Category Archive: Travel Blogs

A Semester in Germany!

Alberts Frankfurt

 

Name: Alexander Alberts

Majors: Accounting, Finance, German

Year in School: Senior

Program: Goethe Universitaet – Frankfurt am Main, Germany

 

 

Why did you choose to study abroad?

Improvement of my language ability in German was definitely the main reason why I chose to study abroad. I initially went to Germany being very fluent in the language, and left with even better abilities than before. It was a great opportunity to put my language skills to the test, and really use them in a daily setting.

 

Why did you choose to go where you did?Alberts Frankfurt2

I was always very interested in German culture and history. Many tumultuous events took place in Germany over the last hundred years, and it was fascinating to see these locations first hand. As stated above, I am also a fluent German speaker, so I wanted to spend my time abroad in a country where German was spoken and where I had the opportunity to use the language every day. Germany is also in my opinion the most beautiful country in the world!

 

What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

The best part about studying abroad is definitely the people who you will come in contact with, and the friendships you will make. Traveling was really great, but my fondest memories from my time in Germany were definitely made just spending time with my friends in Frankfurt. I had the opportunity to become friends with people from all over Europe, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Finland for example. The cultural exchange we had was incredible. We could chat about any topic in such a constructive way, and bring so many perspectives to the table, it was fantastic! We went on many trips together, and had such an amazing time taking in what Frankfurt and Germany have to offer. My favorite memory from abroad was definitely a trip I took with my friends to Europapark in Rust, Germany, where we spent the entire day in the beating sun riding roller coasters. The park is definitely a recommendation for anyone planning on visiting Germany!

What did you struggle with? How have you overcome it?

The bureaucratic system in Germany definitely caught me by surprise. Germany in general is known to have a lot of very strict rules, that are enforced with no room for exceptions. I do not think this could be more true than when looking at their school system or registration system. For example, there was a single 30 minute time slot weekly where you were able to pick up your university ID, which was required to take public transportation, do laundry, and buy food. If you missed that time slot for some reason, you had to wait an entire week to get your card. I also found there to be a lack of customer service, not just in restaurants, but also in almost all consumer settings. It just seemed like they did not have a desire to satisfy you as a consumer, and rather you were at the full mercy of the service provider. These are definitely things I missed about the United States while abroad. The school system is also intense! You only take one exam at the end of the semester, so intensive studying is a must. Most of the tests are designed for students to either barely pass or fail, while our tests in the US tend to be more oriented at allowing students who strive to get a good grade, the ability to do so. This means yours grades will most likely be lower during your semester in Germany, but that does not mean you did anything incorrectly. It simply mirrors the differences in the two school systems. This definitely proved to be a challenge for me, but you always have to remind yourself that your time abroad is not just about your studies, but also about the many experiences you have that you will cherish for a lifetime.

Alberts Frankfurt3What advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

My advice to students who would like to study abroad is definitely to take the risk and spend an entire year abroad, and not just a semester. They always told us at various study abroad events that that was the one regret of almost all returning students, that they did not spend more time abroad, and it could not be more than true. Once I returned to the United States, I almost instantly missed my life in Germany. You will definitely not regret spending the extra time in a foreign country. I also would advise future study abroad students to avoid American students during their time abroad. One of the best parts of my study abroad experience was coming in contact with German and International students, and fostering such a strong intercultural exchange. Sure it is tempting to spend time with people who speak perfect English, but your time abroad will be so much more fulfilling when you go the extra mile to avoid English, and speak the native language of your respective country instead. The really cool part is when you return to the United States and you can barely speak English, that is when you know you had a great time abroad!

How has studying abroad personally helped you?

Studying abroad has helped me tremendously to develop my organizational and interpersonal skills, as well as my confidence. Organization was key to surviving the semester at the Goethe Uni in Frankfurt. With 48,000 students, it was hard to find resources that would help you to succeed, so you really needed to learn to rely on your own personal ability to remain organized and keep deadlines in check. Interpersonal skills were also very important. You needed to learn how to communicate ideas in a new way, as language presented itself often as a barrier, rather than an effective communication method. You also needed to pay attention to the fact that everyone comes from a different background, and that you needed to remain open to new ideas and ways of looking at things. My confidence definitely improved drastically while abroad as well. I was often challenged to overcome demanding tasks in German, such as setting up a bank account, buying health insurance, and registering at the foreign office. All of which required the confidence to delve into a challenging conversation in a foreign language and still be able to leave having completed the task at hand. I also acquired the confidence necessary to reach out to fellow students and peers to explore Frankfurt. Germans are typically very cold and not so friendly, and often I needed to be the one to take the first steps in building a relationship with other people. This is much different than what I was used to in the United States. You also acquire the courage to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. I left the United States with a fear of rollercoasters, and after a trip to Europapark in Rust, Germany, I left a complete thrill seeker.  Sometimes you will discover things you love, such as Doener Kebab (one of the best things you will ever eat) and other times you may realize a popular food item or activity is not for you, in my case sushi. The most important thing is to keep an open mind, and to try and do things that you would never do at home.

What are the differences between your home country and the country you are studying in?

