There is something so comforting about living in a foreign country where you don’t speak the same language. Don’t get me wrong, it can get extremely frustrating wanting so desperately to engage in conversations with those that you meet that both ends end up talking so much louder than normal in hopes of the other gaining some understanding….but even that becomes entertaining. It has officially been a month since I arrived to Freiburg, Germany and my experience so far has exceeded my expectations.
FREIBURG: I’ll be completely honest, before reading about the IES European Union program at Hope, I’d never heard of this city. All I knew is that I was drawn to Germany and needed to find any reason to live there (while studying abroad my sophomore year I visited Berlin and since have day dreamed of spending more time in this country). Second, this program seemed like a lot of fun while maintaining a strict educational regimen.
This college town is located in the south west corner of Germany, surrounded by the Schwarzwald, better known to Americans as the Black Forest (have you ever had black forest cake? Come visit this place and you can eat it in its birthplace). During the program’s orientation we actually spent a day hiking in it! Our guides are college students and they took us to some of their favorite locations. I chose the route that involved hiking across waterfalls. There is something so lovely about the untouched feel of this area and it literally is our backyard! After getting home from class, we often grab stuff for a picnic and wander through vineyards, picking apples along the way for a snack, finding a quiet area to spend the sunny afternoons. Here are some pics of our orientation trip to give you a better idea:
Like most cities in Germany, WWII heavily damaged Freiburg. However, upon its rebuilding the city maintained its medieval architecture. I live a 10 minute tram ride from downtown and often go just for the daily farmer’s market that houses food trucks and fresh groceries from the region. It gathers around the Münster, Freiburg’s cathedral, and you can munch on a bratwurst or what I like to call a German hotdog.
Much like Hope, the University of Freiburg has diverse living arrangements for its students. I got placed in a 9 person flat in Vauban, which also happens to be the most eco-friendly neighborhood in Freiburg. All of Freiburg is very green in itself. The predominant form of transportation for people of all (and I really mean all!) ages is a bike. You also do not just throw your trash away, you separate it based on its material and this careful consideration is very instilled in the culture. Other examples include renewable energy windmills and solar panels in the majority of houses. Any way, Vauban is known as the most famous eco-neighborhood in all of Europe! Aside from living with a girl from my program, our flat houses 2 other girls and 5 guys, all of which can best be described as eccentric and incredibly patient. Right away you see the first aspect by how the flat is decorated. The walls are hand painted in wild colors, artwork hanging everywhere you look, and vegetation hanging from the ceilings. It’s something else! They are all so costumed to meeting foreigners and I’ve been intentional in forming connections with them. It’s great to have roommates that are willing to translate the simplest of things for you, like ingredients and give you insight on where to go for a trendy coffee shop.
What set this program apart from others for me was that it’s just for political science, international studies, and business majors (now if my posts for some reason convince you that Freiburg is the place you need to be, IES does provide programs for other majors so no worries!). All of my classes are in English and are taught by German professors in our program’s building, which I will refer to as “the center.” Depending on your level of German, you get placed in a certain level of a German class. Since I knew “nein” German before coming here, I’m in what’s ironically called German 101. With only two weeks of classes, I’m already learning so much about the EU framework and it has been pretty amazing to be surrounded by so many diverse students that share this educational passion.
It is human nature to build a community in your residence that at times you don’t often encounter new people with such different backgrounds. Being in this program hasn’t just meant meeting German residents but growing from encounters with the people in my program as well. That to me ignites a sort of wanderlust to explore the States even further. As a senior at Hope, I have a special love for my school to the point where there is mild separation anxiety creeping in. Being away for a semester, it develops into a topic of conversation with my peers. These dialogues end up in me feeling even more grateful for my school, it’s location, and the relationships that I’ve made along the way. I’m a firm believer that you need to leave your comfort zone and venture into the wilderness of your intuition in order to discover yourself further. One thing I’ve been reminded of by this action is that I picked the right college for my undergrad, as cheesy as it sounds – that is so comforting!
Every day there is a new discovery in this city, whether it’s a new favorite word or shop, and I’m excited for what is to come.
Prost to one month in my new home!