The 5 things I’m glad I did (or wish I had) as my time abroad comes to an end

18 Jul

I began the blogging of my experience studying abroad with the 5 things I’m glad I did (or wish I had) when it came time to leave for my adventure.  Well, my adventure is winding down, the corn is getting higher in my Indiana home, and the fall semester at Purdue will be here sooner than I can hope for.  So its only fitting that I end my blogs from abroad with the 5 things I’m glad I did (or wish I had) when it came time to return home.

1.  Choosing the European Union program
As I’ve said in previous blogs, I’m incredibly thankful for this accident that landed me in the IES EU program.  At the time of choosing a study abroad destination, all I wanted was to study in Germany to practice the only language I’ve ever learned in school.  As Freiburg was one of the few full spring semester programs, I jumped in, not really knowing at the time that this program would eventually take me to 9 countries across Europe.  It was certainly a pleasant surprise, and anyone looking for recommendations, I have only the best things to say about this program.
2.  Enjoying the region outside my city of study
This being said, although I loved all of the traveling I got to do throughout Europe, I wish I had taken more advantage of what Freiburg and the region had to offer while I was studying this semester. Freiburg has an amazing location, near the borders of both France and Switzerland.  Its big enough to have plenty to do, yet small enough for easy transportation and a feeling of safety.  Thankfully, taking the summer internship at my programs center, I was able to (and paid!) to explore the various things to do and see in Freiburg and the tri-country area.
3.  Applying for the internship
Taking the summer internship here was as scary and as rewarding a decision as the decision to study abroad.  I was incredibly nervous that I would chose to do this internship and inevitably be overwhelmed my homesickness and desire to leave.  But I also knew that the internship would be a better section on my resume than anything else I would have been doing this summer.  I missed my Sonic nights and summer bonfires, but hey, Euro Summer 2011 can never be topped:). These worries, of what I’d miss, are what prevented me from taking the internships offered by my program in the very beginning.  You were required to sign up for them when you signed up for the program, and at the time I thought, “No way!  5 months abroad is already a long time, no way I’m adding any more!” Not to mention their descriptions were incredibly intimidating: working in the European Parliament, helpings Members of Parliament write speeches and prepare meetings and give presentations.  After all the things I learned this semester, I developed a deep love of European politics, and that internship would have been amazing.  But regardless, I signed up for something different at the last-minute, and I’m incredibly thankful that I did.
4.  Worked Hard
A lot of common misconceptions about study abroad are that it’s a “blow-off” semester.  I heard it before I left, and I’m sure most people going in think the same.  Basically, you assume that a semester abroad is going to be so much easier than the often painstaking semesters at Purdue. This misconception can sometimes carry on to future jobs, when potential employers discredit a student spending the semester studying abroad as simply the child of a rich family who wanted to party in Europe.  Neither conceptions could be farther than the truth.  I worked just as hard here as I do at Purdue.  While there are, of course, some of your fellow classmates who simply take courses abroad as either a pass or fail, Purdue holds its students to the same standards that it does at home.  So I worked hard, and I got great grades… while also enjoying once in a lifetime experiences.
5. Practiced German
Although I worked hard in the classrooms of the IES center, I didn’t work so hard in the classroom of the streets of Freiburg.  I came to Germany with the ultimate goal of being fluent in German by the end of the semester.  I’d had several years of German under my belt, but this goal was farther out of reach than I initially anticipated.  It’s easy to have the desire, but a lot more effort to put it into action.  The authentic German language, speaking with authentic German people, was incredibly intimidating, and I buckled under the pressure.  I stashed my German knowledge in my back pocket and insisted whenever possible that I knew little to no German to avoid having to step up and show my skills (or lack there of).  In result, my German obviously made little to no improvement, and I’m sure I’ll regret this for a long time to come.  So learn from my mistakes, I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t be shy! Practice the language while you have it so conveniently available!

One Response to “The 5 things I’m glad I did (or wish I had) as my time abroad comes to an end”

  1. Doris Block July 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    only 7 days till you are coming home you are probably excited and very sad leaving people you have gotten to know soooo well and the countries you loved but at least you got to do it better to have loved that not loved at alllllll some very famous person said that and I have no idea who I’ll have peanut butter and andes mint cookies for you when you get home Love , GDEE

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