Germans in general do not tend to question the system. It is common in the United States to look at things critically, for example, why are our drinking laws so strict when it comes to drinking in public? Germans on the other hand tend to take things how they are, and do not seem to have a desire to question why things are the way they are. They seem apprehensive when it comes to perhaps breaking a rule, even if the rule seems senseless.

Alberts Frankfurt4

In Germany, time is looked at very differently. It seemed like everyone was always looking on their subways apps for connections, and what time different trains arrived. I feel that Germans are always on the go, and planning out their routes way in advance, even if a train travels every three minutes.

 

Germany has an interesting mix of security and personal freedom. For example, Germans enjoy a very laid back drinking culture, while at the same time banning certain forms of what we would see as free speech, such as some internet streaming services. They also have a plethora of state institutions that play a role in almost all facets of life. This is much different than in the United States, where we tend to put more emphasis on personal freedoms and personal responsibility, rather than relying on government to provide security to us.

Public transportation plays a larger role in Germany than in the United States. In order to get to school everyday, I had to take the U-Bahn, which is the German subway. It was definitely quite a bit different, and a lot more interesting than driving a car.

7 Months in Europe: Brigitta Kaiser

Brigitta France 1   Name: Brigitta Kaiser

   Majors: French, History

   Minors: German, Education

   Year in School: Super Senior

  Programs: Spring Semester in Pau, France (with USAC) and International  Summer University in Kassel, Germany (through UWGB)

 

 

 

 

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I have always been a bit of a travel bug and culture nut, so studying abroad was always on my list of things to do in college. I really wanted to immerse myself in a new culture and get a taste of what it was like to live like the people in those countries do. I had already been to Europe a few times before, once for a choir trip and the second for a semester study abroad in Scotland, and I was dying to get to see more of Europe and get to know France and Germany better. I also studied abroad to improve my foreign language skills.

 

Why did you choose to go where you did?

Brigitta France 2My reasons for choosing France and Germany were because I study both French and German, so I naturally wanted to spend time in those countries immersing myself in the languages. I’ve studied French for almost eight years, and love the language and culture, so I was dying to actually spend time in France and experience everything the country had to offer for myself. I chose Germany because I also love the language and culture, but also because Germany is also a very important country for me. My family comes from there (my grandmother was German and my mom was born there), and I also have several close friends from Germany. The summer program in Germany was a great opportunity for me to get to know this country a bit better and also get to see friends and family. I also designed my seven months in Europe (four months in France, two months of travel, one month in Germany) so that I also had to opportunity to explore the rest of Europe and visit friends.

 

What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

Brigitta Germany 1It is honestly so difficult to pick what is the best part about studying abroad. My seven month stay in Europe was such an amazing and life changing experience, and I definitely did a lot in those seven months. I guess I would say that the best thing about being in Europe in particular is the opportunity to travel to many different countries since many of the countries are relatively close. In total, I was able to travel to eleven different countries with relative ease and for relatively cheap. It was amazing to see how different neighboring countries in Europe can be from each other.

 

However, despite all the traveling I did, my favorite experience was actually just the time I got to spend with my international friends. I hadn’t seen some of these friends in one or two years, so it was such an amazing experience to just have the opportunity to hang out with them in their own country, since we had mostly only seen each other in the US. It also gave me the opportunity to go to places I might not have gone to, such as Finland and the Hague in the Netherlands, which I visited because my friends live there.

 

 

What did you struggle with? How did you overcome it?

Brigitta Germany 3I think that I struggled the most with being confident and willing to put myself out there, especially when I wanted to practice the languages I was in Europe to study. With a group of friends I can be the life of the party, but once I am put into a situation where I don’t know anyone, or where I need to approach someone I don’t know and talk to them, I get really shy. I think that I could have improved my language skills a lot more if I had been more confident and willing to go and talk to people. The key to learning a new language is practicing it and being confident in your ability to speak that language. You can’t get caught up in what words you don’t know, you just have to make the best of what you do know. Though I still could improve my confidence, my study abroad experience helped me to start getting over my fear of talking to people I don’t know.

My advice is just to go for it and be confident in yourself and your abilities. I was so surprised by the positive feedback I received from native speakers when I pushed myself to speak the language. When studying foreign languages, you are often better than you think you are. Once I pushed myself to try to only speak in French and German (which was easier in France because less people are fluent in English than in Germany, including the young people), I saw myself improve so much more and my confidence grew, because I saw that I really could communicate fairly well with the natives than I thought I could. The key was just putting myself out there and going for it.

 

What advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

Just go for it! Don’t hold yourself back from anything and be ready to take a chance on something new. It’s going to be challenging and you’re going to have to go outside of your comfort zone, but it will all be worth it in the end. The time you spend abroad may be some of the most difficult months abroad, but it will also be among the best months of your life. The friends you will make and the experiences you will have will be worth the cost. So just don’t be afraid to make that leap! Get out there and explore what the world has to offer! One of my regrets is just sitting in my room when I could have been out exploring the city, trying new food, practicing my language skills, and generally just experiencing new things. So don’t let the fear of getting out of your comfort zone hold you back from a life changing experience.

 

 

How has studying abroad personally helped you?

