This summer for the month of June I traveled to Dresden to study at the Goethe-Institute. I went to practice and develop my German language skills, as well as learn more about the culture of the nation where my grandparents emigrated from. The program allowed me to take classes every day for a month, but also gave me the freedom to travel around and experience the city and surrounding areas on my own. The skills I gained at the institute were put to test in an exam that determined a grade to be used for credit for my German minor.
This was not my first time abroad, nor was it my first time to Germany. My father had taken me there to see our family twice before in my life, both when I was younger. I also had no understanding of the language at the times that I went, relying on my father’s broken German to communicate, or just to enjoy their company without speaking. This time, however, I had two years of German under my belt that allowed me to really talk to my family and people who I met in many different places. Being able to do this gave me a unique perspective on the German people because I could now hear their stories, listen to their interactions, and understand what it is like to live there every day. This skill allowed me to meet many new and interesting people. For example, at a street festival in Dresden my friends and I began speaking with an immigrant from Poland whose parents were from Mozambique. We spoke for around an hour all in German. It was cool hearing his story and telling him mine; it was a conversation I won’t soon forget.
Being in Germany and speaking the language also taught me a lot about myself. Never before did I think I would start up conversations with complete strangers in a foreign tongue, but while I was there that is exactly what I was doing. I discovered a new found confidence and realized that I can succeed in situations that seemed daunting to me before.
The most important relationship that developed while I was in Germany was all the friends I made from Ohio State. It was incredibly helpful to be able to have these friends to rely on when the feeling of being in a foreign land got to be too much. We challenged each other to improve our skills, as well as went on adventures together to incredible places with great new friends.
It is also interesting to note that those studying at the institute came from all over the world. I met many students from numerous countries like Ireland, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Italy, and other schools in the US. It was fun for me to listen to what they thought of Americans and for us to tell them how we viewed them. We learned different perspectives on the world and listened to amazing stories. Its so cool that a common second-language can bring so different people together.
I was also able to travel around Germany before and after the program in order to visit some of relatives. Some of them I hadn’t seen for many years, others I had never met before. But for each family it was like I had known them my whole life. They were very welcoming and happy to show me around. I met fun cousins who introduced me to their friends and stayed up with talking into the late hours of the night. We keep in contact over Facebook and have already made plans for them to come to the US or for me to go back to Germany soon.
There were many places that I got to see and people I got to meet that had a profound impact on me. One event was sitting on the bank of the river Elbe in the heart of Dresden with other students from OSU the night before we all left for home. The combination of the beautiful view and the great friends made me realize how lucky I was to be right where I was sitting. I would never trade that night for anything else.
Acquiring the skills that I did in Germany will be immeasurable in my future endeavors. Firstly, my hopeful career in international relations will rely heavily on me having a deep understanding of different cultures and languages. I will be able to show my ability to learn a language in a short time and that I could thrive in a foreign city. Secondly, the program helped me further my education in German and gave me credit to be used at OSU that will go towards my German minor. This freed up a lot of space in my schedule so that I can take other interesting classes in my last two years that I may not have had time for before. Lastly, I have strengthened my relationship with family abroad, and the thanks to the program I will be able to return and use my language skills to strengthen it further.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to have traveled to a foreign land, developed my language skills, immersed myself in the culture, met incredible new people, and made lifetime friends.
The program allowed for weekend trips. Some friends from OSU and I traveled to Prague (above) and to Berlin (below) during our free time.