By Abigail Wetmore, Chattanooga, Tenn. — I recently returned from a semester of studying abroad in Germany. When I say recently, I mean almost walking off the plane, onto campus and into class. It may have been a little last minute now that I think about it, but very worth it for that last bit of extra time in Europe. And it was completely worth every amazing, fun, intimidating, difficult and astonishing moment.
It is funny how six months sounds like such a long time, but now it seems the whole trip was roughly five minutes. I remember walking off the train (more like falling out of the train along with my luggage.) Christoph, a local student the school had paired me with, was waiting at the train station to show me around my new home for the next semester.
The town of Eichstätt, where I studied, was fairly small, but so beautiful. It seemed more like a movie set than a real town. My new friend had lived there his whole life, so my awe and fascination with the place must have been fairly confusing to him. The style of houses, the size of the cars, the cobblestone streets—everything was amazing to me! It was love at first sight and every sight throughout the semester in Germany.
I met most of the people I would get to know during the semester on the second evening after I
arrived. I was surprised by how much English was spoken. But it was often the most common language between countries. This is very convenient as a native English speaker traveling anywhere in the world. However, it is terribly inconvenient if you want to learn another language. This makes speaking and studying a foreign language a much more self-disciplined act. As another American student I met would say, “The struggle is real!”
The struggle was certainly real. I completely underestimated the amount of effort it takes to become comfortable speaking another language. Still, I will miss hearing another tongue around me and slowly understanding the words more and more. I will miss the culture of walking everywhere, church bells, small coffee shops and buildings older than America. I will miss the feeling of the town, the cool evenings, open markets, small town festivals and characters I never met, but very much added to the personality of Eichstätt. And of course, I will miss the people I met whom I now know as friends.
Really, the best thing about traveling is all the amazing people you meet. The worst thing about traveling is saying goodbye to all those people. But in the wise words of Winnie-the-Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”