand what’s happening and explain the news to my friends and parents!

If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?

I would make the program more immersive by allowing students to enroll in optional courses and join student organizations at the University of Freiburg. Because the program was in English and most students didn't speak German, we didn't have any classes with local students at the university. Some students might find it difficult to meet local students and make friends. If we could join the student clubs and organizations, it would be much easier to find people with common interests and have a more immersive experience.