Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because it allowed me the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and experience the vast diversity of cultures, and to be able to use that knowledge in the internship at the European Parliament at the end.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. All of our classes arranged their topics based on when and where we would be traveling to as part of the overall program, so I loved the ability in every one of my classes to experience the theories and concepts we would learn in class in concrete and realistic ways. It is not everyday you can learn about the how a government is set up, and visit the institutions the next—or learn the theories behind the transition of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU and then witness and experience the challenges first hand!
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in a co-ed four bedroom apartment for University students in an area called Vauban—the most colorful and lively neighborhood of Freiburg! While all of my roommates attended the University in Freiburg, two were Germans and the other was from Cameroon. They were very accommodating for a student who was always on the move—and didn't mind if conversations moved between English and German, or solely English.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Don't just experience your travels through the lens of a camera! Pictures are great for making memories and sharing with family, but at there is a whole world outside the frame of that photo! Go out and hike up to that castle you heard about and have a relaxing picnic. Go talk to some locals and find out where the best local restaurant is. Go out and enjoy a cup of coffee chatting with friends. Some things you just can't get from behind a camera (or phone!).
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? I have two "best memories" from my time on the IES Freiburg-EU program. The first was during a study trip to Athens where, after a day of meetings at the Greek Foreign Ministry, some friends and I watched the sun set from in front of the Acropolis. The second is from a conversation during my internship at the European Parliament, where my German co-worker was shocked to realize that the students from my program knew more about the EU than she did!
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. My only experience of culture shock was walking into the grocery store and having to figure out what the cashier was saying at the register and remembering that Sundays almost everything is closed. Coming back to the U.S. was far more of a reverse culture shock. Everything from the vast food selection at the grocery to the (comparatively) loud English speakers was quite a challenge for the first few weeks! Overall neither the culture shock nor the reverse culture shock were particularly terrible—as long as you are open minded and fairly easy going about assimilating to cultural differences, it's not stressful, just a new experience!
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Lots! I knew nothing about EU before I went abroad, for example. Most importantly though, I know more about myself, like how I react in stressful situations where communication is difficult or even impossible. I also know that I am capable of living and succeeding in an entirely new environment, even if it is thousands of miles away from home.
What was your greatest challenge? As a more introverted person, my greatest challenge was maintaining a balance between the social life of classes and friends and time to de-stress on my own. It was difficult to not feel guilty about spending a lazy Sunday on my own—especially fighting the temptation to stay in the apartment for the majority of the day. But by the end, I realized one way I could relax on my own away from the world, while not "losing" any of my time abroad, was through hiking the vast array of trails around Freiburg.