Ever wanted to Study Abroad but scared you were not going to be able to graduate on time? This was a question that often popped into my head when I was thinking about whether or not I was going to study abroad during my college career (time in school? Repeats in the next sentence - AA). Let me tell you- I did and it was the best decision of my college career. My name is Andrea and I am currently a Senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am an Organizational Communications and German Language double major and I was able to study in the beautiful city of Munich, Germany.
When I was first thinking about studying abroad, I had three major concerns:
1. Graduating on time
2. Paying for studying abroad
3. Having FOMO of all of the activities going on at UNC Charlotte
After meeting with my German major Advisor, I realized that:
1. Your advisors work with you and will help you match up credits from your study abroad time with classes that you would be taking at school so that you would not fall behind and graduate later. Even if you are not double majoring with a language, many departments such as Business, Education, etc. are willing to work with you to allow you to get that time abroad. In addition to having your major advisor, for the most part, universities offer study abroad advisors that help you by answering any questions in regards to the applications for studying abroad/scholarships. Never be afraid to ask!
2. Most universities and other organizations offer plenty of scholarships to get you wherever you want to go. This is actually how I was able to afford studying in Germany. My scholarship paid for my program and my apartment while studying. I even had some money left over for any other activities I wanted to do in Germany. When discussing with your advisor about financial responsibilities of studying abroad, be sure to ask about scholarships!
3. There are various amounts of types of study abroad options that schools can provide. There are Fall/Spring semester, Spring Break Study Abroad, and Summer sessions. So it really just depends how long you want to be gone for! Personally, I did the Summer session that lasted about 2 months. I look back and I wish I would have done a whole semester. The 2 months in Germany flew by and at the end, I didn’t want to leave. Remember that whatever you leave when studying abroad will be there when you return!
While in Munich, I attended the Goethe Institüt which is just a couple stops away on the U-bahn from Marienplatz. The Goethe Institüt is an international hub for German learning. On the first day at the Goethe Institüt, you are given a placement test to help you meet your goals by the end of the session. Classes are from 8AM-12:30PM, Monday through Friday. While at the Goethe Institüt, I met people from all over the world that had also come to Munich to help master their German language. I went in the summer of 2017 and to this day, I still talk to my dear friends from my study abroad experience. Two of which are named, Pablo (from Mexico City) and Benan (from Istanbul, Turkey). So not only was I learning and falling in love with the German culture every day but I got a glimpse of different cultures from all over the world. While studying, my friends and I were able to travel to neighboring towns on the weekends along with visiting different part of Munich.
Most programs allow for traveling by giving their students breaks so that they can go and explore some of the local culture. I learned more German while living in Munich for two months than studying it in a classroom for five semesters. There is something about being emerged in a culture that forces you to use the language and fall in love with the people/culture. I learned so much about myself because I was in a completely new environment. A favorite after school lunch spot was the Englischer Garten. We would bring our homework and grab a bite to eat and enjoy the outdoor weather along with a nice cold beer.
Growing up, I had always traveled to various countries in Europe, even Germany! But I quickly learned that visiting a place and living in it is quite different. I had to learn how to use the public transportation in Germany, which by the way is INCREDIBLE. I will admit, the first time I walked into a station, I got lost and ended up in a random suburban town but you learn from your mistakes, right? After that one time, it was all a breeze. After the two months were over and I had returned to North Carolina, I missed the ease that comes with the German public transportation.
During my time in Germany I experienced culture shock twice. The first was when I arrived in Germany and had to figure out how to do life as a German and the second was coming back to the U.S. and getting back into the swing of things here. You get so used to doing life a certain type of way and fall in love with how you were living and then you come back. Post-abroad culture shock is a very real thing! If I am ever presented with an opportunity to live in another country or return to Germany, I will most definitely take it and run.