Brigitta Germany 2The time I spent in Europe helped me in so many ways. First, it helped me to improve my language skills. Though I didn’t improve as much as I wanted to, my ability to speak French and German definitely improved much better than it would have at home. Second, it really helped me to build my self-confidence and made me more responsible for myself. I often had to face challenges by myself and had to learn to put myself out of my comfort zone. It pushed me to try new things which I may not have done before, such as going on a three week long, seven city, three country trip all by myself. I really had to learn how to be confident in myself and my language abilities, which will be a huge asset to me in the future.

 

 

 

What are the differences between your home country and the country you are studying in?

  1. Public transportation. Most places in Europe have fantastic public transit systems. You really don’t need a car like you do in the US, and cities are so easy to navigate and get around with public transit compared to Green Bay. There are also amazing train and bus systems that make traveling around Europe so easy! However, Europeans also walk much, much more than we do in the U.S., so just be prepared to do a lot of walking in Europe!
  2. The social system. France and Germany are socialist societies, so while they are still democracies, they have a lot more social benefits for their citizens. They enjoy benefits such as universal healthcare and family support, which is very different from the U.S. European countries tend to be more communalistic and have systems that focus on the collective good than the U.S., which is a very individualistic society.
  3. Europe is generally a more relaxed society and they really value vacation and family time. Stores are often closed on Sundays and French and German people tend to get around six weeks or more of paid vacation. It was definitely a very different outlook from the U.S. Europeans are generally more “chill” about certain things, such as body culture and alcohol. For example, in Germany you can drink alcohol in public places, so expect to see people drinking in public parks or sitting on the curb with friends having a drink.
  4. Protesting in France. I thought that Americans liked to protest and complain about the government, but the French take it to a whole other level. The French are well known for their strikes, and I witnessed two large strikes while I was in France. The first was a student protest against education reform. There were several occasions where my class had to be held in a different building because the students had taken all the chairs and tables out of the classrooms and blockaded the building I normally had class in. The second was the nationwide railroad strikes. For three months you had to be careful what day you took the trains because the strikes often caused some or all of the trains to be cancelled. Thankfully they announced the days ahead of time, so you could plan your travel around the strike days, but it made travel difficult. I once had a train be over an hour late in leaving because workers were standing on the tracks in protest.
  5. You often have to pay for water in restaurants. In France you can often get a “carafe d’eau” for free, which is just a jug of water. Often that water is at room temperature. In Germany you cannot get this free water. Also, in Europe you generally do not get drinks with ice in them, and expect to pay for refills. I never knew how much I loved unlimited ice water and fountain drinks until I couldn’t get them in Europe.
  6. In France they do the whole kiss on the cheek thing, which for me is so weird because you will do it with people you don’t even know that well. However, if they recognize you are a foreigner, they often won’t do it. Depending on the region the number of kisses is different; sometimes it is two kisses or three, and usually they will start on a certain side of your face.
  7. In France lots of people have dogs and you will often see them being walked without a leash! Dogs tend to be more well trained in Europe, so don’t expect a friendly pup to walk up to you randomly. Also, in France people let their dogs go to the bathroom on the sidewalk and won’t clean it up, which was very frustrating. You always have to watch your step in France.
  8. Dinner time in France is often very late. My host family generally ate dinner at 8 pm, which was a shock for me when I first arrived because I was starving by 6 pm.
  9. Bathrooms/restrooms! The stalls in European restrooms are much more private. You will not see a European restroom with large gaps on the side and bottom of the door. It is even rare to see a stall with a gap at all, as most tend to be a completely closed off little room. In houses it is common that the toilet is separated from the shower. Most houses have a “toilet” or “WC” with just the toilet and a small sink, and then they have the actual “bathroom” which has a tub or shower.
  10. The friendliness of Europeans is very different from in the U.S. Americans tend to be generally more outgoing and friendly to strangers than Europeans, who are often very reserved. They aren’t necessarily unfriendly, but they aren’t going to chat with someone who they don’t know.
  11. Recycling in Germany is the absolute best. Germans will recycle everything. Their recycling bins are way bigger than the garbage, and they will put items in the recycling that we would generally consider trash, such as plastic wrap. Germany also has this great plastic and glass bottle recycling system. When you buy anything in a bottle, such as soda, you have to pay a “pfand”, which is a deposit of usually 25 cents. You can later take those bottles to a grocery store where they have a machine you feed the bottle in and get your deposit back. The amount you have to pay or get back can depend on the type of bottle, such as ones that are made of harder or softer plastic. This also serves as a sort of income for homeless or poor people. You will often see someone digging around in public trash cans to grab out bottles which they can turn into for money. Germans will often just set bottles, especially glass bottles, next to trash cans so that people don’t injure themselves when they are digging through the trash.
  12. There are definitely many more differences, but you will just have to go out and discover them for yourself in these amazing countries! ;)

A Summer in Portugal: Leah Zorn

Leah EIA

Name: Leah Zorn

Major: Business (minor in Computer Science)

Year in School: Senior

Program: European Innovation Academy (Portugal)

 

 

 

Tell us about your program & experience abroad!

leah 2Being part of the world’s largest accelerator program not only taught me a lot about entrepreneurship but also introduced me to amazing peers and mentors from around the globe. At the European Innovation Academy, my team, PLUM, developed the business plans for a food delivery mobile application meant for homemade food. Our target audience is students in Qatar. Within the three weeks I served as a the Chief Design Officer. This involved prototyping our mobile application. Along the way, we, as a team, worked with mentors to pivot when needed and made sure our business was going down the right path.

