The opportunity to study abroad has always interested me, so when the chance of going to Germany came up, I jumped at it straight away. As I was nearing the end of my studies, I knew that this would be my last chance to go.
I live in a small rural country town and completed my studies both on-campus and externally. Before I took the opportunity to study abroad, I spoke very little German and the thought of going to a non-English speaking country scared me to pieces… but the chance to finally experience life in another country was just too good to miss! While there was plenty of anxiety and a big fear of the unknown, I took inspiration from my two life mottos— ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there’ and ‘take the bull by its horns and hang on’—and decided to take the leap!
After all the paper work and waiting, I was accepted into the Study Abroad program and received an exchange scholarship from USQ, which helped with the cost of flights and got me one step closer to my dream! After years of imagining a study abroad experience, I finally boarded the plane and headed off for four amazing weeks in Germany. While the time definitely passed way too quickly, I learnt a lot in those four weeks and wanted to share my travel lessons with you in the hope of inspiring you to take on your very own study and travel adventure!
The Orangerie Palace, Kassel
Why? Because it’s great to understand how other people live and interact with each other. My host family was amazing. I had a new German mum, dad and two sisters as well as an amazing American sister, Sam, who was placed with the same host family as me. I don’t have any sisters myself and I know that I have a best friend for life in Sam! I went from living with my mum to living with 6 people and it was crazy, but so much fun to eat together, share 1 bathroom and have parents that yelled at each other from one room to the next. You can get so much out of your experience and make such great connections with people if you’re willing to be open and embrace every situation as an opportunity!
Sam and I took the wrong train once and got lost…very lost. I’d been worried about losing my way in a foreign country, especially when I wasn’t fluent in the language, but in the end it was a great learning experience! We learned to read the train, tram and bus timetables very, very well after that unplanned adventure and while it was a little stressful, we just took the next train back home and tried going to see the Hercules statue another day. Many laughs were had and no harm was done!
We did finally make it to Hercules Statue, Kassel (about 900 steps to the top!)
Arriving in a country where I didn’t speak the language was definitely crazy at first but it was also easier to adapt than I had expected. In Germany, most signs are in both German and English so it’s really quite easy to find your way around and, if you do get confused, you can always ask for help at an information desk or approach a local, as most people in Europe also speak English.
As for learning German, studying every day for 4 weeks at a German university was so much fun because there were no expectations that I’d know anything before I started, and now I can say the days of the week, numbers and simple phrases and questions with confidence. Don’t let language barriers limit your study abroad options. Learning to speak German was one of the best parts of my experience!
Me in front of Kassel University, Germany
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or experience culture shock when you travel overseas, so my advice is to interact with your host family, because the more you get involved with your new family the more comfortable you are going to feel. Eating breakfast, lunch (if you’re home) and dinner together is a great way to talk to them and start to learn different cultural customs that you may not be aware of. We watched TV at night to just hang out and be together and it was a great relaxed time to ask questions and get help for homework. Give yourself time to settle in and don’t fight the nerves. They’ll disappear soon enough.
Before studying abroad I’d travelled with my family to New Zealand, but I’d never travelled alone or been on such a long flight. It turned out the flying was easy; I found that other travellers are really nice and easy to talk to. Catching a train on my own was hard at first and seemed like a huge achievement at the time, but by the end of my stay I was catching trains, trams and buses by myself, which gave me a huge confidence boost. It’s normal to be nervous about travelling alone but don’t let it hold you back. You can do it!
My study abroad sister Sam became a friend for life!
From departing Australia as a women scared of the unknown and only speaking English, I returned from Germany having grown as a person and having developed my self-confidence as well as expanding my knowledge of another country, language and culture. I would definitely recommend study abroad to anyone and strongly encourage you to take the leap and make it happen, don’t just dream about it!
If you’re interested in studying abroad, get in touch with the Student Mobility Officer at USQ International to find out more about where, when and how you can study overseas. My time in Germany is an experience I’ll always remember and a standout memory from my time at university.
Get in touch with the International team now and make study abroad memories of your very own!