Peter Bruno - 2015 Program Participant
Grindelwald, Switzerland day-trip organized by IES Abroad
What inspired you to apply for a study abroad program?
I've been fortunate enough to have been exposed to the wonders of traveling since I was in elementary school, when I took my first trip to Europe. Since then I have been overseas on five more occasions, with each one giving me a better understanding of world culture and my own self-identity. The longest of those trips was ten days, so I was excited to see how impactful four months would be.
Why did you choose your specific IES Abroad program?
It was one of the few programs that didn't have a language requirement and the academic areas were those that aligned with my interests and major. The travel incorporated into the curriculum was also very unique to my program, and gave me an opportunity to go to places and learn from individuals that otherwise I wouldn't have had the chance to experience.
What was your favorite part about Freiburg?
Location, location, location. Freiburg is in the southwestern corner of Germany, close to the French and Swiss borders, making it very centrally located in Europe. The city is in the heart of the Black Forest, locally known as the Schwarzwald, which has many hiking trails, Biergartens, and restaurants serving classic German cuisine.
In your opinion, what made your program unique?
There are three weeks of planned travel built into the semester, in which you will travel with the whole program. On each of these trips you have academic meetings during the day, which are related to your course work, then at night you have the chance to explore the city with the other members of your program. These trips are spread throughout the semester and are a great way to meet and bond with different peers.
The culmination of the program is the Model EU, which takes place over the course of three days at the end of the semester. Each student is assigned the position of an economic or finance minister, foreign affairs minister, or head of state for a specific country. You then apply what you have learned in the classroom, what you have learned on your field trips, and some of your own research to fully embody that role.
For all you FITA fans or just food lovers, this is a Kasebrat (2.50 euro) in Freiburg's Münsterplatz.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Germany?
The German language.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
All the staff knew Freiburg quite well and could direct you to everything you could need. From the cheapest place to buy a bike for the semester, the best gelato place in town, which hike to take on a nice spring day, and also helped you plan easy day trips into Switzerland and France.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Get a bike right away! You get to see so much more of the city that way!
Do you have any packing tips for students planning to study abroad in Germany?
Waterproof shoes and a versatile jacket.
What was a typical day like for you as an international student in Freiburg?
First, a 15-minute walk to the center, and then classes in the IES Abroad building. In between classes either hang out on the porch, get gelato, or go to the student cafeteria. Once classes were finished, I would cook a quick dinner at the apartment then meet up with other students in my program and catch the tram to play basketball against German students. We would then go to the student bar located right behind my apartment and socialize with friends.
What was your favorite thing to do on your free time?
Traveling on the weekends, from skiing in the Alps, to relaxing in the baths in Budapest, to sunbathing on the beach in Lisbon.
What surprised you most about Europe?
The pervasiveness of American culture. I saw Europeans wearing Chicago Bulls hats, Oakland Raiders jerseys, tee shirts from Nantucket, and there was also at least one McDonalds, Burger King, or KFC in every city I visited.
Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland - Home of their national soccer and rugby club
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I lived in an apartment, Germans call it a flat, with one other student in my program and three German students. I had my own bedroom and shared a bathroom with the other American student, and we all shared the kitchen and living room. Living with the German students was awesome because when you're just hanging out at your apartment, you talk with them, and discover all the similarities and differences you have with them.
Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?
I have a whole new group of close friends, both German and American, that I have shared amazing experiences with. The American students are from universities all across the country, and I plan on visiting a few throughout the course of the semester, and my German friends have offered me a place to stay when I go back to Freiburg.
Spring Break stop at St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
Fitting in everything you want to do and places you want to see in such a short amount of time. You will definitely have to prioritize where you want to spend your weekends and what sights you want to see while you’re at your destination.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
I would visit as much of Eastern Europe as I could. Cities like Riga, Prague, and Budapest are where I have some of my best memories. Everything is cheap and the atmosphere is distinctly different than Western Europe.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
The sense of confidence you gain from living in a foreign country, adapting to the culture, and eventually thriving in that environment.
Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?
Yes, 100 percent!