My First Trip Abroad in Photos

My project “Austauscherfahrungen” has been active for more than a year now. To celebrate this occasion and reflect on the roots of this blog, I have put together this post—My First Trip Abroad in Photos.

There are two ways to “read” this entry: you can either start from this page and click on the photos that interest you, or you can start by clicking on the first photo and then go from photo story to photo story.

 

The first time I went abroad I was 18 years old. I went abroad the summer after my freshman year of university. It was not an organized trip with my university, nor was it a group trip through an organization offering study abroad opportunities to American students. I signed up for a summer language course with an international language school, Goethe-Institute.

I was from a small (southern) American town and somewhat bad at directions. Naturally, I had some expectations of Europe, but I was open-minded and unafraid to travel to Germany by myself. I wasn’t too nervous before I took off—I only worried about organizational matters. At first, it was a challenge to navigate train stations and flow with the pace of Germany, but I soon met friends at the language school and spent a fantastic summer abroad.

Some quick tips I have are: to enjoy the small things and give yourself time for reflection. Also, you have to be bad at something before you can be good at it, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Ultimately, I gained a strong motivation to study German further and changed my major to German once I returned home. For more on my study abroad in Germany summer 2015, check out this article~Getting Started with Studying Abroad

 

Introduction aside, here is My First Trip Abroad in Photos:

 

 

 

So, you want to start learning Russian? (Five Quick Tips & Book Recommendations)

Dear readers,

This will be a short post about tips on how to learn Russian efficiently.

These were suggestions from my Russian sociology professor (a Russian historian, Chekhov fan and funny guy) for our five-week stay in Russia 😮

For Part 1 in this series click here —->            russian-meme-1

 

1. Be a bit Russian .

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A bath house in the gardens of Catherine Palace, Pushkin, St Petersburg, Russia (SUMMER 2016)

2. Hear/watch music, cartoons, and movies . I LOVE Soviet Kino!

3. Read classic literature ...

4. Read about history ...

5. Take advantage of free Russian materials on YouTube and VKontakte.

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And to conclude this post… some books I recommend for learning Russian:

TEXTBOOKS

VOCAB BOOKS

RUSSIAN READERS

GRAMMAR BOOKS

 

More Russian Related Posts:

Online Resources for Learning Russian—>Free Russian Learning Resources on YouTube

Tips Part 2 (coming soon)

Tips Part 3 (coming soon)

 

 

Напишите мне что-нибудь на русском~

❤ Стефани

 

 

Returning Home After 13 Months Abroad

 

Returning home to Georgia, U.S.A after 13 months abroad was surreal. I spent 7 weeks in Kiev, Ukraine. And before that, I was an exchange student in Erlangen, Germany. During my 11-month stay in Germany, I didn’t visit home a single time.

 

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The Court Square ~ Newnan, Georgia

 

I left behind a different reality in Europe and had a hard time suddenly slamming my brakes to match with the pace of life in a good ol’ suburban town.

 
The population of my hometown (Newnan, GA) is approximately 30,000 people, which is about the same as the number of undergraduates at my alma mater, Georgia State University. Although it has been a humbling experience to revisit my hometown, I do not feel that my roots are here, and it is quite clear that the suburban lifestyle of southern American towns, or at least this one, is too mundane for someone like me.

 
I no longer have the stresses that I had here as a teenager and I feel as if I am on a different level than other long-term residents… as if I am not defined by or confined to the old rumors. I see that my hometown is continually becoming more modern and more culturally diverse. But, I still have sympathy for the kids, who feel stuck here and have not had the chance to travel, or the chance to develop their beliefs at university.

 

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It was hard coming back. Having conversations with family or old friends can be challenging. The best way to describe the scenario is Plato’s Allegory of a Cave. In other words, we limit reality to our perceptions. To become enlightened, it is necessary to see life outside of the cave. The cave represents the states of most human beings. Those who return to the cave and try to recount what they have experienced meet disbelief from those who have not left the cave. We need more than just the naming of things; we also need reflective understanding. Travelling and learning foreign languages allow us to grow past only seeing the shadows in the cave.

 
I am still learning languages and working on a few small projects until my “medium-size” projects take off—I am looking for local internships and work while continuing plans of travel in the States. And my “big project” is getting accepted into grad school.

 

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A few days passed, and I was no longer waking at 4 in the morning. I guess it’s also not so bad being around people who really know you and not just the exchange student version of you… with friends who have not just seen how you’ve bloomed, but friends, who also know the “Georgia Red Clay” that you grew in and how your branches developed.

 

Sincerely,

Stephanie F.

 

 

 

Goodbye, Kiev! ~Back Home After 13 Months Abroad~

I had a simple, relaxing weekend before my 18-hour trip back to the States. On Saturday evening, there was even a beautiful sunset in Kiev.

Luckily, I lived in a room with a balcony. Although there was a noisy street outside, I still enjoyed having a view of passerby and of the many trees. When I search for a new place to live, an apartment with a balcony is on my list.

I headed out early on Sunday morning and caught an Uber to the airport. The international airport is located out of the city center and there is no metro connection, so buses and taxis are the only forms of public transportation. I got to the airport in plenty of time to get my ticket and hand over my luggage.

My flight from Kiev to Istanbul was about 2 hours long. I didn’t do any sightseeing in Istanbul—I had to run directly to my connecting flight after landing. I found the gate as they were doing security checks on boarding passengers.

Turkish airlines provided a pleasant experience. The aircrew was friendly and professional; the services they provided made the long flight manageable and more comfortable. I was in the air for 12 hours! I watched a total of 3 movies because I couldn’t catch any sleep. During the first 6 hours of the flight, it felt like time would stay moving so slowly that I wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, but, once I knew that there was only an hour left before landing, time felt like only a matter of a few short seconds that needed to pass before I would arrive.

I was ready to go! To hop of the plane, collect my luggage and set foot in Atlanta. In Kiev, I was settled and had a sense of home, so I wasn’t homesick, but during the flight I became excited thinking about going back to the States and seeing my home state of Georgia with new eyes. I was also thrilled to see family and friends and to have all my belongings together in one place. My suitcases were quite heavy—40 kg total. No, there wasn’t any gold in them—just books 🙂

Once I stepped out of the airport, the sultry Atlanta weather (despite it being 8 p.m.) greeted me kindly. Although everything was familiar, it was still a strange experience to be back after so long. This feeling of being back home will be the topic for my next entry.

Yours truly,

Stephanie F.

Countries Travelled (Year-Exchange in Germany)

#places visited while living in Germany

Hello everyone!

I’ve left Germany already and my first three weeks in Kiev have flown by! I’m enjoying my Russian lessons here and am staying busy. I’ll be sharing some new stuff soon 😉

In the meantime, I wanted to do a short, fun blog entry.. about the places I went while living in Germany! To make it more interesting, I’ve also listed each country’s name in the languages that I speak/study in order of decreasing fluency (English, German, Russian, French.) The only country that I had been to before was Germany**.