 

 

leah 4The last day of the program served as “pitch day” where each team pitched to an investor, PLUM pitching to VP of Sales at Disney, Paul Holliman. With great feedback, we headed to the afternoon where we would find out who made the top ten. With much gratitude, we did make it to the top ten! This meant pitching on the “big stage.” In conclusion, we received an in-kind award for design mentorship.  As our Chief Mentor, Daniel Vila Boa said, “you resemble the very best of what is possible at the European Innovation Academy.

 

 

Were you able to travel during your free time?

barcelonaApart from EIA, I was able to explore more of Europe on my weekends there and decided to take short trips to both Paris and Barcelona. Overall, I am walking away from these three weeks with lifelong friends living on different continents, a full belly of European cuisine, and so many memories to share for years to come!

 

A Semester in Spain: Allison Loderbauer

28156470_572912659740040_2179368888205049856_n

Name: Allison Loderbauer

Majors: Elementary Education and Spanish

Program: Bilbao, Spain – Spring 2018

Why did you choose to study abroad?

One of my majors is Spanish and I knew the full Spanish immersion in Spain would really boost my Spanish skills. Studying abroad would allow me to experience a new culture for an entire semester while meeting new friends who also chose to study abroad. I was planning on studying abroad for just a few weeks during Interim or summer but I thought that studying abroad for an entire semester would give me a lot more opportunities.

Why did you choose to go where you did?

I really enjoy travelling and have had an interest in Spain since I began studying Spanish in middle school, so I knew that I always wanted to study abroad in Spain! I also knew that it would help with my Spanish skills since I am studying Spanish as a major and studying in Spain is complete Spanish immersion. All of my classes are taught in Spanish. Bilbao is a semester long program and the city has a lot of activities. I thought that Bilbao would be a better fit for me than the other programs in Spain that were offered.

What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

I really enjoy the opportunities for travelling that you have while studying abroad. Since Spain is in Europe,28154580_154084948610731_6795727465978265600_n travelling to other European countries is pretty cheap and I have been/will be able to visit many countries during my time abroad. You also meet a lot of great people who are also studying abroad that are willing to travel with you. Honestly, what’s better than travelling with a great group of friends? It really helps you bond with other students and make lifelong friends and memories!

What did you struggle with? How have you overcome it?

I am incredibly close with my family and so I became really homesick when I was about a month into my program. I also was sick during this time so I did not want to leave my room a lot which did not help. In order to overcome it, I made sure I kept busy. Once I started hanging out with other students, I became less and less homesick. Even if it was just going to a cafe or going for a walk, just getting out of my room so I wasn’t thinking about home really helped. Every student who is studying abroad is in a similar boat. They left everything (except a suitcase full of belongings) back home and flew across the world to study without knowing many, if any, other students. Everyone gets homesick at times, and talking about it with others really helps. My friends in Spain, my host family, and my friends and family back home were all very supportive of me and that was incredibly helpful. Another struggle of mine is that I miss a lot of things that I take for granted in the United States. Whether it was not having to pay for tap water at restaurants, being able to go to Target or a store I am familiar with to get items I need, or even just going to my favorite restaurant and eating my favorite foods, the things that I’m so used to back home aren’t always available in other cultures. I have done a lot of positive thinking and realize that all of those things will still be there when I go back home and that I have to enjoy the time that I am in Spain with the friends that I made here and make the most of it. I never realized how fast time goes until I only had a set amount of days to do something. 18 weeks abroad might seem long, but it goes by SO fast. I want to make the most of it.

What advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

Take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad if you are able to, even if you think it is out of your comfort zone. Some people would love to be able to travel the world and study in a new country, but they don’t have the available resources for it. It is difficult at times, but it will be a life-changing experience. If you study abroad, make sure you make the most of it right from the beginning of the program. I am already almost halfway done with my program and I felt like I just arrived last week. Don’t tell yourself “Oh, I’ll just do that next week.” If you keep putting things off, you don’t know when or if you will ever have that experience again. Seize the moment! Even if you may not feel like going out because it is raining or gloomy outside wherever you study abroad, try and convince yourself to so that you don’t regret not experiencing as many things as you can. You will never regret going on too many adventures, just the adventures you didn’t take.

28154006_1634090433343516_9151310796389613568_nHow has studying abroad personally helped you?

Studying abroad has really put me out of my comfort zone, but it is really helping me with independence. Being over 4,000 miles away from everyone I am used to being around is really difficult, but I met people while studying abroad that have become my new friends and family. I made some of my best friends while studying abroad and I know that it will be difficult when I go back home and don’t seem them every day so I make sure to spend as much time as possible with them now. I already have so many memories with them that I will always cherish. I also have learned to appreciate the things back home that I miss so much while I am here, such as my friends and family, but that has not stopped me from having an amazing time with my new friends in Spain.

