My whole life changed when I boarded a plane on January 30th to study abroad for a semester at the ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany. I was nervous and excited, and I had no clue what to expect. I had never been to Europe, I had only ever left the country for a few weeks at a time, and my German wasn’t the best. But it turned out to be the best experience of my life!
Living in Germany for four months was definitely a full experience. There were good times, and there were challenging times. On Friday, I am going to receive my decision as to whether I can study abroad in Copenhagen! Since I am so excited about what is to come, I thought now would be the perfect time to reflect and share all my experiences from Germany. Let’s start with the worst times.
1. Getting a Kidney Infection
I do not have the strongest immune system, so every once in a while, I end up getting these weird viruses and infections. Unfortunately, this happens a lot when I travel. When I went to Brazil, I got tourist sickness (and literally almost died). When I went to Mexico, I got a severe sunburn which doesn’t sound that bad, but I had to wear a gauze on my chin for two weeks. Long story. When I was in Chicago, I got a burning fever and bacterial infection, and Germany was no exception. Two weeks before my birthday, I came down with a terrible fever. I couldn’t get out of bed or eat anything for a whole week until Mads insisted I went to the doctor. It was quite a traumatic experience, but after going to the doctor, I managed to get better just in time for my birthday trip to Paris!
2. Extending my Residency Permit
Bottomline: visas are a nightmare. One person will tell you one thing, another will tell you something else. No one really knows anything. There were a lot of ups and downs in the whole visa process. Getting the residency permit turned out to be the easy part. Once I realized that I wanted to extend it to go to Denmark for the summer, that’s when all the problems started. I would rather not go into because just thinking about it gives me a headache, but I’ll just say that next time, I will sort out my visa dates in the beginning and not wait until the end.
Those two experiences were the only things that I could think of that caused problems (besides almost getting hit by a bus on my bike, bus drivers are mean). But I did have an abundance of good experiences. Here are the best things about my time in Germany!
1. Being able to visit the friends that I have made while living in Alexander
The worst thing about living in Alexander, the international hall, is that when the semester ends, all of the friends you’ve made and have grown close to leave you and go back to their home country. Since most of my friends that I have from other countries were European, this gave me the perfect opportunity to visit a lot of them in their home towns. Mads and I have a lot of friends in Vienna, so we ended up visiting there a few times, and it is so beautiful!!
2. Going to new places and meeting new people
For my birthday present, Mads took me to Paris for a weekend! It was such a fairytale experience. We went and saw everything from the eiffel tower to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. For my birthday surprise, we even went on a hot air balloon! I am a little afraid of heights, so this was a little scary but it was also very beautiful to see Paris from so high up, and it was fun to try something for the first time. Our trip was filled with great food and lots and lots of shopping. The perfect birthday weekend!
For Mads’ birthday, I took him to go skiing in Ischgl, Austria. Mads has been skiing before a few times, and he is very sporty, so he loved it! This trip had a lot of firsts for me. Mainly, it was the first time that I had ever been skiing. You know, it’s a lot harder than it looks haha. Mads was a great teacher, and although I never got off the bunny hills, I had a great time and greatly improved in just a weekend of skiing. We need to try it again one day!
One of my favorite trips was the first time I went to Copenhagen. This was a pretty important trip, because it was my first time seeing Mads’ world. I met his family and friends, and I got to see the whole city of Copenhagen. It was my first time biking in a city too (which turned out to be a little bit of a disaster, because I got too nervous). I really loved this trip.
3. Being Independent (Adulting)
Since I left home and went to college, I’ve been living in a dorm with a roommate and a meal plan. So this time I was on my own to figure out things (with the help of Mads of course). I was so excited to have my own room, be able to cook my own food, and grow up a little bit.
Cooking proved to be the most difficult skill to learn. I had never tried to cook before I went to Germany. In the beginning, I cooked some really awful dishes, and it was really frustrating. Not just frustrating in that I did a bad job, but also frustrating, because I wasted my time and money on cooking a bad meal and then we would have nothing to eat. It was definitely a learning curve, but I eventually got the hang of it (Mads is a great cook and teacher) and started making better meals. Here is a few of the successes (minus the last one haha).
4. Exploring Germany
There is some really beautiful nature and castles around Reutlingen, so sometimes on days off, we went and explored!
In the Spring, Germany celebrates Frühlingsfest which is like the smaller Spring version of Oktoberfest. I got to dress up in a real Dirndl that I borrowed from a friend, and it was such a cool experience. In Stuttgart, they had a carnival surrounding the beer tents which was so beautiful. It was definitely a very German experience. 😀
So when my mom googled searched Reutlingen, Germany, one of the only things that came up was that in Reutlingen there is the narrowest street in the world. And it’s true. It’s called Spreuerhofstraße. To be honest, I don’t know how you can call it a street, but it is! And of course to make my mom happy, I had to find it and send a picture to her. Definitely worth it!
One of me and Mads’ favorite things to do was bike to Tübingen. Tübingen was the town right next to Reutlingen, and it was much cuter. At first, we would take the train there, but once I got better at biking, we decided to try to bike to Tübingen. It was such a beautiful ride, and you really got to see a whole different side of Germany. It took about an hour and a half (an hour on a fast day), and we rode our bikes there almost every week. In Tübingen, there was this cafe that we found (I can never remember the name), and we loved to study there and play backgammon or card games. The first day we actually found the cafe was on Valentines day. I really miss that cafe.
5. Making new friends
The first people I met when I got to Reutlingen were all the other exchange students from all over the world. They were the first friends Mads and I made. We went out a lot to the club on campus and took excursions to different places like Stuttgart and Albach Mountain.
Mads and I got really close to our roommates. We lived with Alyssa (another American from NC State), Felix, Alex, Melie (all from Germany), Susie (also from Germany and wasn’t actually our roommate but basically was), and Sasa (from Tunisia and actually our neighbor but almost a roommate). We had so much fun living together, played a lot of ping pong, went out together, and played a lot of card games. They are the one thing that I wish I could’ve taken with me when I left Germany. I miss them all so much!!
6. Spending each and everyday with Mads
When Mads left the US, we didn’t really know if our relationship would work, but we wanted to at least try. He met me at the airport in Germany to see me for the first time in a while and help me get settled. He didn’t know how long he would stay. He thought maybe two weeks at first, but ended up staying practically the whole time. Living together made us realize that we are partners in crime, and no matter how long we have to be apart, we will stay together and eventually live in the same place. I am most happy that I got to experience everything in Germany with him, and wouldn’t trade the memories for anything in the world.
5 Happy Things from Today
- I got this really hard test over with and didn’t fail!
- Mads signed the contract to our apartment in Copenhagen!
- I wore an outfit that I really like and got a lot of compliments.
- Dinner with Alek, Shivani, and Natascha was really funny, and I laughed soooooo much which is the best.
- I did really good in my ballet class with learning a new combination (usually, I struggle picking up the steps fast)