 

zoom out countries visited

 

countries visited

  1. Germany – Deutschland – Германия -Allemagne
  2. Slovenia – Slovenien – Словения – Slovénie
  3. Switzerland – die Schweiz – Швейцария -Suisse
  4. Liechtenstein – Liechtenstein -Лихтенштейн – Liechtenstein
  5. Austria – Österreich – Австрия – Autriche
  6. Lithuania – Litauen – Литва – Lituanie
  7. Greece – Griechenland -Греция – Grèce
  8. France – Frankreich – Франция – France
  9. Poland – Polen – Польша – Pologne
  10. Hungary – Ungarn – Венгрия – Hongrie
  11. Czech Republic- Tschechien – Чехия – Czechia
  12. Ukraine – Ukraine – Украина – Ukraine

 

I hope to tell you about the amazing city of Kiev soon.

Best of luck! ~Stephanie F.

 

**Note: this is not a full list of all countries I’ve ever visited. It only covers places travelled during my year-long exchange in Germany 🙂

The Unforgettable Capital Cities of Slovenia and Lithuania (Part 2)

The amazing Vilnius, Lithuania

Hello hello! Nice to have you on my blog=)

If you have read Part 1, or the introduction to this blog, you would know that I attended Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia and majored in German. Yes, I said “attended” because I have already graduated! I graduated summa cum laude with Advanced Honors as well as an overall GPA of 4.10 and a major GPA of 4.17.

Not only did I finish my major coursework here in Germany by doing online courses with my home university, but the summer semester has also ended in Erlangen. The semester seemed really short and there were many holidays. It started in April and ended mid-July.

My next trips are to Budapest and Prague before I finish packing to leave my 11-month stay in Germany and travel to Ukraine to do a homestay while attending an intensive Russian-language course. It is bittersweet to leave because by the second semester, I really had a routine here, started opening up more and had better classes. Plus, summer is a great time to be in Germany! But, I know that I will return someday and it’s time to bring all the wonderful and challenging experiences I’ve had here back home and touch base with my loving family and friends. I have been a bit Germanized so it will be an adjustment being back home in Georgia, USA. So enough about my finished studies and future plans let’s talk about the amazing Vilnius, Lithuania!

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Street art gives a city more character

But before I get into my trip there, I want to share a bit of information about the country Lithuania and its capital Vilnius:

Lithuania is one of the three Baltic States located east of Denmark and Sweden in northern Europe. The population is estimated to be just under 3 million. It shares borders with Latvia, Belarus and Poland.

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The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages (along with Latvian) in the Baltic-branch of the Indo-European family. Fun fact: Among Indo-European languages, Lithuanian is conservative in some grammatical and phonological aspects having retained archaic features otherwise only found in ancient languages like Sanskrit or Ancient Greek. It is therefore an important source for reconstructing the Proto-Indo-European language.

Lithuania is a member of the European Union (including the eurozone and Schengen Agreement.) Here is a short timeline of the country’s history:

  • The shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes for centuries.
  • The Kingdom of Lithuania was created in the 1200s. Kind Mindaugas unified the Lithuanian lands and declared the first unified Lithuanian state.
  • In the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe. Present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and parts of Poland and Russian were territories of the Grand Duchy.
  • There was a two-state union between Lithuania and Poland in 1569 (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), which lasted for more than two centuries until the Russian Empire annexed most of Lithuania’s territory in the late 1700s.
  • Around the end of WWI, Lithuania’s Act of Independence was signed, founding the Republic of Lithuania.
  • During WWII, Lithuania was occupied both by the Nazis and the Soviets. By the end of the war, the Germans had retreated and the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania.
  • In March of 1990, a year before the Soviet Union formally dissolved, Lithuania declared independence and became again the independent State of Lithuania after 50 years of Soviet occupation.

Vilnius is both the capital and largest city in Lithuania with more than 570,000 residents. The city is in the southeast of Lithuania. It is the seat of the main government institutions of Lithuania and is on a global-scale both economically and culturally important. Architecture in the Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, and, in 2009, Vilnius was declared the European Capital of Culture.

The Old Town, with well over 1,000 buildings built over several centuries, is the historical center of the city. Vilnius is primarily classified as a Baroque city, but there are examples of Gothic, Renaissance and additional styles of architecture. Following are some of the highlights of the Old Town.

Vilnius University
Vilnius University
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The Gate of Dawn, one of five original city walls, which has a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary inside
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The Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have miracle-working powers
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Literature Street with over 200 tiles to commemorate authors who have lived in Vilnius or foreign authors with a connection to Vilnius and Lithuania
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17th century Baroque ~Church of St. Peter & Paul ~
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Inside are more than 2,000 stucco figures

Travelling to Vilnius, Lithuania: My friend and I had actually planned to do a trip with a travel group but the tickets were sold out after we tried to purchase ours. She searched for cheap flights and we ended up booking two trips: one to Vilnius and the other to Thessaloniki, Greece. In the end, we saved money on these trips and got to do and see a lot more. Before our trips, we met up and watched some travel videos about our destinations and we both researched sightseeing to have in mind while exploring the new cities. I would recommend spending at least 3 days in Vilnius and maybe even up to 5. I’m not saying you would be bored after 5, but you would have had plenty of time to see major sites without being so rushed. We were there for 2 days, which was still very nice but I really felt at home in Vilnius and, looking back, there were a few more things that I would have liked to have seen.

Day 1: We had a very early flight, which meant that as soon as we arrived, the exploration was to begin. From the airport, we took a bus in the city center. We didn’t get off at a specific point but decided we could walk from there to the areas we wanted to see. We had coffee and started to take in the new atmosphere. Two of my first impressions were: how well-dressed and fashionable the women were and that most workers spoke good English. Some of the older people, who had outdoor stands for example, also still spoke Russian.

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Excited to start exploring Vilnius!

Our first destination was an alternative district of the city with an interesting history: Užupis, which means place beyond the river.

It used to be one of the more run down districts during the Soviet era, but it is now home to bohemian artists and their many galleries and workshops. It was declared an independent republic on April Fool’s Day in 1997.

We were able to catch one of the “free” tours (meaning only tips for the guide and no set price) in Užupis and learned some little details we wouldn’t have known otherwise.  It has its own flag, currency, president, cabinet of ministers, constitution, an anthem, and an army (numbering approximately 11 men). It’s not recognized as a Republic by any government, so it’s hard to tell how serious it’s meant to be taken.

By the way, you can get your passport stamped there. Here’s an informative video from Deutsche Welle if you’re curious for more: Uzupis. Supposedly, prices are really rising in this area and housing is no longer as affordable as it once was for local artists. The district is definitely worth a visit though.

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“place beyond the river” (one of nine bridges)
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This mermaid is said to attract visitors from all around the world. Those who surrender to her charm stay forever.
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Just a man walking his cat xD

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See his backpack? it’s a statue dedicated to travelers
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Try connecting with the cosmos here ~

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symbol for artistic freedom

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After the “free” tour, we had lunch and decided to find some Kvas. Kvas is a traditional Slavic and Baltic drink made from rye bread. It is classified as non-alcoholic and I think it’s delicious! It’s similar to soda/fizzy drinks but has a unique taste.

