When I first left for Freiburg, I was pretty undecided about what I wanted to do with my degree in German. With just one year left, I knew I needed to decide. And quickly. I had some ideas that I’d been kicking around. Maybe I’d be a translator? Or just try to find any job related to my degree until I could decide further. I’d thrown around the idea of continuing my education and getting a Ph.D. in German, but it seemed unrealistic and dumb. Why would I spend so much money and time? After a few weeks in Freiburg I met with my resident advisor, with whom I’d never really discussed my interest in getting a Ph.D. and we were discussing my future plans. Where would I go after Freiburg? My ideas were wishy-washy at best. Then she handed me a pamphlet for a 4-Year Ph.D in German Studies Program at my home university and told me to consider it. At first I accepted it politely with a smile, shoved it in my backpack and went on my way.
Not long after I began to think about the pamphlet. I read it through and it slowly began settling in. I’d always thrown the idea of a Ph.D. around in my head, but I could make it real. I’d done the same thing with studying abroad. I knew for years, since I was in high school really, that I wanted to go to Germany to experience the culture and language outside of the classroom, but I always let me talk myself out of it because it was “unrealistic” or “dumb” or “too expensive.” Even after all that I made my study abroad experience happen. I worked hard applying to scholarships and organizing everything for my dream experience. Now here I am in Germany and I wouldn’t change that for the world. My interest for the German culture and passion for the language, even its complicated and often frustrating grammar, brought me to Germany and my study abroad has only deepened those interests. These realizations combined with long Skype talks with my family and hours of writing and revising led to the submission of a Ph.D. application. I waited weeks and weeks until I finally received an email. I was ACCEPTED. In the fall I will officially be a graduate student in one of the leading German studies programs in the nation. This never would have happened without my time abroad.
During my study abroad I’ve also had many opportunities that have cemented my interested in becoming a German professor. I’ve had the chance to conduct research on German dialects and the German education system. I’ve completed one internship and started another. My experiences as a private English tutor teach me a lot about the German language, the English language and above all they allow me use my knowledge of second language teaching and to learn more about being a better teacher. Aside from formal and professional experiences, my personal experiences with the culture, my German friends and many German families have made me more interested in sharing the German language and culture with future generations of university students.
My study abroad experience has taught me to make the decisions that scare me the most and that seem to have the most challenges in the way because they have often rewarded me the most. From spending a year in Germany to taking university classes in a foreign language to relying on complete strangers for help, I’ve learned to analyze situations carefully but also to take risks and make big leaps toward my dreams, even if there’s a chance of failure. If I can survive a year away from home and family traditions, a year of culture shock and uncertainties, a year of leaps of faith and occasional failures, then what can stop me? Not only did studying abroad show me the way to following my true passion, it also taught me to seize the opportunities given to me. Even if they aren’t exactly what I hope they’ll be, chances are good that I’ll learn a lot from them anyway.