- My STEP Project was a Study Abroad through the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature. I studied for eight weeks on the Dresden Summer Program. Through this, I was able to earn 9 credit hours towards my German minor. We took both a language course taught in German and a culture and history course in English. Outside of class, we visited neighboring areas where we were able to experience the things we were learning in class first hand.
- Being abroad for eight weeks had an enormous impact on my understanding of both myself and the world. I went in wanting to gain confidence in my German speaking abilities and in my overall independence. I feel that I reached this goal and beyond. I have full confidence speaking German, even if I am not near fluent. I also improved my overall communication skills. I now know how to better network with others and build relationships with people I have never encountered before. My ability to support myself independently improved substantially.
My understanding of the world expanded and I now have a more open mind about people and their backgrounds. Through my experiences, I was able to see similarities and make connections back to the United States which helped me to feel more comfortable in a new environment. However, more importantly, I was able to see the differences between the two places and gain an appreciation for a culture that I had never experienced before.
- There were so many interactions and events that occurred that led to these transformations. One way I was exposed to the new culture was simply through common daily events. I noticed many differences when interacting with locals such as in stores or on the trams. People mostly kept to their selves and minded their own business, and expected you to do the same. It was not meant to be rude, just the way of the culture. Germany is very similar to the United States, however the differences were enough to make an impact. Another common interaction was at restaurants. Eating is a bigger event in Germany, meaning you are not supposed to be rushed. When you are finished, many will sit and converse for a while. You must tell your server when you are ready to leave or they will not bother you.
We learned of bigger historical differences in class. This was interesting to see where the basis of a lot of the modern culture came from. We were also able to speak with the people who actually live there, who have a deeper connection to the history, and here their take on it. It was also impactful that we were able to visit the places we had learned about and experience them first hand. This brought a deeper understanding of the country by taking the textbook words and pairing them with real life. One of the most meaningful for me was our visit to Buchenwald concentration camp. We have learned about the horrors of the Holocaust for many years in our history classes. But nothing compares to walking where the victims walked and standing where so many lost their lives.
Outside of gaining a wider world view, there were many events that led to my confidence gain. There were subtle differences that seemed small in the grand scheme of things but actually made a large impact on my life. I had to learn to grocery shop and cook for myself, clean more than just my own room, and take responsibility of myself when traveling. These things may be small but they helped me to grow into a more confident and independent person. I also grew in my communication skills, especially in German. One of the biggest moments that made me realize that I had gained confidence was actually a reflection on the difference between two events. At the beginning of our program, we had to attend a sort of “speed dating” event. We had a few minutes to speak with a local, either in German or English, get to know each other, and then switch people. I noticed at the end that I had spoken in English the majority of the time. Once I sensed the German was not understanding me, I became nervous and immediately switched to English. This was a complete difference to the end of the trip when we invited out professors to a “potluck” dinner as a small departing gift. One of my professors was a local and she wanted to speak in German at the dinner. I was able to speak with her for close to three hours only in German. We got to know each other and spoke very casually but confidently. If there was something she was confused about that I was saying, I would simply slow down and attempt to either say it another way or explain what I meant. Either way, I kept up the German and had no doubt in my ability to converse with her as long as she wanted.
- Through this program I made not only a large step towards obtaining my German minor, but I gained many skills that I will be able to use as a physician in the future. Physicians need to be strong and confident in their abilities and practice. I have talked a lot about the amount of confidence I gained from this program and I will be able to transfer that into my career in the future. I also gained an immense amount of communication skills. This is important to be able to speak clearly and effectively to staff to ensure they know exactly what I am trying to say and get things done smoothly and efficiently. I will also need to be clear in my interactions with patients. They need to have a full understanding of what I am talking about and their instructions for the future. I will use the problem solving skills I gained to work through difficult situations that will arise throughout my career.
As for my wider global understanding, this will be helpful in assisting all of the different patients I will see. I will be working with people from all different backgrounds and I now have a deeper appreciation for the beauty in that. I will also be able to use my world connections I made in Dresden, as well as the many more I will be able to build now with my improved language skills, to be able to network and work with other physicians and researchers from all over the world to improve my practice and the medical field as a whole.