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Happy about the Kvas

I suggest doing a tour with a local guide to learn some interesting facts and not miss out on some cool areas of the city. It didn’t feel too large though and we were able to navigate fine with Google maps.

We went to the main square, climbed the tower and enjoyed the beautiful view before we climbed the hill to the Three Crosses. Between the square and the hill is a castle (actually on another hill), but due to renovations we could not climb up there; however, the view from the hill of the Three Crosses was incredible. We didn’t feel cheated by not having seen the castle. If you need directions, don’t be afraid to ask locals –like I said many speak very good English and seemed friendly enough to answer a few questions.

It’s always nice travelling with someone who has similar interests so that you’re in agreement about what to do. It also makes for a nice atmosphere when you can exchange impressions of a new place with someone who you connect with. We really felt at home in Vilnius and loved the city. One thing that we didn’t expect was to get lucky with shopping. We went to a mall and several different stores and I found some great items that you wouldn’t find where we live in Germany. It’s a fashionable city with good selection!

The rest of our day was spent eating good food (both sweets and a nice dinner), exploring more of the city, finding a hotel room and checking out the city again at night. Here a few snapshots of our shenanigans.

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Lithuanian National Drama Theatre ~Feast of Muses~ Muses of Drama, Comedy & Tragedy

Day 2: Since we had seen so much on the first day, we took it a bit easier the next day. We started with an amazing breakfast. With more delights of East-European cuisine like buckwheat porridge and tea with raspberries.

Our next stop was the Vilnius Museum of Genocide/KGB prison. Many parts of the exhibit are written in Lithuanian and/or Russian, so a tour guide would be helpful; tours are available in English and Russian. At the museum, you can see authentic cells of a former KGB prison and former offices of KGB officials.

The museum was established in 1992 and is a symbol of the Soviet occupation of Lithuania–a time that was both hard and tragic for Lithuania and its people. Lithuania lost its independence and was brutally repressed, but in the museum you have the chance to discover that many Lithuanians were self-sacrificing and persistent in their fight for independence. There is also an exhibit about the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust in Vilnius.

After the museum, we did more shopping, exploring and spent some time at the river after grabbing snacks from a super market. That is something I recommend for tourists in a new city. It’s cheaper than always eating out and you have a better idea of what natives buy, cook and eat on a regular basis.

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Lithuanian cuisine: Cepelinai, a potato stuffed dumpling with ground meat, cottage cheese or mushrooms
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Lithuanian deserts

Well that’s pretty much it about our time in Vilnius. We caught the bus early the next morning to the airport. I loved the city and I think you will too. Since it’s not so well-known, I found it necessary to add some facts about the country and Vilnius itself =)

For more information about what to do and see in Vilnius, check out:

With love,

Stephanie

Let’s Talk Money ~Studying Abroad in Germany~

This post is going to be short and sweet. Let’s talk finances. How are the prices in Germany? What are my expenses? Getting a residence permit/student visa.. how much per month do you need?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Hello everyone!

This post is going to be short and sweet. Let’s talk finances. How are the prices in Germany? What are my expenses? Getting a residence permit/student visa.. how much per month do you need?

  •  A regular cup of coffee costs 2- 2.50 Euros
  • A loaf of bread (375 grams) costs 1.09 Euros
  • 0,5 liter of beer costs about 4.00 Euros
  • A sandwich at a café costs 1.80-3.00 Euros
  • A Döner costs between 3.50- 4.50 Euros
  • A train ticket (Erlangen to Nuremberg- a distance of about 15 miles with car ) costs 4.80 Euros
  • A bus ticket (in Erlangen) costs 2.20 Euros
  • My monthly prepaid phone plan costs 9.99 Euros for 200 minutes/messages and 1.5 GB of data. I get additional data (300 MB) for 2.99 Euros more. Vodafone is actually not the cheapest provider, but I just wanted to quickly find a company when I arrived and create a German number so that I would not have to continue paying international fees with my American provider. I think I paid an extra 10 Euro in the beginning for the sim card, but some of what I paid got transferred to my balance. Vodafone also has an application for smart phones, which makes it easy to manage your plan and add money when needed.
  • My internet costs 16 Euro a month (offered by my dorm- no limit on the number of devices or data)
  • Germany requires that all residents pay a fee to ZDF/ARD (the Rundfunkbeitrag). Luckily, students can share the costs with their floormates since they aren’t living in proper apartments: Rundfunkbeitrag & Student fee. I think it turned out that we only paid about 15 Euro per semester.
  • I personally don’t have a television. I also don’t pay gym fees or attend any private classes at evening schools. Nor do I have a car since I either walk or use public transportation.
  • Some other monthly costs you’ll see later =)
  • Check out this video to see: What can you buy in Germany with 5€?

 

{Shopping} Without closely examining all prices in Germany and comparing them to the prices in USA, I can still say that food (especially at the grocery store) is relatively cheap. But, clothes tend to be a bit more expensive here. Also, I think there is generally a wider selection at American malls than at German malls.

Food is imported from countries in the European Union and the quality is quite good. So you can eat healthier here and not spend too much if you cook at home, but you may notice that shopping for clothes is a bit better in USA.

Even though clothes aren’t that cheap, I think that basic cosmetics are also pretty cheap here in Germany.

{Taxes & Insurance} Before we move on to what I spend on a regular basis and how much is required for a student visa, it’s worth mentioning that taxes here are much higher. They also have a sales tax (MwST). Workers also pay more taxes. And Germans love insurances. So, a good sum of money is also required for insurance. I have been happy with my health insurance here.

Paying out of pocket when having insurance is an American concept–not a German one. If there would be another difference.. it would be that “free” may exist in USA, but in Germany you get what you pay for. Don’t expect free water or to use the restroom in public places without paying.

 

Okay.. now my expenses!

{Weekly Spending} On average, I spend about 75 Euros per week. This can be more or less depending on how many times I went out to eat, what I got at the grocery store and if I bought gifts for myself.

{Monthly} So, in a month, I spend about 300-400 Euros on food and other shopping.

{Rent, Insurance, School Fees} Let’s add in other costs like my rent, health insurance and school fees: the school fees are only twice a year (once every semester) and the fees also cover our student ticket so that we can travel for free in the evening and on weekends. It is 114 Euros each time.

My health insurance is 90 Euros a month and my rent is 250 Euros (including utilities.) Yes, health insurance is required for international students who aren’t from the European Union.

{Food Costs} I don’t live all that frugally but I also don’t eat out at a nice restaurant every week or buy a lot of material goods.

{Travel} Not included are my travel costs (to, let’s say, Greece for a weekend) because they are one-time costs rather than a sum of usual monthly spending. My total monthly expenses are about the same as what is required for a  residence permit.