What are the differences between your home country and the country you are studying in? (Or states, if you are in the NSE program)

  • You have to pay for water in restaurants in Spain and you don’t tip waiters.
  • There is a TON of public transportation. I am so used to driving back home and in Bilbao, almost everyone walks or takes public transportation.
  • Obviously, the language is different. It takes a little bit to get used to hearing a different language constantly, but it really has helped me learn Spanish.
  • The cuisine is very different and even though it is very good, I sometimes crave foods that are only found in the United States.
  • They don’t have a lot of the same stores and restaurants as the United States so make sure to check different stores so you don’t overpay for certain things like groceries and basic essentials.
  • The different currencies are difficult to remember but you get used to it after a while!
  • They have a lot of different customs and traditions so make sure to research before you go! For example, to greet a person in Spain, you give them a kiss on each cheek. They don’t just shake hands like in the United States and that was a big change for me at first.
  • A lot of people in Spain live in apartments, especially in Bilbao, so the concept of everyone having their own house like most people in the United States do is different to them.
  • Being from the Midwest, I noticed that Midwesterns are way more friendly and willing to help more than in Bilbao. I have gotten some weird looks when I have stopped to help someone if they dropped something or gave up my seat for someone on the bus. It’s not a bad thing, I just don’t think the people in Bilbao are used to people stopping and helping them or smiling and saying hi to strangers as much as I am used to doing these things at home. (Don’t worry, not everyone is like that! Just make sure you look up their customs and mannerisms in whatever country you study.)
  • People in Bilbao, at least my host family, know a lot about the United States. A lot of nights in Spain, I watch the news with my host dad, and there are actually a lot of stories every day about the United States. You see how people all around the world take interest in other countries and when something major happens, it impacts them too, even if they don’t live in that country. I feel like the United States is more closed off to news of the rest of the world unless it is something super major, but even things that are minor in the U.S. make it on Spanish news sometimes and it is interesting to see how much the U.S. has an impact on other countries.
  • The weather is very different in Bilbao compared to Wisconsin. It’s not ever super cold, but if you do choose to study there, just remember a rain jacket and boots! :)
  • There are so many differences, but that just makes the experience more interesting! Yes, you will have culture shock at times, but it will also help you be grateful for the things you are used to and broaden your cultural mindset. If everything was the same as back home, you would have no reason to study abroad. Explore the world. It is worth it.

A Semester in Germany: Christopher Thomas

Name: Christopher Thomas

Major: Political Science

Program: University of Marburg, Hessen – Spring 2017

Why did you decide to study in Hessen?christopher

I decided to study in Hessen, because I have always been fascinated by the social history of Germany since high school. I chose Hessen, because that was where the European Central bank was located, EuroBank in Frankfurt. I also chose Hessen, because from my knowledge, Marburg University was huge school with a large exchange student population. The city, I was told was very scenic and young. All claims turned out to be true!

What did you like best?

Man! I do not know what I like best! It is hard to choose between the Doners or watching the sunset
from the castle in Marburg. It is extremely hard to choose.

How did you handle the different educational system?

American educational system are much more organized and guided, whereas I noticed the German
educational system is more independent and “loose.” I handled this by creating my own schedule
for how things were going to happen. I treated school like a Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm
job. I would wake up go to my classes and do work until 5pm Monday through Friday. I was
successful with this technique and learned a lot of things, while entertaining my social world.

christopher2

What was your biggest surprise?

My biggest surprise was the number of people that did not mind my presence and how people that are poor were treated. I grew up where you would see poor people commonly wondering the streets at night and loitering to find a place of shelter. I would see that in Marburg, however at night people that were displaced disappeared at night. I was confused, because I did not know where they all went and I still do not. I just assume the treatment of displaced individuals is more benevolent in Marburg than where I grew up. I also was astounded by how many people that I saw that looked like me and when I did not see people that looked like me I felt comfortable; and so did others. Where I live now, frequently when I walk into a store I feel like a threat to those around me. That was not the case in Marburg or Germany for that matter. I felt safe in my own skin and people felt safe around
me too.

What was your most memorable moment?

The most memorable moment(s) was playing with the ducks and talking to them when I was cooling
by the Lahn after class. The ducks would keep me company when I wanted to be alone, but did not
want to be alone.

National Student Exchange (Alaska): Maria Romfoe

Name: Maria Romfoe

Major: Environmental Policy and Planning with an Emphasis in Planning

Minors: Philosophy, Environmental Science

Certificates: Environmental and Business Institutions, Outdoor Studies

Program: National Student Exchange with the University of Alaska Southeast

 

maria1Why did I choose Juneau, Alaska for my exchange?

I decided to participate in the National Student Exchange because I wanted to experience something new.  NSE provides an awesome opportunity to travel somewhere new and actually get to know the area rather than just the face value as often is the case when traveling around.  I chose Alaska for my exchange for a couple of reasons:

 

 

  1. I wanted to go somewhere very different from Wisconsin
  2. I just kind of had a gut feeling that Alaska was the place for me
  3. I love the outdoors, and I wanted to travel somewhere beautiful –The University of Alaska Southeast campus is located between the ocean, mountains, and the Mendenhall Glacier
  4. I wanted to have easy access to outdoor recreation activities –UAS has an amazing Outdoor Studied Program where I was able to get credit for kayaking, rock climbing, and backpacking

 

What did I do while on my exchange?

