March 13, 2019

Things I learned Studying Abroad in Germany

"Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer"  I couldn't agree more with this quote. This past fall semester I had the opportunity to study abroad in Bonn, Germany from August to December.  To say it was the adventure of a lifetime would be quite the understatement. The world simultaneously got a lot smaller and a lot bigger.  Places that I've seen in movies, studied in art classes, and read about in books, I have now walked their streets! How unbelievable is that?! The whole world has a realness to it that it just didn't have before.

While I 100% plan to go into detail on all the places I've traveled, I wanted to kick off these next few posts by talking about what all I learned while Studying Abroad in Germany.  Trust me when I say the education didn't occur in the classroom (but that's a rant for another day). Fair warning, some of these are serious lessons, and others are just funny things I learned!

  1.  Be Open to New Cultures:  In my culture class, we played this game where each table had die and set of rules that correlated with what you rolled and no one was allowed to speak.  The winner of each group would circulated to the next table and the game would continue. The catch? Each table had a DIFFERENT set of rules. So without speaking you had to try and learn how that table played the game.  The whole game was a metaphor for coming over too a new country with different customs and you can't speak the language, and I thought it was the most brilliant example. Going to a new country can be tough, especially if your not willing to adapt to their way of life. A good thing to keep in mind is the old saying "when in Rome, do as the Romans do"!  Although, not like that shady guy that tried to steal our tickets for the metro in Rome, don't do as he did. 
  2. Language is Only an Obstacle: It may be called a language barrier, but truth is, its only an obstacle. I went to Germany knowing very few German words. Thankfully I was also taking a class while over there, so I can sufficiently speak "ein bisschen Deutsch" now. Where ever you travel to, try and learn a few phrases of the language. It makes a monumental difference.  I was ordering bread at the bakery at the hauptbahnhof (train station) in German, and the worker asked (In German) where I was from because of my accent. When I told him I was from Texas, he switched to English and told me how cool he thought it was that I was actually trying German.  Apparently most foreigners just assume he speaks English and do not even bother to try. So my best advice is just to try! Everyone will be really appreciative even if you butcher the words. 
  3. Get to Know Locals:  So I had an awesome advantage of living with a host family while I was in Germany, and it was honestly one of the best parts of my whole experience! Getting to know people who are actually from the area provides so much color and cultural exchange to the entire experience.  Some of the conversations I had with my family, the student workers at my school, and the employees at the bakery are my fondest moments.  Knowing locals allows you to experience a part of the culture you just couldn't do if you were only a tourist. Who knows, you may just make a lifelong friend out of it!
  4. Try New Foods: Ok, so I totally understand sticking with what you know, after all I have a stomach disorder, but don't be afraid to try local cuisine! Some of my favorite foods are ones that I tried overseas! Now, I will say that I did turn down stuff because I wasn't sure how my tummy would react, so proceed with caution, but over all don't be afraid to be adventurous! If you find yourself in Germany, you must try as much bread as possible! I don't think I've ever had such delicious and healthy bread as I did over there! I miss "die backeri"! 
  5. The Best Memories are the Unplanned Ones: Ok, tourist destinations are fun and definitely items you should put on your bucket list.  However, looking back on my time abroad, the memories that come to my mind first are the silly unplanned things! Whether that be going on a random carnival ride in Cologne, Dancing to a fiddler in Brussels, or eating all the fries at a Five Guys in London these are the memories that stick out the most.  All that being said, be open and allow your plans to be flexible. I don't advice over booking your day.  Allow yourself to just enjoy the moments of life as they happen! 
  6. You Learn to Appreciate Your Culture More:  I think I often take being an American for granted.  How lucky am I to live in a country where I can drive 2 mins and be able to purchase whatever I need at Walmart (speaking of Walmart: Can they sponsor me please?) or be able to call any member of the government an idiot and not have any consequences.  While there are amazing attributes other countries possess that would be fantastic to apply in our culture, going abroad made me appreciate my home even more. 
  7. Germans Seem to Love John Wayne:  This one is simple. Any time I said I was from Texas, the next reaction I would receive is a combo of finger guns and "oooh John Wayne".  I'm just gonna guess he must have been popular in Germany.
  8. Never Trust the DB: Duestsche Bahn is a liar. I had to ride a regional express train everyday to school, and let me tell you, I think that train may have only been on time twice my entire semester abroad.  Plus the DB employees are characters.  My friend and I had bought tickets to the Cologne Zoo, and the tickets included free transportation within the VSR area. Since our German isn't the best we were afraid maybe the tickets didn't cover from Bonn to Cologne and back so we kept asking the DB employees at each station (If you're caught without your ticket its a hefty fine). In the Cologne Station the DB guy asked us if "we like the Monkeys because he likes the monkeys" in the creepiest way imaginable and then proceeded to tell us that the ticket works if we don't get caught. To this day I am unsure if that was a yes or a no... We didn't get caught though. 
  9. NEVER Fly Ryanair: If you only take away one thing from this entire post, let it be this one. Ryanair is horrible! Ok sure, they are cheap... UP FRONT ONLY! Baggage is pricey, plus if you have any passport other than EU, they are really picky about your boarding pass.  I showed up with my boarding pass printed out from home right at the 2 hour prior mark (actually I was there earlier but no one was at the Ryanair check in booth since it was 3am) and they wanted me to buy a whole new plane ticket.  Apparently, they have to print out your pass and you have to be there not even a minute after the 2 hour mark... I told them that was no where on their website, plus I had purchased the priority plus ticket so that covered any time issues.  Thankfully, they reluctantly let me check in! Only after 45 mins of hassle... On top of that, we landed 3 hours away from our destination and the pilot never told us why we rerouted... Just don't fly Ryainair.  Go Eurowings. 
  10. Do the Eurowings Blind Booking:  Speaking of airlines, Eurowings offers blind booking tickets for weekend trips for 60 dollars round trip.  All you have to do is select the type of destination you're looking for in Europe (i.e. nature, metropolitan, party, culture, ect.), where in Europe you are flying from, and for additional cost (5 dollars per city) you can eliminate cities you don't want to fly to.  I did this three times, and it was so much fun! They even have a special Christmas market blind booking if you're in Europe around Christmas.
  11. Thank the People Who Made Study Abroad Possible: Ok, I know I said the Ryanair lesson was the most important thing to remember, but this truly is.  Thank who ever made it possible for you to study abroad.  It's not cheap.  It is a huge privilege to be able to go abroad and have amazing experiences like this. My Dad and Grandma were my biggest financial supporters, and I am so grateful for each of them for helping provide this amazing opportunity! 


  1. Nice post! Yesterday, I received a letter from Humboldt ‘University of Berlin’ about the confirmation of my admission. As I have to leave on short notice, I couldn’t manage to get my visa. Fortunately, I came across Find visas! Their team helped me to get my visa in no time.

  2. I prefer to study abroad I find learning languages so much easier when you are in the country to want to learn the language of Georgina

    1. I totally agree! Immersion honestly does make it easier because you're basically forced to speak the language!