Like so many students here at UD, I spent our comparatively long Winter Break taking Winter Session classes – more specifically studying abroad! I traveled alongside about 20 or so other UD students to Leipzig, Germany for a four-week long Winter Session. It was a truly amazing opportunity, and I’m so thankful to the German Department and IGS for organizing the session alongside the institute where we studied, InterDaF, for making this all possible! I was initially set to go on this study abroad program back in January 2022, but due to the situation at the time the program was unfortunately canceled. Thus, getting to go this time was an opportunity I did not want to take for granted. I could go on and on about the entire experience, and I could probably write another whole article or two about it, (isn’t that the typical experience of talking with someone who’s just studied abroad? We, accidentally or not, always find a way to bring it up!) but some of my experiences over in Germany truly encouraged me in different ways, even those outside of the classroom. Of course the program helped me with my language skills, but living over there for a month taught me new things about myself and habits I’d like to keep up during my final semester and beyond.
For starters, of course, is the improvement I’ve seen in my language ability in a few different ways. The aim of the Winter Session classes was of course to improve my skills in the language, especially comprehension and speaking, but it was more than just the idea of getting better at pronouncing words correctly or saying what I wanted to with more fluency. Being in an environment where – more often than not – speaking German was my only option, I was almost forced to become more confident in my speech, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that! Pretty much all of my language-speaking experience prior to this has been in the classroom, and the classroom is a very specific environment in terms of what you talk about and how you speak. Speaking to cashiers, waiters, and countless other people helped boost my confidence in speaking a non-native language – not only do I feel more confident speaking German, mistakes and all, but I feel that same confidence in the other languages I study as well.
Living in Germany also came with new experiences that were unique to studying there as opposed to in Newark; we lived in a completely separate section of the city from where our classes were held. We had no cars, and it would have been an hour-long walk, so we took the Straßenbahn each day to class. On these street cars, I learned to appreciate that commute as time for myself. Another fun aspect of it was that we always ended up arriving at our building much earlier than we really needed to – there was one shower for the four of us, so I had to wake up much earlier than I ever would back home for a 9AM class. The routine of waking up that early, taking my time eating some breakfast, and leaving for class right when I’m done getting ready rather than waiting to leave in order to get there a couple minutes early helped me think of time as something I have my own control of, not something I’m constantly running to catch up with.
My experiences studying abroad taught and helped me a lot. I gained a new confidence in speaking with others that I wasn’t that sure of beforehand and I took up new habits I intend to keep up like waking up earlier and allowing myself to take my time doing things. Of course I made new friends and had many new experiences; too many to fit into this article as well, like trying new foods and seeing new sights. It’s an experience I would recommend to anyone who can get it, and even if you can’t, try seeking out new habits to form and trying them just to see if they’ll work. You never know what you’ll like more than you expected to!