  1. Rock climbed at the Juneau Sea Cliffs and in Skagway for five days
  2. Kayaked in Bristol Bay for a weekend where I saw whales and kayaked beside a couple of super playful seals
  3. Backpacked to the Grandchild Peaks Ridge and Granite Creek Trail
  4. Navigated in the backcountry using a compass and topographic map
  5. Summited Mt. Jumbo, Thunder Mountain, and Mt. Troy
  6. Received my Leave No Trace Certificate
  7. Went whale watching
  8. Hiked around the Mendenhall Glaciermaria4
  9. Jumped into Auke Lake
  10. Went sledding
  11. Had a lot of snowball fights
  12. Saw black tail deer, porcupines, bears, eagles, jellyfish, salmon, seals, sea lions, whales
  13. Met new friends from all over the US and the world
  14. Watched a lot of ski films
  15. Ate a lot of free food with my friends
  16. Attended get-togethers—ice skating, dinners, cookie decorating–for exchange students
  17. Visited an old gold mine
  18. Went to the Gathering of the Drums where I listened to tradition Tlingit drumming and ate fry bread
  19. Went blueberry, salmonberry, huckleberry, and highbush cranberry picking
  20. Became an active member in the Sustainability Club
  21. Worked as a journalist for the Whalesong Newspaper and the Student Alumni Association

 

What were some differences I had to get used to?

  1. UAS is an extremely casual university: you call all of your professors by their first name, Xtra Tuff rain boots are worn at every occasion, and people bring their dogs literally everywhere.
  2. Literally everybody knows each other. With a campus of 3,000 students (most of them completing their studies online), you learn everyone’s first name even if you don’t talk to them.
  3. A “large” class has thirty people in it. My largest class had twenty people in it, and my smallest class had four people including me.maria3
  4. It rains a lot in Juneau—it’s a rainforest. It is always very cloudy, so everyone has a holiday when the sun comes out.
  5. Even though Juneau is in Alaska, it is a lot colder in Wisconsin. Cold in Juneau terms is fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, while in Green Bay it gets down below zero.
  6. You can be ten miles into the backcountry and run into someone you know.
  7. Half of downtown closes down in late September, after tourist season is over.
  8. Living on a boat is completely normal.
  9. Juneau is isolated from the rest of Alaska because of the Juneau Ice Fields, ocean, and protected wilderness areas, so if you want to go to any other city you have to travel either by ferry or plane.
  10. Almost everyone fishes in the summer and loves to eat salmon.
  11. Seeing deer, bears, porcupines, and eagles on campus is pretty normal, and if you walk five minutes down to the harbor you can see seals, sea lions, and jellyfish.
  12. Fresh produce is crazy expensive but not as expensive as the grocery stores in rural inland Alaska. I thought paying three dollars of a pineapple at Aldi was expensive, but in Juneau a pineapple costs eight dollars, and once you get up to villages like Barrow they can cost more than twenty dollars.

 

What did I gain from my experience?

maria2I had the most amazing experience that I could ask for.  My classes and professors were phenomenal.  I made strong friendships with people all over the world that I would have never met if I didn’t go on exchange. I learned a lot and gained experience in multiple outdoor recreation activities with classmates I became very close to very quickly.  I climbed mountains, kayaked beside whales and seals, learned how to build personal anchor systems, learned rock climbing rescue procedures, learned basic avalanche rescue techniques, learned how to travel and navigate the backcountry, and how to plan and pack for excursions. I had such a great time with my Outdoor Studies courses that I will be returning to UAS for another exchange to finish the Outdoor Studies Certificate program.  Juneau it truly a magical place, and I can’t wait to return.

Studying in a Scottish Castle: Ethan Ahnen

Name: Ethan Ahnen

Major: Business Administration, emphasis in Marketing

Year in School: Sophomore

Program: Glasgow, Scotland – Spring 2017

 

Why did you choose to study abroad?

The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to absolutely push myself out of my comfort zone. This is one of the most difficult disciplines to put yourself through, but the fruit it bears is immeasurable. Living my whole life in Green Bay, I also wanted to take this opportunity to travel out of the country. The longer you wait throughout life, the harder traveling is to do.

 

Why did you choose to go where you did?

I chose Glasgow, Scotland by narrowing my options down. This was my first time out of the country, so I wanted to live in a country where I spoke the primary language. This narrowed my choices down to the UK. I am also one who loves beautiful scenery and nature, so I chose Scotland. I finally picked Glasgow because I believed it was the biggest, most international, and most exciting city in the country.

A day trip in St. Andrews, Scotland

A day trip in St. Andrews, Scotland

 

What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

While living in another country was very interesting, my favorite experiences are from my trips. For the first three months, I went on a day trip around Scotland almost every weekend. They were with Student Tours Scotland (a company I highly recommend) and it let me see pretty much all of the country I was studying in. The University of Glasgow’s spring break is three weeks long. Thinking this might be my only chance to travel extensively, I traveled around Europe for all three weeks. My sister came with me to Italy for a week, but then I traveled my myself for the last two weeks. I then came back to school to finish my classes. After that, I went on one more weekend trip to Paris and Dublin before I had to come back as I wanted to make sure I got to visit France and Ireland.

 

What did you struggle with? How have you overcome it?

