The nagging of a German girl! When I was a senior, we had a foreign exchange student from Germany come to our school. It wasn't long before we became close friends, and we kept in touch even after I graduated and she returned home. She kept telling me to come visit her in Germany, and I thought, 'Why just visit when I can study abroad and really immerse myself in the culture?' Fast forward a couple years and there I was standing at her doorstep in Nurnberg. She was at my high school graduation in 2014 in America, and then I got to see hers in 2016 in Germany. It was amazing.
Why did you choose IES Abroad?
My first concern was the language of instruction since at the time I spoke zero German. I also didn't want to be gone long because I'd never been abroad or even away from my parents for more than a weekend, and there weren't any classes I could take while abroad that would go toward my major, so I didn't want to set myself back a semester. This program worked for me because the classes were in English and I was only gone for eight weeks during the summer.
What was your favorite part about Freiburg?
That would be a two-way tie between the trams and the food. To elaborate: I live in an area where the nearest store is a fifteen minute drive away, so the fact that I could step outside my apartment, hop on a tram, and be in front of a café within minutes just blew me away as a small town country girl. As for the food, it's incredibly healthy compared to greasy American junk, and I still miss German classics like spaghetti eis and eiskaffee.
What made your experience abroad unique?
The field trips were probably what made it the most unique. We spent a few weeks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, and Cyprus, none of which had ever been on my mental Places to Go list, but were all incredible. I hiked through the mountains in Bosnia and swam in the Mediterranean Sea in Cyprus. Some of my favorite memories are from the field trips.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
IES was really good to us; they organized housing, transportation cards, city tours, field trips, and German classes for beginners. They even got us jerseys to wear when Germany was in the Euros, and had a farewell party for us on the last day of the program.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Packed for a variety of weather! When I heard that Freiburg was "The Sunniest City in Germany," and knew I'd be going during the summer, I only brought clothes for warm weather. Big mistake! It was an unusually rainy summer, and I had to buy new shoes, a coat, and an umbrella when I got over there.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
After about a twenty minute tram ride to the IES center, classes last roughly until noon. For lunch, you can ride back home, pop into a café, or eat at the Mensa (university cafeteria). Sometimes a few of us would meet back up in the evenings for dinner at a restaurant somewhere, or the center would show a course-related movie.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
My friends and I went for a lot of gelato breaks in-between classes. Most places you can get it for only one euro. Some nights we went to a local Irish pub for bingo or trivia nights to try and win free drinks. One time we caught an American football game; another, we visited a biergarten. On weekends we took day trips to Basel (Switzerland), Strasbourg (France), and Zurich (Switzerland) since Freiburg is close to the border.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
For my program you can either have a shared apartment in Vauban or a single apartment at the Fizz. I got the latter due to high housing demand. The Fizz is a student apartment complex about ten minutes from the city center and twenty from IES. It's a really nice facility, and everyone was so nice there. I had my own kitchen, bathroom, and balcony all to myself. I originally signed up to share an apartment, but in the end I'm glad it worked out the way it did because I grew to love my privacy. It was nice having my own space to come back to at the end of the day.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
I would definitely recommend majoring (or at least having an interest) in international relations or a related field. I don't regret doing the program, but I had no clue about what was going on in class, and the coursework was difficult for me. It's possible to get through it, but I had to work a lot harder than some of the other IR majors who were already in that mindset.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I'm a completely different person now, but in a good way. Studying abroad has given me so much more tolerance and helped me to be open-minded about people in general. It's given me bravery, too. Everything I try to talk myself into has me thinking, "If I went to Germany by myself, of course I can do this." And of course I came back with an arsenal full of stories and great new friends.
Would you recommend IES Abroad to others? Why?
I'd definitely recommend this program to others. The on-site staff at the IES Center became like a family to us, and my IES adviser back in the States was always willing to help me in any way she could.
Lorraine Engleman is about to start her last year as an elementary education major at Indiana University Southeast. She is currently a substitute, but hopes to be a full-time teacher at her alma mater after graduation. Studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany, was her first time going out of the country. Now that she’s done it, she says she’s pretty sure it won’t be her last time.