The last couple weeks, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy the fascinating city that is Berlin, Germany. Many recommend studying abroad, and for good reasons. I can now say that having the opportunity to live and learn in a foreign country has convinced me to advocate that everyone look at their chances of going abroad. I have had the time of my life the last several weeks while here, and I hope that discussing the study abroad experience a bit will give people a better idea of what studying abroad entails and how great of an experience you can make it!
In regards to advice for prospective study abroad students, I have a few things to emphasize:
1. Be open. When you travel to another country, you will be immersed in another culture that often does things differently than what weâ€™ve become accustomed to. I have learned much about what is and isnâ€™t socially accepted in Germany, from social norms to different laws. This is part of what makes studying abroad so fascinating, and something I very much enjoy. If you are able to study abroad, do so with an open mind on all fronts, so that you can acclimate yourself much quicker and fully appreciate the culture you are in.
2. Be safe. Different countries have different security concerns, and the most efficient way to avoid trouble is common sense. Always travel with groups (preferably 3 or more) and be aware of your surroundings. Be conscious of the situation you are in, and never take personal security for granted.
3. Be prepared. Studying up on what to expect in each culture and the general history of the nation you will be in always helps. Each nation has a few things that they do differently, and often the downside of not being aware of such differences can result in you being ripped off in one way or another. Having a familiarity with the language always helps, and understand that youâ€™ll have to be flexible to get by on a day-to-day basis.
4. Have a basic plan. It is important that you have an idea about what you wish to do while youâ€™re there. Doing preliminary research helps in this as well. When I travel places, I have a few things in mind that Iâ€™d like to do/see. However, donâ€™t plan too much. Often, the most fun is when you get a bit lost or do something off the beaten path and you end up in a unique place that you didnâ€™t expect. Iâ€™ve found that knowing some places Iâ€™d like to go and being flexible on how to get there is a great recipe for success. Planning everything will give you a better chance of accomplishing each thing you wished to, but being adventurous and just â€œwinging itâ€ appeals to me.
5. Pack smart (light). Taking too many things with you is cumbersome and unnecessary. For a month in Berlin, I packed a backpack and a small carry-on bag. I believe it was a total of 30 pounds of things, which is pretty light. You will likely have opportunities to do laundry, so packing lots of clothes is pointless. Plus, you will probably want to bring back a few souvenirs, so allowing for some extra space in your bag would be smart.
My time in Berlin has been a wonderful experience. I have been to countless museums and historical sights, many relevant to the Nazi era and division of Berlin that has been so impactful the last half-century. I have found that looking into the history of such regimes as the Nazis and Soviets (when they controlled East Berlin) has taught me a great deal about what I value as an individual. Each day something unexpected occurs, and I welcome it with open arms. The weather has been mild, the people have been warm, and the culture has been fascinating. Berlin is said by many to be the â€œnew New York Cityâ€ and after spending time here, I agree whole-heartedly. The German economy is booming, and as a business major, I see the advantages of familiarizing myself with the nation because of its importance to the global economy.
Hopefully, this has been useful to those who are contemplating studying abroad. No matter where you think about going, the 5 suggestions above apply. Regardless of what your focus is, I would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone who is interested and I hope many others will be able to have as great of an experience as Iâ€™m having!