Kimberly Webber - 2015 Program Participant
Walking from the tram stop to the IES Center
What attracted you to the idea of studying abroad?
I was studying German in college and wanted the chance to learn it while in a German-speaking country. I'm also an international business major and wanted to be able to study this hands on in countries outside of the United States.
Why did you choose an IES Abroad program in Germany?
When I was a freshman in college, I went to the office hours of my first German teacher and she told me endless amazing stories about her experiences learning, living, and working in Freiburg, Germany in college. I immediately fell in love with the city, and while I researched business programs in London as well, my heart was already set.
IES Abroad has a great partnership with my university, and they have three programs each semester in Freiburg, which is amazing! It was tough to narrow down my choices between the Language and Area Studies program and the European Union program. But in the end, the comfort of English-taught classes and the incredible opportunity to travel so much helped me decide on the IES Abroad EU program and I'm so happy with my decision.
What was your favorite part about Freiburg?
Freiburg, Germany is within two hours of three major airports and within an hour of two other countries, so the travel possibilities are really endless. But, staying in town was never a bad option. Freiburg is located on the edge of the Black Forest where we were able to hike, ski, and generally enjoy the snow from January through April, without having to deal with the snow's inconveniences in town. Freiburg is also just big enough to offer multicultural cuisine and a great nightlife, but small enough that it is easy to get around by tram or walking, and the town itself is very safe.
What makes the IES Abroad EU program unique?
The IES Abroad European Union program was a phenomenal and unique experience. Located in Freiburg, Germany, we were afforded the chance to call a beautiful, safe, and convenient German town home, while spending a large portion of our semester traveling through the European Union. The program took us on three week-long field trips, during which we took all that we'd learned in our EU seminar in Freiburg and applied it to each new city and country we visited.
Taking "off" the week from scheduled classes, we had one to three meetings or presentations scheduled almost every day of the field study in government buildings, media outlets, and IES Abroad Centers. We would meet with and hear from government officials, topic specialists, and civilians alike. Once we stepped out of our meeting, we stepped onto the streets; each new city was at the disposal of (in my case) 84 eager Americans. We spent the evenings and lunch hours exploring, trying local cuisine, meeting locals, taking walking city tours, and enjoying all that European nightlife has to offer.
Freiburg was the perfect launching pad and host city, with a good nightlife and daytime experience of its own, and also being located within an hour of both France and Switzerland and close to other major German cities.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
Here's an anecdote: When we were on our second field study in Brussels I developed a cough and by the next day when we touched down in Paris I was achy, exhausted, and (apparently...I didn't realize until a friend pointed it out the next day) had developed a high fever. I was bed ridden the next morning in Paris, unable to go to Versailles, so a friend called the administrator traveling with us. She checked in on me several times and called me a doctor, who came within the hour. Apparently all those symptoms meant bronchitis. The IES Abroad administrator who was with us came to see me after the doctor left, took my prescription, filled it, and returned it to me, and continued to check on me throughout the next day and a half until we returned to Freiburg. All of my teachers and the staff were incredibly supportive and accommodating while I stayed home from classes for a few days to recover.
All dolled up for our self-planned FORMAL!
Is there anything you wish you would have done differently during your time abroad?
There is no part of my study abroad experience I would not gladly do again exactly the same way. I talked to and had a relationship with nearly everyone on my program (84 students total). I got to know locals, hung out in bars and clubs, but also by parks and lakes. I traveled well in my free time and made the most of the short time I had in each city.
I learned about my family's past, about myself, and what I'm capable of. I made lifelong friends and gained a new and different energy for life.
Describe a day in the life of your IES Abroad program.
Wake up, get ready, yell at my roommate for not being awake yet, finish up some homework, check the tram schedule, sprint to the tram stop by our apartment, miss the intended tram by ten seconds, catch the next tram in six minutes, get off the tram, and grab a croissant or a Berliner donut from the bakery for breakfast. Walk to the IES Abroad Center, go to first class, spend an hour doing homework for the next class, and then go to the next class. Eat leftover dinner for lunch while socializing in the center, go out for a one Euro scoop of gelato with friends, go to third class, walk to the tram stop by the IES Abroad Center, and miss that tram just barely.
Finally make it home after a long day, take a 15 minute power nap, make dinner with my IES Abroad roommate, speak minimally in German to our flatmates who spoke better English than we did German, and get ready to go. Meet up with friends, head to a student bar to meet up with friends, run to the tram stop in our determination to make the last tram of the night, sometimes miss that tram and have to walk 30 minutes home or spend 10 Euros to split a cab. Finally, go to bed too late after talking with my roommate.
What was your favorite part about life in Freiburg outside of your coursework?
Heading to our favorite student bar where drinks are cheap, friends are plenty, and sometimes we'd even practice German with the local university students. We could be found here two to four times a week, even if just for an hour.
What was your living situation like in Freiburg?
We lived in apartments with one other IES Abroad student, German university students, and international students. We shared a kitchen, a living room, and a few bathrooms. My favorite part was actually my roommate. I was one of six students on the program who had a roommate (all others had single rooms and an IES Abroad student in another room in their apartment). It was unexpected, but we got along so well and she's now one of my closest friends. Two months after the fact and we still talk everyday; old habits die hard.
Now that you're home, how has studying abroad in Germany impacted your life?
I have an increased appreciation for every moment and every person in my life. I have an increased desire to continue my travels and career explorations beyond what I would have ever imagined before going abroad. I now have an increased excitement for those who are about to embark on new journeys and a strong desire to listen to those who have experiences that have changed their life.