{Money Needed- Student Visa} The required sum is 8,700 Euros for one year–725 Euros a month. And here’s a website with more information on the subject:  Student Visa and Residence Permit. 

Spending and budgeting are subjective, but I hope this gave you some idea of what to expect!

Keep in mind that, depending on your program, you may or may not have similar requirements/costs. There are shorter study abroad programs that organize everything for you as well as summer language schools that can offer accommodation. They are not the same as applying to be a full-time student (even if temporarily- for a semester or a year.)

 

Good luck with your studies,

~Stephanie F.

What I’ve Learned Living Abroad on My Own

“When it seems like no one cares what you’re doing with your life, you have to be there for yourself…”
And much more! Here are ten things I’ve learned during my time living alone in Germany.

1. “Adulting” takes a lot of time and energy: Adulting means calling the doctor when something is bothering you. Adulting means getting yourself help when you need it. Adulting means planning meals and going grocery shopping. Adulting means cooking or spending your own money when you eat out. Adulting means deciding between work and play. Adulting means cleaning and doing chores. Adulting means getting yourself the things you need to be successful. Adulting means taking responsibility for your decisions. All of which takes a lot of time and energy. But eventually–or at least I have–you develop a routine. You learn from your mistakes and decide if you want to do it better the next time. Independence can be freeing but it comes with responsibility.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

2. Friendships aren’t easily made: I have heard so many times that it’s hard to make friends in Germany. That’s true–it takes time to “crack their hard shells.” But actually, it’s hard to make friends in Germany and in America. I think making true friends is hard everywhere. Students are so busy and we get comfortable with the friends we already have. Meeting new people and having acquaintances aren’t the same as having close friends. Friends are people who you don’t just have small talk with. They are people who want to spend time with you, who you can be yourself around, who want to see you succeed, and they are people who are there to listen and give support even when times are hard.

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

 

3. Introverts aren’t always happy being alone: I was almost always busy during the semester back home–classes, work, volunteer work, extra classes, studying, hitting the gym, and so on. I still went out and spent time with friends, but I didn’t have as much time to think about actually being alone during most of my free time since I didn’t really have “free time.” When I had a lot of free time on my hands my first semester here, my hobbies alone didn’t keep me happy because I felt stuck in my own world and therefore, lonely. If you’re introverted, push yourself to go to events and talk to new people. You may not feel energized in large crowds but you still need love and support.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

4. When it seems like no one cares what you’re doing with your life, you have to be there for yourself: Not everyone is going to like you, but you have the right to pursue your interests. There is definitely someone in your life who cares so don’t give up–for them and for yourself.

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Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

 

5. Talking helps: Even when things sting when you first talk about them, I think that we feel less weight in our hearts after we’ve talked about a hard time or bad experience. Communication is also key to all healthy relationships. Try not to criticize the other person, but rather explain how you felt in the situation.

man and woman sitting on a bench
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

 

6. Writing is cathartic and gives you insight into the past: I have been keeping a diary since I started my study abroad here (and on and off since I started university.) For one, it makes me feel better when I turn my emotions and thoughts into concrete words on paper. It is also very interesting to read what I did months and even years ago. Not to mention, our thoughts are consistently changing.. you may be surprised months later by what you were thinking before.

pen writing notes studying
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

 

7. Our emotions dictate our perception and they act as warning lights: Except for practicing mindfulness and seeing the good in ourselves, I think it is quite hard to “control” our emotions. I still haven’t decided whether it’s the thought or the emotion that comes first. Our emotions do make all the difference when it comes down to what we perceive. But, our emotions are like warning lights. So don’t put yourself second to a person who doesn’t connect with you. Our feelings shouldn’t be ignored and, even when it seems hard at first to admit, they can be a hint that something isn’t right. But we also shouldn’t let them stop us from being who we are and doing what we love. In other words, don’t get yourself down and when you feel like someone has brought you down, there is most likely something there that needs to be addressed.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

8. Perspective is key: When things get hard or you are feeling down, it’s helpful to remind yourself that there is more good than bad. We can’t just eliminate all bad and every negative experience. But we can remind ourselves that a positive perspective allows us to use the now and what we currently have to its fullest and try to make a better tomorrow. A positive perspective is a strong fighter against negativity and irrational thoughts.

close up photo of man wearing black suit jacket doing thumbs up gesture
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

 

9. Being happy and successful for me means to never stop planning the big things but having enough time and spirit to enjoy the little things: Being content and leading a fulfilling life does not come from only working on the big, future plans. Goal after goal after goal. The things around you become more special when you take the time to acknowledge them and appreciate them. Sometimes a break is all you need. Then you can start again later in full-force.

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Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

 

10. It usually isn’t as bad as you think: Everyone else doesn’t care as much about the mistake you made as you think. It will be forgotten soon. We’re all human after all. Also, we have the tendency to have black and white thinking when our feelings are involved. Just because we are feeling bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean somebody did something wrong and it also doesn’t mean they intended to hurt you.

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

My Goals for a Year-long Exchange in Germany (A Bilingual Text )

This essay was the final step in the application process at my university before I was officially nominated to study at FAU in Erlangen, Germany. I share how I studied German back home, what my goals were for studying here, what I may want to do in my future and how I will make the most of my time here.

Mein Name ist Stephanie Ford und ich studiere Deutsch an der Georgia State Universität in Atlanta. Seit Januar 2015 bin ich eine sehr engagierte und motivierte Deutschstudentin. Außer meiner Studiumarbeit sehe ich täglich YouTube-Videos an, lese die Nachrichten auf meinem Handy, höre Musik, spreche mit mir selber, oder mit jemandem, der bereit ist, mein Deutsch zu hören. Wenn ich genug Zeit habe, lese ich auch Romane, schaue mir Filme an, lerne Grammatik und neulich viel Wortschatz. Weil ich schon ein fortgeschrittenes Niveau erreicht habe, ist ein Jahr langer Aufenthalt in Deutschland einer der besten Wege, um meine Deutschkenntnisse noch zu verbessern. Auf Deutsch könnte ich denken und sogar träumen. Ich möchte C2 erreichen, und die deutsche Kultur tiefer kennenlernen. Wenn ich an der Friedrich-Alexander Universität studieren würde, hätte ich nicht nur die Chance meine Deutschkenntnisse zu erweitern, sondern auch die Chance in und um Bayern zu reisen. Und ich könnte mich wirklich entscheiden, ob ich in Deutschland arbeiten möchte.

(My name is Stephanie Ford and I study German at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Since January 2015, I have been a very engaged and motivated student of German language. Apart from my university studies, I watch videos daily, read the news on my phone, listen to music, speak with myself, or with someone who is willing to listen to my German. When I have enough time, I also read novels, watch movies, learn grammar and, recently, a lot of vocabulary. Because I have already reached an advanced level, a year-long stay in Germany is one of the best ways to improve my German skills even more. I could even think and dream in German. I want to achieve C2 and get to know the German culture deeper. If I had the chance to study at FAU, I would not only have the chance to expand my German skills but also the chance to travel in and around Bavaria. And I could really decide whether I want to work in Germany or not.)

