STEP REFLECTION- Goethe Institut: Dresden, Germany

Theodore Du-Education Abroad

My STEP signature project was a 4 week study abroad in Dresden, Germany. In the Goethe Institut, I took an intensive German language course, get to learn the culture of Germany, get to know Dresden inside and out, and even have excursion trips to other cities nearby.

Coming into this trip, I have been well traveled having gone to Brazil and Taiwan the same year, and had been taught about the culture of Germany in High School. A lot of culture differences wasn’t a surprise but naturally it was cool seeing all the differences in person. The biggest difference for me going to Germany and the other countries I’ve went to is that for this study abroad I traveled alone. I’m a very community oriented person so this was a huge transition for me. It was difficult at first since I felt alone, but I began to grow comfortable in exploring and travelling alone. I saw myself grow a tremendous amount in the 4 weeks. I’m not exactly the most disciplined person and I need people nagging me to get work done and that’s still the case for the most part, but I was able to step up in maturity, plan all the transportation and housing because I needed to. Although I was only in Germany, I also got to see some pretty cool perspective of other countries and I even surprised myself with initiating events with people I hardly knew.

For 6 weeks before going to Germany for a study abroad, I had another cool opportunity to go to Floripa, Brazil to do ministry with Cru at Ohio State. Like I mentioned before, I am a very community oriented person and the community I had in Brazil was beautiful and it really pushed me in discipline and God was able to reveal so much in me. Knowing I would be going to Germany by myself, I was terrified. I’ve had many doubts about my faith and whether it was genuine or not since I’m so community oriented, it didn’t seem like it was my own. Germany is spiritually dark with very little talk about faith and religion, so I knew it was going to test my faith. That’s where this trip really transformed my understanding of myself. I thought there would be no way for me to walk with the Lord while not being surrounded by a Christian community and just being focused on so many other things. I was so wrong. I’ve grown a lot in my spiritual maturity and this trip really showed me that. I always found time to spend time with the Lord despite the lack of community. It was a challenge to find motivation for sure, but God was able to show me a lot while in Germany.

Not only did I see a lot of change in myself, but I was able to see the world in a whole new perspective. My classmates in my intensive German course were from all over the place with different experiences. I had two students from Spain (one for southern Spain and one from Catalonia), one from Moscow, one from Serbia, one from Gambia, one from Japan, one from Mexico, and multiple students from the United States but with very different experiences in life. One of the students was around 60 years old and had served the army for 20 years, another grew up in the US but now lives in Switzerland. When our class began to discuss random topics, I got to hear a massive variety of perspectives and it was honestly so cool. I did this Study Abroad to improve my German, which I did, but I came out learning about all these different cultures from around the world. It was incredibly humbling knowing that there are so many different lifestyles all across the world but even thousands of miles apart, we all have similarities. A cool thing our class did, was have every student talk a little about themselves and their culture. The different life experiences was brand new to me. Although lifestyles in the US are varied, I’ve heard many similar stories. However, my classmates varied from being raised in poverty and having all these different reasons to study German. Our classmates being so vulnerable with each other was a catalyst to start a friendship among each other.

Another thing you should know about me, is I love sports and athletics. Sport is something that can transcend language and culture and seriously think about how cool that is? Sport can literally connect people from all over the world that have no other similarities. So I have never played actual soccer in my life, and I’m a very casual soccer follower. I would say I know a lot about football, basketball and volleyball, but soccer was slightly foreign to me. However, I got the amazing opportunity to start a soccer group at Goethe Institut and a group of us were meet up at a nearby field and just play our hearts away. I’m not good at soccer in any way, so it was cool seeing different soccer skill levels and different German speaking levels combine just for the love of the sport. It was actually a great way to practice German outside of the classroom since in some cases it was the only common language and it was a great way to meet some friends that weren’t from the United States. It was so easy to default to speaking English and hanging out with the Americans, so soccer was able to build friendships with people that I otherwise would not have met.

In just 4 short weeks, I was able to see me grow spiritually and in maturity. I was able to learn a variety of perspectives and learn different cultures that can help me understand the World better as a whole. I was also able to take initiative and grow in leaderships. The main reason I did the study abroad was to see growth in my German language skills. That was for sure the case. Being completely immersed in a language is absolutely necessary to improve your language abilities. Having this study abroad experience under my belt, it opens many opportunities for academic goals. I’m a mechanical engineering student who wants to work in the sports industry. Knowing German opens all the opportunities in Germany for me and knowing a 3rd language could really separate me from other applicants in the real world. I’m so incredibly grateful for what this study abroad has been able to do for me!

Side note: Dresden, Germany is super underrated but filled with so much beauty. I highly recommend giving Dresden a visit.

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