During my junior year of University, I studied abroad in southern Germany. At the time, I had taken a few semesters of German language courses, but was nowhere near proficient enough to converse with native speakers.
My home university (Rutgers University of New Jersey) had two study abroad programs in Germany: one in Berlin and one in Konstanz. Now I, like probably most, had never heard of Konstanz before.
I didn’t want to chose Berlin, I had already visited during high school. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Berlin and it would be a wonderful city to study in.
I wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere I would never get to go again. Somewhere outside of my comfort zone.
I already knew that if I were to study in Germany for a year, I would most likely already hit Berlin & all the major cities during holiday (Urlaub). I wanted somewhere off the beaten path – after all, that is what Wandering Footprints is all about.
But Konstanz – something was strangely pulling me towards it. Some hidden force. Universität Konstanz im Baden-Württemberg.
I didn’t know anything about it: what were the people like? Temperature? Crime-rate? Nothing. Now five years later, and it really makes sense – it was meant to be.
Truly the only way I can ever explain it, or ever put it into words, is with the ever-present Rumi quote:
“Let yourself be silently drawn
by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.”
Looking back at it – as a 19 year old deciding to move to a pretty random spot on the globe for a full year was a pretty brazen move.
I had nowhere near mastered the language; and there were only two other students from my home university also heading there, whom I didn’t know at all. (Of course we naturally became best friends and have incredible memories together now).
Even my mom was confused: “Are you sure you want to go study in Konstanz, Germany?” she would ask before I left.
My parents always seem to unintentionally put doubts into my mind whenever it comes to travel. “Wouldn’t you like to just stay home where it’s comfortable?” … “You are really going to India? It’s so dangerous.” …”Kenya? Really? There’s no air condition.” It’s honestly endless, but I am sure I am not the only one with nagging parents. They only have my best interest in mind.
Now you have the back story.
So here are three tips from personal experiences if you are considering studying abroad:
1. Don’t Worry: You will Make Boat Loads of Friends
My home university Rutgers has something like 35,000 undergrad students, and only me & two other students were headed to Konstanz that semester. That made me feel nervous. If there were five or ten of us going over, I would feel more comfortable knowing I had my “New Jersey posse” to have my back.
But from day one I was meeting new friends. I made loads of friends from other states in the USA; I made some best friends from England; and I had my Irish girls; and made new friends from all over Europe and across the globe.
So don’t worry – when studying abroad you’ll become very close with all the other international students & you’ll be there for each other.
And an awesome bonus: you can go visit your new friends in their home countries and have a free tour guide! 😉
2. You Will Be Homesick at Times, and That’s Okay
You will get homesick and it will come in different stages. For me the first month abroad was the honey-moon period. I was soaking up the sun by the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and partying with all my new friends.
Then the next month, it started to get colder, grey, and classes started. I missed friends and family back in the States. At times like that, you just remember why you decided to study abroad in the first place.
Always keep your eye on the goal, and always see the bigger picture. Open up to your new friends about it, because undoubtedly they are feeling similar emotions!
I visited home for two weeks during Christmas vacation, so don’t worry: you can always visit home during holidays!
Also, my family came to visit me in April in between semesters. It was so much fun: we travelled through Italy, Switzerland & Austria. Family Euro Trip! And have friends from home come visit you! There’s loads of possibilities to beat the homesickness.
3. Explore as Much as You Can // Put Yourself Out There!
Explore. Explore. Explore. You are in a new part of the globe, go see it! Of course when studying abroad, class work comes first. (Definitely don’t slack off, it’ll catch up to you!) But on weekends, vacation time, and evenings go wandering around and see the sights!
A great way to get involved is to find programs and trips that your school sets up. The international department at Universität Konstanz was excellent at arranging trips for all of us international students – and it was a fantastic way to meet new people.
Europe is a great place to study for a year, because you can easily visit so many countries in a short amount of time!
I hope you are able to benefit from these study abroad tips! Does anyone have any study abroad experiences and advice of their own? Any questions, comments, or stories leave down below! 🙂
*Stay tuned for my next post: 5 Things to Do in Konstanz! *