Sehr intenstiv möchte ich mein Deutsch üben. Ich würde auf jeden Fall die Möglichkeit benutzen, Radio auf Deutsch zu hören, deutsches Fernsehen zu gucken, sowie den Zugang zu deutschen Bibliotheken, Buchhandlungen und natürlich der deutschen Universität zu verwenden. Ich würde gerne Germanistik, andere Fremdsprachen, und verschiedene Kurse in Verbindung mit Linguistik, Kultur und Geschichte nehmen. Vor allem könnte ich mich mit Deutschmuttersprachlern unterhalten. Bayern ist eines der schönsten Bundesländer. Ich möchte viele Städte und Ländern in der Nahe von Erlangen besichtigen. Ich habe es vor, Englisch in Deutschland zu unterrichten, und diese Erfahrung wäre sehr praktisch, weil ich mich für ein Studentenvisum bewerben und mich auf die deutsche Kultur einstellen muss. Ich möchte meinen Sprachtraum erfüllen, viel reisen, und sehen, was ich in der Zukunft machen möchte.

(I want to practice my German intensively. I would definitely use the opportunity to listen to German radio, watch German television and utilize the access to German libraries, book stores and of course the German university. I would like to take Germanistik, other foreign languages, and other courses in connection with linguistics, culture and history. Above all, I could converse with native speakers. Bavaria is one of the most beautiful German states. I could visit many cities and countries close to the city of Erlangen. I have the intention of teaching English in Germany and this experience would be very practical because I have to apply for a student visa and I have to adjust to the German culture. I want to fulfill my language-dream, travel a lot, and see what I would like to do in the future.)

How to Prepare for an Exchange in Germany

How can I meet people abroad?
What do Germans think about Americans?
What is it like living in Germany?
Three of many questions addressed in this post about studying abroad in Germany for American students!

Dear readers,

Germany is a popular place for international students (from all over) to study because of the almost free university education. Many Masters programs are offered in English. Furthermore, Germany is known for its reliability, high-quality products and technological innovation. Therefore, many international students want to take up their studies here and make use of the prestigious and diverse programs offered at German universities. There may also be Erasmus students from other European countries or American students, who aren’t interested in completing their degree here but want to do an exchange. Germany is a popular tourist destination for Americans and is celebrated for its different but not too foreign culture.  I have collected some YouTube channels that have many videos about German people, culture, lifestyle, language and how things are in Germany. They should help you get to know Germany and the Germans better.

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Getting to know Germany better before you decide to study here or before you take off on your journey will not only help to develop your intrapersonal perception of coming to Germany but it will also make you closer to being well-versed when it comes to dealing with differences between America and Germany. But before we begin by discussing some resources to aid your preparation, I want to emphasize the following:  “Preparing” allows you to burn off some stress before your trip  and maybe feel a little more confident and ready, but there are of course going to be some challenges that you simply can’t prepare for and some things may sound way more scary reading about them than how they will actually be when you are abroad and doing them yourself. So take a few ideas from here and there, try to prepare based on ideas from multiple people but ultimately, you just need to trust yourself and remain calm. I’ve already written three other posts on the topic. Check them out:

Getting started with studying abroad

Let’s Talk Money ~Studying Abroad in Germany~

What to Pack for a Study Abroad in Germany

For this post, let’s start with some resources to help with your mental/emotional preparation! Here are some insightful articles I read before coming to Germany:

  1. Culture Shock
  2. Study Abroad
  3. Tips for Living Abroad (with a focus on meeting people)
  • While on the topic of meeting people abroad, I want to mention a few websites you could use to meet new people: Tandem language exchange app (as well as HelloTalk language exchange app), Meetup.com, Facebook groups as well as local events and events posted by businesses shared on Facebook. Instagram is also a good way to follow local businesses/events. Also take advantage of university events (read your emails and check out flyers), activities, meet-ups and clubs as well as the events and clubs happening in your dorm. Work, doing an internship, volunteering and taking classes outside the university are also easy ways to meet new people.

And as mentioned, a list of YouTubers who will teach you about Germany and the Germans (not in any specific order):

  1. Kate Müser
  2. DontTrustTheRabbit
  3. Hayley Alexis
  4. Germany vs USA
  5. Wanted Adventure
  6. Antoinette Emily

While in Germany, look to prove stereotypes wrong rather than looking for confirmation. Allow your views to develop and get to know yourself better.  Be prepared to face many negative stereotypes about Americans, but don’t take it too personally. I’m not saying most Germans dislike Americans, but American culture has been spread across the globe and some not-so-favorable stereotypes accompany it. Some American tourists do set bad examples for us all.  The bad comes with the good. Just be yourself with a bit of awareness. If the person believes in the stereotype so strongly, then you can’t convince them otherwise. You can be proud to be American, miss your native culture, want to explore the world and expand your cultural knowledge all at the same time.

That’s it for this post!

Hope you found it useful,

Stephanie

Getting Started with Studying Abroad

Dear readers,

I would like to discuss “studying abroad” for American college students.

Studying abroad is a rich experience to undergo during your college years. The first time abroad is life- changing. You see yourself and your native culture with different eyes. You get to experience everyday life of those who live thousands of miles away from your native country and listen to new languages. You also get to see, firsthand, the wonders of the world–whether it be something historical in a city or a gorgeous landscape.

But studying abroad isn’t cheap. It also isn’t easy. It requires thought, decision-making, and planning. Your approach and attitude truly change how you perceive your time abroad. You should pick the right country for the right reasons. Everyone is different, so you have to decide what the “right reasons” for you are.

Your internal reasons for studying in that place should outweigh the external reasons.

What do I mean exactly? Your reasons for traveling to Germany are: because you have a German girlfriend/boyfriend, you like the German language and you want to ski in the Alps. International relationships can be very interesting and fulfilling, but if that’s your only reason for traveling abroad, your time there may be very challenging and frustrating since you do not have a personal connection with the country itself.

But when you are also interested in the country because of its language & culture and you have travel goals, the trip will feel much closer to your heart. How much you enjoy it will depend on your attitude (and maybe the weather and people around you) but you’ll feel more of connection with the place when there’s something inside of you that brings you there.

 

However, I must admit: sometimes you just have to start somewhere. Everyone must be bad at something before they can be good at it. A new experience may give you the motivation to start an entirely new chapter in your life… And I want to share my story with you.

The first time I traveled to Germany seems like so long ago. And I’ve changed in so many ways since then. Although every day wasn’t perfect… I wasn’t so outgoing and definitely didn’t have an idea what learning and speaking a second language meant, I experienced being abroad for the first time and had some encouraging, fun experiences.

