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Shelby Clark - German Language and Culture in Mayen

Published: Tuesday, 31 Jul 2012
Author: Michelle Meunier
Department: Office for Education Abroad

Name: Shelby Clark
Status: Senior
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies
Hometown: Macomb, MI
Program: German Language and Culture in Mayen (Germany); Summer 2012

Study abroad was the most amazing, self enhancing experience. Getting on that plane was the most exciting, terrifying, and positive thing I had ever done, on my own. Study abroad is an experience that you do for YOURSELF. That knowledge is absolutely empowering. When you commit to doing something solely for yourself, your limits disappear. I learned so much, not only about the culture that I placed myself into, but about myself, and what my abilities actually were.

Experiencing another culture has many, many challenges, but every single one betters you as a person. As soon as I walked out of the airport and took a look at the city of Frankfurt, I was ready for action. The city was alive with the sound of cars, and people and it was invigorating thinking that I was somewhere my immediate family had never been. That’s when I knew that I was going to have an amazing time, even if I was uncertain exactly how.

One experience from study abroad that I will never forget is traveling to Neuschwanstein castle on a weekend trip after being in Germany for four weeks, I went with one other person from our group. We took a bus from Mayen (where we lived) to Koblenz (a city about an hour away) and then took a train to Neuschwanstein. It was terrifying to think that we were in a foreign country traveling alone speaking a foreign language. That same fear, turned into an amazing sense of accomplishment when a real life situation arose that we had to face.

Before we hit our first stop we knew we were in trouble. Unfortunately, our first train was late, and we missed a connection. As we pulled into the train station and heard the noise of the ten or so trains and the buzz of German speakers hanging over our heads dread began to seep into me. We knew we’d be forced to change our reservations at the train station, speaking only German. I remember standing at the counter shaking, telling myself there was no way I could communicate what I wanted to. As the conversation began I relaxed and realized it wasn’t so difficult after all. After getting my reservation switched I felt so completely accomplished. I knew I could handle myself after all, in a situation, that other people could not because they had only learned in a class room.

That particular experience is something a classroom cannot give you. The feeling that you can truly apply what you have learned is entirely rewarding. On top of that, it forces you to learn that you really are capable of surviving without the safety net of family and friends. You become entirely independent, which is also something not learned in classroom sitting at a desk. I recommend study abroad to anyone who is able to go. I recommend it for anyone wanting to better themselves.