I’ve not only grown up in the same house in Green Bay, I still live in it because I commute to UWGB. Since that was the case, I struggled at first getting used to living on my own money. If you live on campus and have already dealt with this problem, it probably won’t be an issue for you. This was not as difficult to get used to, but it just took time. I also had troubles adapting to a new culture, especially academically. At UWGB, I’m used to continuous testing or assignments to keep my course knowledge in-check. This is extremely different, however, at the University of Glasgow. At that school, they only give you lectures and then they grade your whole work for the class based on usually one paper and one final exam. The work put in is also much more than I thought. It was hard at first, but it just took some discipline and thought to adapt to how students do work over there. Once I got used to it, it was just a continuous process like it is at UWGB.

 

How has studying abroad personally helped you?

With friends at Devil's Pulprit, a local ravine

With friends at Devil’s Pulprit, a local ravine

Studying abroad may have gave me an invaluable insight into how the world works and a more cultured world view, but I am the most grateful to how it has developed me as a person. This may sound cliché, but it is absolutely true. Like I stated earlier, I was somebody who still lived at home, never left the country, and almost never went anywhere without somebody else. There was nobody else from UWGB going to Scotland when I went and I had no friends that were coming or were living there. I traveled by myself to another country, lived by myself for the first time, made new friends, and thrived in a new environment. Even though I spent a lot of time with my new friends, I wanted to travel to places they didn’t. I was not going to miss my shot. After traveling through Italy with my sister, I again traveled solo across Europe for two weeks straight. Then, I traveled to France and Ireland by myself once again. Did everything go according to plan? Absolutely not. I hurt myself while traveling, I missed a flight, and I had to find my way back to my hostel in Budapest without a map after my phone died, to name a few. To overcome these setbacks, I had to find new routes, change plans, and problem-solve on the spot. I am no longer the guy that only knows what it is like to live with his family in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I am now the guy that has traveled across 20 different cities and 10 different countries by himself. I am the guy that adapted to a new culture and life-style on his own. Not only has studying abroad made me a better intellectual, it has made a better individual in my everyday life.

The Danube River, Budapest, HungaryWhat advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

Be the change you want to become. I wanted to be more of a risk-taker and live in the moment, so whenever there was an opportunity to do something, I seized it. Because I did this, I either have funny stories if they were failures, irreplaceable memories if they were a success, and no regrets. Make sure you reach out and really get to know others around you. Almost all the friends I made abroad were either my flat mates or other students I knew from the university. They also don’t have to be people from a different country as all of my friends were from the United States, but they were all from different parts of the country. On a more personal note, make sure to bring a journal or write a blog. I am not a writer in any sense of the word, but my sister (who also studied abroad) made sure to get me a journal to write in. Write down places, dates, people, and experiences you encounter. It will give you a neat view of your thought process at that exact point in time. I didn’t journal every day, but I made sure to write about all my traveling and certain experiences with friends. I am also not a picture person, but I took over 3,000 photos while abroad, so make sure you are not shy about using your phone or camera. I took an SD card for physical storage and used Google Photos (free unlimited cloud storage on any device) for my online storage. Lastly, make sure you seize and cherish every opportunity you have. You will eventually leave your host country, your friends, your travel destinations, and your experiences. They, however, will never leave you.

 

Teaching Abroad: Brooke Soto

Brooke Soto

Teaching Abroad

My Class at the British Berlin School!

Major: Education

Year in school: Senior

Program: Teaching Abroad at Berlin British School

 

 

 

“Teaching abroad has been a life changing opportunity for me. I am experiencing new cultures, languages, and people. I am also discovering different teaching strategies that I believe will make me a better teacher.”

 

 

Why did you choose to teach where you did?

When opportunity knocks… open the door! I first heard about teaching abroad this past spring. A guy came in to talk about how he student taught in France and how he is currently teaching in France because of this. After class was done I went and talked to him about how he was able to do this. He told me about a program, through the school, that allowed him to pick a country and teach there. I knew this was something that I had to do. With my love of traveling and my desire to teach, I applied to teach abroad and (spoiler alert) was accepted! My first choice was to teach in Vienna but God had other plans for me. I wasn’t able to teach in Vienna but was accepted to teach at the Berlin British School in Germany.

 

What were somethings you had to get used to living in Germany?

There are many thing that I will have to get used to.

1. Most stores (including grocery) are closed on Sunday.

2. Your life doesn’t revolve around your schedule… it revolves around the U-bahn, S-bahn and Tram schedules.

Berlin Blockade and Airlift

3. You can’t be soft spoken.

4. It will feel like leg day every day.

5. If someone tries to hand you something, don’t take it. They’re probably trying to take something from you or get you to buy it. Also, your purse is your best friend so always keep a hand on it.

6. Don’t smile. It’s considered flirting. But for real.

7. If you need help with translating or getting somewhere just ask. People are typically very friendly and then you have a new friend.

8. Almost every building has some sort of historical significance. So take lots of pictures.

9. Yes, there is a McD’s 2 blocks away and you did pass a BK’s on the S-Bahn but…. TRY NEW FOODS!

Living in a different country provides opportunities that may never come again. Being adventurous is the best way to enjoy my time here.

What are some things you enjoyed learning while abroad?