The first program I did was not connected to my university in any way and it was open for all people—not just college students. I pretty much found it by chance. It’s an easy story to tell so I will start from the beginning:

I knew that I wanted to learn how to speak German so I decided to start courses at Goethe Institute Atlanta. While browsing their website, I also read that they offered classes in many German cities for international learners of German language. I can’t remember exactly what was on my mind then but I decided that I wanted to take a course in Germany to speed up my German learning and see the country for the first time. I did have some unrealistic expectations though.. thinking that four weeks would be enough to have me speaking the language. There were certain days where I held some conversations but I still spoke a lot of English. I also didn’t study intensively or use everyday interactions to practice the language.

What I gained from that experience was that I left my native country for the first time. I had my first experiences navigating to new places, using public transportation, and buying food from different places. I also met many international people. I changed time zones. I didn’t have any air conditioning. I used a new currency. That was June- July 2015.

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There are a few other things I want to share about that time that maybe be insightful for you: First will be about the language school I attended. Second will be a specific experience I wrote about during the time. And before sharing my second time abroad, I will include a few more things that stand out to me about my first time in Germany.

The Language School

 

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The reasons I chose the location I did were as following: I wanted to be in a city near the place my grandmother was from. I wanted an apartment with WiFi. I wanted the apartment location to be close to the school so that I could go by foot. And this school even had a cafeteria, where I had breakfast and lunch. Apart from that, the prices were good. The city seemed cozy and inviting. And although it was small, it seemed like there would be enough activities to stay busy and have fun.

I remember everything seeming like it was going really fast—at the airport and at the train station. And I thought Germany was absolutely beautiful. I loved looking at the countryside while riding on the train. I didn’t feel far away from home but I definitely felt American. Europe had a different flair than USA. It felt more serious, more competitive, and more elegant. It wasn’t the first time I had feelings of being critical about my native country and native culture, but it became much more obvious for me. It seemed most Europeans were cosmopolitan and multilingual. Nobody made me feel bad for being American. In fact, even though I was shy, I had an open heart and was curious, so many people reached out to me and I had a great time.

I shared a bedroom so it would be cheaper. We had a private shower and toilet. In the basement of our place was a shared kitchen for the building. My roommate ended up being another American girl who had some experience traveling in Germany already and was going to stay in Austria for a year. We weren’t the best of friends but we got along well enough. She showed me where the supermarket and other things in town were. And she was part of a bigger group with whom I spent a lot of time.

Getting to Germany was a big step. But the language school was helpful with getting us students there and situated. There was a bus waiting for us at the train station to drop us off at the school. Once at the school, we received information about our accommodations and were able to drop our bags off. We also did an interview as part of the placement test. Since it was already late, the actual written test was the on the next day. So I ended up showing up to my class once it had already started. No big deal except no English was allowed!! That was understandable since we were a classroom full of international students learning German.

The reading and writing weren’t the hardest part of the course for me. Listening was pretty hard. So was speaking. Especially the pronunciation. I remember asking my Turkish friends from the school like “what should I do.. my head doesn’t want to understand German?” They said that I just need to learn more. I didn’t realize then how important it was to train listening and practice speaking– preparing for situations and correcting mistakes. We often had writing assignments for homework. In class, we did presentations of what we wrote. We still trained basic grammar. We played games. And we had a workbook that guided our learning. We did many types of activities to get us interacting with the language and to start talking about everyday stuff. I didn’t love going to class but it was okay overall. I also didn’t do much revising in my free time.

 

My First Experience at a Train Station in Europe

Here is a short account I wrote during that summer: So what does it feel like to be outside your home country for the first time? ~July 2015~
When my plane first landed on July 6th, I exited the Frankfurt airports only to come back into the airport to go upstairs to find the underground train station. At first, using the train ticket machine seemed impossible because it did not connect to Stuttgart Bahnhof. An Italian man named Luigi saw that I was having trouble and at first asked me if I was Italian. He suggested that I take the train to Frankfurt Main and so I took the train there with him. When I exited the train station, I walked up and down the same street until a guy working at a hotel saw that I needed help—he took me to Frankfurt Main train station. He spoke with someone who worked at the train station to get me to the right platform, but unfortunately it was not the right one for the ticket I bought. I didn’t know to print off the info either because the ticket doesn’t automatically have the platform number on it. I tried to ask a lady for help and look for the right platform, but I ended up missing the train and had to wait for a few hours until the next train came*. During that time span, I ordered a small strawberry milkshake and a mineral water and I paid a Euro to use the bathroom. There, I changed my top since I was feeling a little gross after being in the same outfit. Then I sat around some more before my train arrived. I was on the train (I reserved my seat) and the lady came by to check my ticket. It was a pretty nice ride to Stuttgart Bahnhof and I was exhausted so I may have drifted off during some of the train ride. At Stuttgart Bahnhof, I was having a difficult time finding Schwaebisch Hall-Hessental in the search results, but I finally found it. When I was waiting for the train, some people saying the train wasn’t coming today, so we were redirected to another train.

*By the way, there is always a large billboard with the train times and each station displays the trains too. But for some reason, I simply couldn’t find the platform that matched my train ticket. :/

 

Great Memories from My First Summer Abroad

You probably could tell that I wasn’t used to navigating in Germany or using trains, but the story goes on so let’s continue! Another good thing about this location was that the city was pretty easy to navigate and there was a pretty awesome program planned for that month by the language school. Each week there was a Stammtisch at a different restaurant. That was a good way to practice German, meet the other international students and enjoy an evening out. The school also had its own little bar that was open on Friday nights. Drinks were cheap and there was good music. Of course there was dancing too! The school really offered such a diverse and fun-filled summer program. There were dance classes. You could go out and draw the city. You also had the chance to participate in a local summer fest and bring food from your country. In addition, we toured a local brewery. They served us free beer and dinner. Well, I think the tour cost 3 Euros. We also took a bus to Neuschwanstein castle. We had the whole day there and also got to visit the town nearby. My summer there was more than just planned events though. I had a blast eating ice cream with my friends, watching movies at home, going to the movie theater, and many other little experiences.

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There was one disco in Schwäbisch-Hall that we went to several times. I had such a blast dancing and meeting people from all around the world. One time I even went to a bigger disco outside of the city and I really loved the atmosphere of German discos. I always went with friends so I felt safe and comfortable. Because it was summer, it was such a great time to have a beer in a Biergarten. It was my first time to have a legal drink! (since I was only 18) And it was such an exciting experience to order a beer and get a Pfand back when I returned the glass. There was also a fair and I had a great time seeing the beautifully decorated rides and having a feeling of being back in USA.

Two good things that I did back then were: 1) I enjoyed myself. Just by participating in activities, meeting new people and being immersed in German language, I learned a lot without stressing myself about learning. That is something I learned the hard way this go around during my exchange year here. Studying is a good thing. And if it is something you enjoy, there is no harm in it, but real life interactions and experiences are much more memorable than just taking notes. 2) I lived in the moment. I wasn’t trying to see all the major cities of Germany in one month. I didn’t have to record every moment on my phone. I took it day by day and focused on what was in front of me.

