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Ashley JacobsonAshley Jacobson
Mannheim University, Germany

Expectations
I decided that I wanted to study abroad because I knew that I would learn so much from it. I had always wanted to experience Europe and I knew that this was my chance. I chose Germany because I had studied the language for many years and I wanted to immerse myself in it completely to speak it more fluently. I had never been out of the country before, so I thought that this semester abroad would give me a first-hand experience.

Classes
My classes in Germany were completely different from any courses offered at UNCG. I took two language courses and two business courses. All of my classes met on the same day each week, so I had the rest of the week to finish my homework and travel. The class registration process was very different because I actually did not register for classes till the end of the semester when I went to take the final exam. German students take 6-8 classes and then decide what classes they are doing the best in and only take the finals that they feel confident in passing. This places a 100% weight on the final exam, but it was also nice because I had a semester to plan for it.

Mannheim, Germany
Mannheim is a university town, which was great because I was able to mingle with locals and other foreign exchange students from all around the world. It seemed like there was always something to do, whether we went shopping around town or visited the local markets. The town turned out to be everything that I was hoping it would be and all the pictures that I saw before I went did not do the town and architecture justice.

Traveling
Since my classes met only once a week, I was able to travel a lot more than most others might on their study abroad. I visited 15 countries and 28 cities, including the Netherlands, Ireland, UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Sicily. I used all the cheap resources that I could: the EURAIL pass, hostels, GermanWings, RyanAir, etc. Budgeting is a key resource when traveling a lot and it was really tough sometimes, but it’s an experience that I wasn't’t willing to pass up. It gets easier to find your way around cities and understand how the train system works after the first couple of trips. Make sure you plan for the unexpected and keep an open mind. It was amazing and I recommend traveling while you can, because you never know if you’ll be able to experience it again!

Advice

  • Try to research your city and campus before leaving.
  • Pack light and try to limit the items that you bring because you will probably buy a lot of souvenirs.
  • Once you get there you need to get a map and try to get to know the city.
  • Go with an open mind and try not to get offended easily.

Impact on the Future
I now know that I want to spend the rest of my life traveling because I had the most wonderful time. I really improved my German skills, but now I would also like to be trilingual because I realized that it is easier to learn a language when you enjoy the culture. After graduation I would like to work with a global company and I would even like to work in a foreign country. I would have never thought I would be able to live in a different country until I had the experience of studying in Germany.

What I learned about myself
I think one of the biggest rewards of studying abroad is realizing what you are capable of doing and also gaining the courage to do what you enjoy. I learned that I can speak German better than I thought because I had not had many opportunities to use my German skills. I also discovered how independent I am because when I first arrived in Germany I did not really know anyone, but when I left I had made so many close friends. This experience also helped me to learn to adapt to almost any situation because sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone to realize what really makes you happy.

 

Page updated: 17-Feb-2009

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