Walking around Berlin there is history around every corner. It’s amazing what I’m learning along the way. I discovered that there is an abandoned airport in the middle of Berlin.

bogIn 1948, Soviets cut off West Berlin from having access supplies. This was done because West Berlin was located in the middle of the Soviet’s portion of Germany. They were afraid of what might happen if the anti-Soviet West Berliners united against them. In response, Operation Vittles was formed. Within the next year the Allied forces sent around 2.3 million tons of cargo to West Berlin to keep them from falling apart. The Berlin Airlift is a memorial (located in “Platz Der Luftbrucke”) to those who died trying to help the people of Berlin get the supplies they needed.

Want to read more about my experience abroad? Follow my personal blog posted below!

https://brookelynnsoto.wixsite.com/brookeingermany

A Semester in Germany: Emily Van Rossum

 

Name: Emily Van Rossum

Majors: Democracy and Justice Studies/Spanish

Year in School: Sophomore

Program: Semester at IUSP Phillips Univerität Marburg, Germany Spring 2017

 

Why did you choose to study abroad?VanRossum S17 Phillips sign

I have been dreaming about studying abroad my entire life, since I was about 5 years old. I did not know exactly     where I wanted to go, but I knew it would be in Europe. My mother had studied abroad in England, and my father had spent some time in Germany as well, so they were very supportive in my spending a semester here. The UW system has a great study abroad program, which was a quality I valued when looking at attending college. I had also grown up to know that living in a different country will bring countless benefits to your future life, so I continually worked towards setting up my academic plan in such a way that I could have time to fit this into my curriculum. Starting early has paid off in my case, because I’m not behind in credits, and am actually still on track to graduating on time.

 

 Why did you choose to go where you did?

Many people have been surprised that I chose to study in a German city when I am earing my degree in the Spanish language. I chose Marburg for a few reasons. First, I wanted to explore the most of Europe that I could during my time abroad. There is rarely another period like this in life that will allow you to travel to so many places in such limited time. Germany is centrally located in Europe, which warrants many opportunities for adventure. I have a strong German and Dutch heritage, so curiosity about where I came from also influenced my choice.

 

What did you struggle with? 

The university itseVanRossum S17 Berlin Wall (1)lf is spread out all over the city, with buildings by the cafeteria, and also right across from Elisabethkirche, the church of Marburg’s patron saint. This might seem very daunting when coming from a school where all of the buildings are connected by tunnels, but I found that locating everything took a relatively short period of time. It’s similar to being a freshmen all over again. One of the struggles has been learning the bus system, but getting lost sometimes leads to finding new adventures; not always a bad thing.

 

Another personal struggle has been not knowing the language. I do have a language course I am taking here, and we learn a lot of helpful information, like how to navigate the German culture, words or phrases to order in restaurants, and what to look for when in a train or bus station. It takes a little time to adjust hearing German everywhere, but I have found that when I return to Marburg after being in a different country for a weekend trip, all the German sounds perfectly normal, even if I can’t understand the majority of it.

 

 

How has studying abroad personally help you?

Surprisingly, my time abroad has actually helped with my homesickness. I am one of those people that loves to stay in bed and watch movies all day, but being in Germany has helped me be more outgoing. I don’t have a TV in my room, so I find that I am going out more, taking weekend trips, and doing my homework in a different building, which helps me not to think about home so much. Of course I miss my family and loved ones, but I know they will be waiting for me as soon as I step off the plane in Wisconsin. My mission is to enjoy my time here and bring back amusing stories to tell. And to study of course.

 

What is your favorite experience studying abroad?VanRossum S17 Brandenburg Gate

My favorite experience in Germany so far has been visiting a blind cafe. Here in Marburg they have a special school for blind students, and the city itself is tailored to assisting them in leading independent lives. The bus stops have audible schedules, the sidewalk has specific ridges on it so indicate where a walking path is, and the crosswalks will all make a noise to signal that it’s safe to cross the street.

In an attempt to bring awareness to regular people who have their sight, there is a blind cafe in which the dining experience is done totally in the dark. The waiters are blind, and there is not one shred of light that helps you see your food. I had apple pie and ice cream when I went, and used my hands more than I used utensils to eat my food. It truly gave the feeling of not having any sight at all, and how it must feel like to navigate everyday tasks without being able to see.

 

What advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

My first piece of advice for anyone planning to study abroad is to always be open: open to meeting new people, open to eating new foods, or open to listening to opposing views someone may have. Be open to finding a new bus when yours is not on time, and open to the new university system. Second thing is always have wet wipes. They come in handy more often than you think, and it is always good to have some on you. Three, there is never a shortage of German bakeries, and life is too short to not go and enjoy all of them.

 

I cannot wVanRossum S17 Disney Castle (1)ait to get back to America and see how much I really have changed without realizing it. Besides there being obvious differences in the language and the way the university is set up, I know I have habits that have been modified. For example, Germans usually only buy groceries for one or two days, never a huge cart full, and the stores are not open 24/7. I have now gotten in the habit of buying food for only a few days in advance, so I anticipate feeling a subtle difference at home. However I have changed though, I know that I will always look back at this adventure with great appreciation for such an amazing semester.

A Semester in New Zealand: Haley Stevenson

Haley Stevenson has been spending the semester in Auckland, New Zealand! She has also been keeping a personal blog to share her ongoing experiences. Interested in reading all about it? Here is the link to her online blog!

Live. Laugh. Kiwi.

Haley NZ S17

Haley NZ S17