Once I returned to USA, I did experience some reverse culture shock. My friends were there to pick me up from the airport. And everyone was excited that I was back. Somehow I felt sad and even missed Germany. The stress about finding the right gate at the airport was over. I could easily use my mother tongue. But I missed Germany’s beauty, I viewed USA differently and I felt a bit bored being American in America. Alright. I will conclude this part by sharing what I remember about how I felt before I left: I honestly wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I didn’t have any big worries. It felt like a big experience, but overall, I was relatively relaxed and neutral about it. Following are a few photos of the trip. =)

 

Second Summer Abroad

I’m not going to include as many details about my second summer abroad (the following year). My intentions are to compare the types of programs, how I handled things, and complete my college story in relation to traveling and studying languages. In May 2016, I spent another month in Germany. With the same type of language school but in a different city. This time I was in Mannheim. And I had a goal to really learn German. I was still nervous about exploring the city of Mannheim on my own, but I meet a handful of good friends and we had some good times in the city. This time I also had friends from my German class and we spoke only German together. I got to visit Heidelberg and Darmstadt with a group from the language school. I also made it all the way to Aachen to visit a new friend I had made. And at the end of my trip, I spent about five days in Stuttgart, where I visited my great uncle and also did some sightseeing. Here is a little text I wrote in Mannheim about arriving to Germany for the second time:

Mein Flug nach Stuttgart war gut. Ich habe einen alten Mann kennengelernt. Er ist Amerikaner und liebt seine Familie sehr. Ich konnte nur ein bisschen schlafen. An der Passkontrolle habe ich Deutsch gesprochen. Heute Morgen bin ich zuerst zum Stuttgart Bahnhof gefahren. Dann bin ich mit dem Zug nach Mannheim gefahren. Ich musste mit der Strassen- Bahn zur Sprachschule (Goethe-Institut) fahren. Im Flughafen habe ich nach dem Weg gefragt. Es war einfach Goethe-Institut zu finden. Ich hatte ein kurzes Interview, aber ich hatte den Test schon online gemacht. Ich beginne in einem B2.1 Kurs. Ich werde versuchen, nur Deutsch zu sprechen. Mit anderen Studenten habe ich nur Deutsch gesprochen—auch mit den Angestellten Goethe-Instituts. Hoffentlich habe ich einen schönen Besuch hier und lerne viel Deutsch.

(My flight to Stuttgart was good. I met an older gentleman. He is American and really loves his family. I was only able to sleep a little bit. At the passport control, I spoke German. This morning I first travelled to Stuttgart train station. Then I travelled to Mannheim by train. I had to ride the trolley to the language school. It was easy to find the school. I had a short interview, but I had already done the test online. I will start in a B2.1 course. I am going to try to only speak German. With the other students, I have only spoken German–also with the employees of the language school. Hopefully, I will have a nice visit here and will learn a lot of German.)

 

Leaving Germany for Russia

So now it’s time to finish up this entry by including some information about my Russian trip and explaining a bit more how study abroad works at my home university in USA. Before we apply to any programs or scholarships at my university, we have to visit an informational session at the study abroad office. There you learn about the types of programs offered, scholarships, how to raise money and you have the chance to ask questions. Our study abroad office has a website and also an online platform you use to apply for the programs and also any scholarships from the study abroad office.

During the informational session I learned about AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study.) With AIFS, I either wanted to visit a Spanish-speaking country or Russia. In Germany (2015),  I met some Russians which got me interested in Russian culture. I thought summer of 2016 was a good time to start learning Russian. Before I left, I skyped with a teacher for a few months and could read the alphabet and knew some basic words. But communication was very hard. Looking back, I don’t regret going when I did. However, I could have studied the language, culture and history more intensively before I left. I was still learning German and studying at university and in May of that year I was in Germany for a month so I probably wouldn’t have had enough time to do any more than what I did. And maybe, two trips abroad in one summer was too much. I had already been away from home for a long time and I didn’t have enough time to invest in preparing for the Russian program since I was in Germany. But anyway, let’s continue.

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My program to Russia was with AIFS, which is an external program from my university. I had to do additional paperwork to get my courses transferred and to receive my summer scholarship for the coursework I did. One form was called “intent to study off-campus” which was for the financial aid office. The other form was about the course work and I had to have each course personally signed off by a professor. For example, an art professor signed off for the Russian art course. A politics professor for the politics course and so on. Then I had to have my advisor do a final signature before I turned it in to the study abroad office. That is a different process than study abroad programs that are from my university–organized by professors. For such study abroad courses, you sign up the same way you do for normal classes and fill out your information on the online study abroad platform. And for the year exchange I am doing now, you register study abroad place credit holders and when you bring your transcript back after the exchange, then you can get the credits added.

And here is a quick snapshot of the Russian study abroad program:

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Even though I made it to several museums and different places in addition to what was included in our program, there was still so much I wanted to see and do! The program was awesome. The city was awesome. Five weeks just wasn’t enough. I would recommend a semester there to make full use of all the options and see more of the city and do nearby excursions.

Another suggestion I have if you do a similar program where a large group of students are all together is to make friends with two smaller groups. People with similar interests tend to group up fast so be very outgoing in the beginning! Don’t be afraid to do things alone either, but I truly suggest trying to have two different groups of people that you connect with and can do things with.

It would take several blog posts to cover a full-reflection (as well as a report) of what I did during my time in Russia. But I’m sure you are a bit curious how it was to be in mysterious, dangerous Russia, so I want to share my perception of Saint Petersburg and how it changed over the five weeks I spent there. My first impression was like wow, it is so beautiful. And I noticed immediately that the atmosphere (how the people behaved and the appearance of the country itself) seemed a lot more distant, serious and melancholic than Germany. For at the least the first two weeks, I was so impressed by the many things to see and felt like it was amazing to see the city both as a tourist and exchange student. Later on, I ended up feeling sad, too. Even doing everyday tasks required a lot of effort and I felt very un-Russian. I felt a bit alone and far away from home. And by my last week there, Saint Petersburg ended up warming up to me. I met new people casually in public. I ended up hanging with a friend who had broken away and done their own thing the previous weeks. My coursework was coming to an end and slowly I was making use of the Russian language.

When I returned back home to USA, I made the decision to apply for a year-long exchange in Germany. I ended up not getting accepted into the program, but I had already made the decision to spend a year in Germany. So when applications for the Erlangen exchange from my university rolled around the following spring, I had to apply! I have been living in Germany for 7 months already. And I am not ready for my time here to end.

That was my introduction to studying abroad for American students. Each day I experienced something special. I also encountered new things that helped me grow as a person. My first two summers abroad were just the beginning! I plan to share several posts about my current study abroad here in Erlangen, Germany.

 

Enjoy the spring,

Stephanie F.

