John Stephen H.’s Story

“Those studying abroad gain cultural insight and experiences far beyond those that one can experience by merely traveling or vacationing abroad.”

“Die Leute, die im Ausland studieren, bekommen kulturelle Erkenntnisse und Erfahrungen darüber hinaus die von Leute, die das Ausland nur im Urlaub besuchen haben.”

During my junior year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in the beautiful city of Lüneburg, Germany. During my semester in Lüneburg I was able to further my study of the German language and experience the rich history and culture of Germany, from visiting dozens of world-known cities and locations to participating in various unique cultural events.

Those studying abroad gain cultural insight and experiences far beyond those that one can experience by merely traveling or vacationing abroad. To live in another culture is to properly experience the everyday lives of those living in a country other than one’s own. From my own experience, some of the best memories I have from my time abroad are of being involved in the local community through cultural events or during holidays. During my time in Germany I experienced several German birthday parties (including my own), Gründonnerstag and Easter, local field hockey matches, and multiple neighborhood gatherings. Being able to participate in a backyard cookout on a Spring afternoon offered a more authentic experience of everyday life in Germany than I could have received as a tourist.

Furthermore, the value of studying abroad isn’t only found in the fun that it brings, but also in the skills that one improves or gains during his or her time abroad. For example, studying abroad develops a person’s ability to quickly adapt to change and his or her respect for other cultures. It also will further a person’s academics. Studying German while immersed in the culture is the most effective way to learn the language. In Germany I was able to constantly hear proper pronunciations and continually practice my German. Additionally, I learned new words at a faster rate due to regularly hearing new words or needing to learn new ones to communicate. Employers will find any of these skills and traits attractive in a potential employee.

To any student with any interest in the German language or culture, I highly recommend studying abroad. It’s a great way to experience Germany in a way that one can’t experience as a tourist, while also improving or gaining new skills. If you decide to study abroad, be prepared for challenges and cultural differences, but also be prepared to have some of the best experiences of your life. It’s worth it!