Sarah Maier - Program Participant in Lüneburg, Germany
Why did you choose the program that you did?
I chose to study in Lüneburg, Germany for a few different reasons. Primarily, learning German has always been a goal of mine. Unfortunately, my high school didn’t offer German classes, and classes at my university were limited. I decided that the best and only way for me to learn German was to be completely immersed in the language. Second, as an International Business major specializing in Europe, I knew that living in Germany could be a major asset to me in my career down the road. Finally, my paternal grandfather was German, so I’ve always felt connected to German culture and wanted to explore the land of my heritage.
If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?
That’s a really tough decision! Turkey has a mix of cultures and influences from Europe and Asia that makes it a really interesting place. Plus, it’s very relevant in EU discussions today, so experiencing Turkish culture could be useful down the road.
What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?
I really loved travelling around Germany while I was there. I got to see so many really unique cities and towns that most tourists would never get to see. I also loved living with a German host family because I got to see how a true German lives.
In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?
Getting to experience other cultures and see how other people live around the world is an amazing aspect of going abroad. Whereas a tourist may only see some of the surface cultural aspects that differ from their own, by living in the culture you get exposed to the deeper values behind those cultural differences. You also get to see your own country from the perspective of an outsider, which helps you better understand your own values and culture. Additionally, if you’re studying in a culture with a language barrier, you learn the language so much faster through daily use than you ever would in a classroom.
What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?
It seems like everything I did and saw was really special and unique while I was abroad! I loved seeing old architecture in German and European cities, especially since it’s so different from place to place and it’s just not something we have in America. It’s so wild to see modern life taking place in these cities that look like they belong in a story book. Another favorite was during my trip to Berlin. I toured the Reichstag building, which was really cool. And on a more solemn note, I saw several war memorials in Germany. Those were some very powerful days.
What was a funny cultural experience?
It’s definitely hard to choose just one, especially with the language barrier I faced! There was once in Vienna, my friends and I were trying to find our hostel and we were lost. We decided to ask a little old lady walking her dog where we the street we were looking for was. She started to help us, and then grabbed some passing fellow to help us as well, and then a pair of men came to help us as well. So there was this really large, loud group of Austrians (and one dog) all grouped together around our map trying to help us find our way. They finally decided where we were going and pointed us in the right direction. By coincidence, a little later we saw the same old lady, and she was so happy to see we had found our hostel.
How did studying abroad change you?
I’m definitely more outgoing now. I’m quiet and shy by nature, but going abroad out of my comfort zone, meeting new people, and trying new things really helped me come out of my shell. Also, when you’re not really able to understand anyone around you, and they can’t understand you, you learn that being able to talk to people is truly a blessing! So I’m much more communicative now.
What’s one thing you would have done differently?
I would have stayed longer.
What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?
I think most people don’t think it will fit into their academic schedule, but there are so many options when it comes to when you can go and what classes you can take abroad that anyone who plans ahead of time will be able to graduate on time. Second is probably that you can’t go abroad if you don’t know the host country’s language, and I can personally say that is not at all the case, because you learn so quickly when you’re there. By the end of your studies you’re speaking like a local.
What advice would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?
It will be the most amazing period of your life, I guarantee it!