Kate McCarter - 2014 Program Participant

A view while hiking in the Swiss Alps near Engelberg, Switzerland

A lake Kate and her group came across while hiking in the Swiss Alps, near Engelberg, Switzerland. This was a day-trip organized by IES Abroad.

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I have always had an interest in different cultures and languages. Going to Germany was the perfect opportunity for me to gain more independence and confidence by immersing myself in a different culture and language.

What made you select Freiburg, Germany as your study abroad destiantion?

I had taken two years of German before going to Freiburg and I really wanted to improve my German proficiency. The best way to do this, in my opinion, was to be immersed in the language and culture. I chose Freiburg because IES Abroad offers a German immersion program that offers the opportunity to live with German roommates and in which all classes were taught in German. Freiburg is also a smaller city, which helped me to feel like a local in no time. 

A street in the Wiehre district of Freiburg

A street in the Wiehre district of Freiburg.

Why did you select IES Abroad over other organizations?

I chose IES over other organizations because they offered a semester program that focused on language immersion. My German professors also highly recommended this program, as did other Northwestern University students that I talked to. 

Where did you live in Freiburg?

My housing assignment was a German dorm. I lived with five other roommates, four Germans and one Italian. There was a communal kitchen and living area. Ours had a TV and we spent a lot of time in there talking and hanging out. Each person had his or her own private room and there were two bathrooms. My housing arrangement was about a 10 minute bike or tram ride from the city center.

What was a normal day for you in Freiburg, Germany?

A typical day for me in Freiburg involved going to class and spending time with my roommates. I bought a bike for the duration of my stay, so I would bike to class every morning. After classes I would walk around town with friends or hang out in the lounge in the IES building. Then I would bike home and spend the evenings with my roommates cooking dinner together or watching TV.

What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?

The biggest challenge that I faced while abroad was suffering a rather traumatic biking injury about a month into the program. I ended up in an emergency clinic, battered and bruised and in need of stitches in my forehead. It was hard to navigate the German medical system in German right after a bad accident, as I was very shaken up. However, two very nice German men helped me lock up my bike and took me to the nearest clinic and checked me in. I called an IES Abroad representative who came to the hospital immediately to support me. Overall, I had a good experience with the German medical system. The plastic surgeon did a great job stitching me up and my roommates and program were very supportive of me. 

A street in Freiburg at Christmas time

A street in Freiburg during the Christmas season.

What are the top reasons you'd want to go back to Freiburg?

I would want to go back to Freiburg to see my roommates, who became my good friends. I would love to spend more time with them. I also just love the city and look forward to returning.  

Would you recommend your IES Abroad program in Freiburg to others?

I would definitely recommend my IES program to others. The IES Freiburg staff were incredibly helpful, friendly, and always available to help. I made really good friends through the program, as we were all taking classes together, and I loved the fact that it was a German immersion program because it improved my German proficiency drastically. 

Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock when you came back to the U.S.?

I did experience some reverse culture shock once I returned to the U.S. It was odd to hear English all of the time and to have to drive everywhere that I wanted to go. I was saddened by the amount of waste that Americans produce and by how little we recycle. I was also a bit overwhelmed when all stores were open on Sundays.