The First time I ever left the United States; A Summer Studying Abroad in Germany

At the end of May, 2015 (after my junior year of college) I boarded a plane for the first time ever with a nonstop, 11 hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt. I touched down in Germany and was picked up by my friend, Katharina. She had studied abroad in my little hometown in Washington state my senior year and together we won the high school state championships in cow sorting.

I spent nearly a week at her and her boyfriend’s flat in Darmstadt. I got to meet her parents and her grandmother even cooked me a super traditional German meal with homemade sauerkraut, schnitzel and knödel. One of the highlights of my stay with her was getting to ride her 28 year old Icelandic Pony, Copar.

Riding an Icelandic Pony
Isn’t he cute?!

She also took me to a German fair with music, “apple wine,” and the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen. I even spent a morning in her marketing class at a German college. I worked on my own homework since their discussion in German went way over basic language skills at the time.

Staying with a Host Family

Sadly, after less than a week, I boarded a high speed ICE train to Berlin where I was picked up from the train station by my host mother, Vera. She lives only a 5-10 minute walk my campus at the Freie Universität (Free University) of Berlin. That was very cool because everyone else had to ride public transportation 20-40 minutes every day to get to class whereas I literally walked through a park.

I got an entire attic room to myself which was very nice except for the fact that I had to walk down two flights of stairs to go to the bathroom. Vera was (and still is) such a sweet and caring host mother and we still visit and text each other all the time. I definitely feel like I have family in Berlin. All of her children are grown and out of the house so it was just us and her Australian Sheppard, Yiska. She had two other host kids come and go while I was there; an engineering guy from the Pittsburg area and a Chinese girl from Dartmouth.

My Studies at FUBiS

My program was split in a 6 week term, a one week break, and a final 4 week term. My first term I took an intensive German language course. I placed into the German level, A2 which was the rough equivalent of a year of study in the US. Most of the grammar was review for me, but where I (and most US students) fell behind was our speaking ability. By the end of the term, I could speak pretty fluently about specific subjects such as food, my hobbies and future plans.

So. Many. Excursions.

During the term, I was able to pick up a cheap ticket for our school’s weekend excursion to Dresden. I’m so glad I went; Dresden is a beautiful, historical city. In Dresden I had my first hostel experience which was very fun.

Dresden
Cringing at 2015 Heather and her fanny pack. (but also kinda jealous)

My class also took smaller excursions to places like the Jewish Museum, Prenzlauer Berg, Neukölln, and the Tempelhof Airfields.

Self Exploration in Berlin

I went out exploring on my own and went to the famous Museum Island and saw the Neue Museum and Berliner Dom. My favorite shopping places in Berlin were in the Rathaus-Steglitz area and Potsdamer Platz. I also saw Jurassic World in Germany (but in English) at the Sony Center.

I got the somewhat shocking experience of going to a lake in Germany (lots of nudity). I also got to walk a large portion of the Mauerweg (wall way) which was pieced together from different roads that circled the divided city. That was cool since it was something that not many tourist see.

Also on the long list of things I saw were the Botanical Gardens, Hackescher Market, Brandenberger Tor, US Embassy, TV Tower, former DDR buildings, Checkpoint Charlie, Kreuzberg, the Tiergarden, the Reichstag Building and both Zoos.

The Berliner Dom
Easily one of my favorite places of Berlin.

During my week break between terms, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and backpacked around Norway, Sweden and Finland. Don’t worry, I will be sharing that story as well in later blog posts.

My Second Term at FUBiS

I was very happy to come home to Berlin after that very busy and tiring trip around Scandinavia (having walked 10-15 miles every day for a week straight). My second term I took a semi-intensive language course and a European business management course.  I got sick during the second week so the second term was only about 3 weeks for me. That was a bummer because I really enjoyed those classes and wish I could have spent more time in them.

Visiting an Old Friend

I also took a weekend trip to Bremen to see another friend who had studied abroad in my hometown, Ivana. Bremen is a cute little city with a theme of the “traveling musicians;” an old tale about a donkey, dog, cat, and rooster.

Traveling Musicians
Got my good luck from Bremen.

It’s a good thing that she showed me around because there is a tourist attraction statue with a catch. You have to touch it with both hands to get the luck, but only locals know that so the majority of tourists only touch it with one hand and get bad luck from Bremen. I spent Christmas in Bremen since then so check out that post if you want to know more about the city.

A Sad Goodbye

My program ended in the middle of August. I took a bus out of Berlin to Frankfurt where I flew out (again nonstop) to Seattle.

Free University of Berlin
It was so hard to say goodbye to this campus.

***I originally wrote this for my parents Christmas card back in 2015 so we can all take a trip down memory lane and see what 2015 Heather thought about germany. ***

The entire experience was incredible and I hope not a “once in a lifetime” experience. German culture is so laid back but simultaneously very punctual and organized. Berliners are stereotypically rude people however, once they realize that you are not simply a tourist, they are very friendly (in terms of German friendliness) and willing to talk politics and cultural differences. I felt very at home in Germany and I hope to return next year for grad school in Frankfurt. Fingers crossed!

***Aww! How cute! I still agree and it’s so satisfying to see that things ended up working out and that I’m now working towards my Master of Finance in Frankfurt.***


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