What to Pack for a Study Abroad in Germany

featured photo: Würzburger Residenz & Hofgarten

~Here is my first attempt at writing a list of what one may need for a study abroad in Germany. ~

Things to bring if living abroad for an extended time:

  • refillable water bottle (Water is not free in Germany! Do not expect a glass of water to come with your meal. You will have to pay for a bottle of still or carbonated water. In summer when you are travelling, having a bottle will save you money because you can easily refill in the bathroom or at public fountains. The water quality has to follow European Union standards so it is quite okay to drink from the faucet.)
  • power converter (you can order online before your trip)
  • recyclable bag (2x) (Another difference between USA & Germany- you pay for the plastic bags when shopping in Germany. So save yourself money by taking a recyclable bag with you before shopping. Use less plastic.)
  • “book” bag (You mean need it for your classes or to take what you need for longer bus rides/excursions.)
  • smaller purse (Having a smaller purse–or maybe just a wallet–is convenient when you go out to a bar or club.)
  • rags (at least 4 or 5)
  • 2 towels
  • nail clippers
  • Band-Aids
  • sheets (if you know the bed size) & pillow (if you have the space)
  • 2 folders for paperwork
  • a journal to write about your trip in
  • some loose paper and a few pens and pencils
  • 2 books to read
  • photos
  • a laptop
  • umbrella

Things to buy shortly after arriving:

  • sheets, comforter & pillow
  • cleaning supplies (spray, wipes, toilet bowl brush, broom & dustpan)
  • Advil
  • hand soap
  • a candle or air-freshener
  • detergent
  • dishes & dish soap
  • clear tape (to hang photos)
  • a small lamp
  • scissors (if needed)
  •  a small plant

Best,

Stephanie F.

A mini “interview” written Spring 2017

Stephanie Ford

German Literature Major, Junior

This was required by university housing as a way for the RA (resident adviser) to check-in with the students. It was also meant to be beneficial for Freshman students to reflect on how university has impacted their lives. Yes, I wrote this as a Junior. If you keep reading, you will discover why I was living in Freshman housing.

What were some of the highlights of this year? Why?
I had an article published on an online magazine
I worked in Little Five for seven months at Rag-O-Rama
I applied for an internship and scholarship that both required recommendation letters, essays and a lot of work (didn’t get internship; still waiting on scholarship)
I got to explore different types of German classes (found out I didn’t like translating but I like German poetry)
I’ve maintained regular lessons at Goethe-Zentrum and practiced my German consistently
I took a course “Women Lead in Business” and gained a lot of practical knowledge
I teach English weekly to non-native adults and truly enjoy teaching
I led a Book Drive for Golden Key Honor Society and gave a speech during the New Member Recognition Ceremony (in front of President Becker)
I’ve read 15 books since the fall semester began (not to mention all the articles and excerpts I read for my classes; and more than half of the books were in German)

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What were some of your personal successes? Why?
One of my personal successes was that I got a little tougher this year. Before I wanted to maintain friendships and relationships with people who brought me down. But this year, I have protected myself and have decided not to let people play with my emotions.
Another personal success is that I’ve managed my negative emotions well. I have used music or writing to express what was making me feel bad. I didn’t go to some of the negative coping options I used before.

What were some of your struggles this year? why?
Time management has not been a problem for me. It has been not having enough time to do everything (work, school, sleep, work out, shop, hang with friends, etc., etc.) Many college students do have to work, or have other responsibilities. This year has been the busiest for me. I have been exhausted so many times, and relied on coffee to keep me going. I have had to lack in certain areas like giving myself free time to go out, or hitting the gym. Although being busy is good for me. It keeps me in line and feeling good, I have been pushing myself and have neglected (although not to a ridiculous degree) my body and well-being.
The other major struggle I had this year was with my roommate before I changed dorms. We had to share a bedroom (and of course a bathroom). It did not matter how many compromises or roommate agreements we made, she always did what she wanted to do (including keeping me awake many nights and talking to me like she’s my overcorrecting aunt.) I tried to live in peace and keep to myself, but she truly began harassing me and I felt like I could not even breathe in my own room. So, my other main struggle was being practically tortured by a person who didn’t want to make things easy for anyone. On top of that, getting in touch with the right people at Georgia State, and them actually doing what they are supposed to do to change things for me has been a major struggle out of my control.

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What are things you can do in the future or things you’ve already started doing to help in the areas you struggle?
When I finally got to a point that I was so used to being busy all the time, but losing my drive a bit and relying too much on coffee and energy drinks, I decided to put in my two weeks at work. Now that I’ve stopped working, I am feeling much better and I am putting time into the things I neglected before.

Do you think anything has changed about you since coming to college?
Sure, a lot has changed about me since coming to college. My fashion sense has developed into a new direction. I am pickier about my friends. I have been to a few different foreign countries and have experienced different cultures. I also speak another language and am learning my third. In high school, I was more of an outcast and rebel. Although, I am not trying to please everyone now, I put a lot of consideration into my actions as I want to help others and make an impact on my community. I am still shy, caring, and a little nerdy, but I have challenged myself in many ways and done things that I would not have done in high school. I have matured in many aspects and have really learned a lot. I am more focused and have passions and interests that I didn’t have before.

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How have your relationships at home changed since you’ve come to GSU?
My parents see me as a young adult and have a lot to be proud of and share with their friends. Having more distance with my parents has also allowed us to understand each other better. My family is still important to me and I will never forget that my parents worked hard to provide for me and gave me a lot of support, but now I have become more independent and cannot rely on my parents to fix everything when something goes wrong. I think my parents have learned from me and hearing about my experiences; I can also appreciate hearing some of their old stories and points of advice.

What was it like at home over break?
Normal, boring, relaxing… Things do not change that often back home. Of course it is weird at first but I have adjusted to it and see that as where I’m from and where my family is. Everything was fine with my family and I kept myself busy, but didn’t overdo it and gave myself time to rest. I was still working in Atlanta during break.

How have your views on social or cultural issues changed since coming to GSU? Have they changed at all?
Apart from travelling abroad, I will say that Georgia State has exposed me to many different types of people. Because of that, I am used to working with people who are different than me. I do not let stereotypes or outside appearances guide my decisions.  However, I have also seen that people are very divided and are quick to blame others. I think that there is potential for all people to be treated equally, but there is a lot of pain and hate that hold people back. In a way, I have been inspired because being with all kinds of people is the norm for me, but, on the other hand, I have been discouraged because although Georgia State and Atlanta may be diverse, people are not so open-minded and misjudge others when they are different.

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Is there anything you’d like to challenge yourself or other students about regarding perceptions of other cultures or your own culture?
I think that everyone should either travel abroad or study a foreign language. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone allows us to see our flaws and our strengths. It also helps us realize that no one is always the insider and no one is always the outsider. There will always be similarities and differences between people. Exposure to new things and opening yourself up to different people is a great way to challenge one’s perception of their culture and other cultures.

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Have there been any programs or events on campus that have exposed you to different ideas about culture and society? What were they?
I went to a World Youth Alliance meeting and discussed stereotypes about homeless. I heard a lot of interesting stories from volunteers with experience around working with homeless people. I also learned some surprising statistics about how extreme poverty and homelessness are in Atlanta and the state of Georgia.

I enjoyed putting this post together. I did not make any changes to what was originally written in Spring of 2017. Now you know a little bit more about me.

All the best,

Stephanie