My time in Munich encouraged growth in various aspects of my life- some of these expected and some not. Going into the program I was hoping to improve my German language skills and visit popular destinations that I learned about in my classes. As I quickly learned, these goals were relatively easy to accomplish. Besides the 20 hours per week dedicated to the language class, I heard German around me every day. I remember sitting on the U-Bahn (Germany’s equivalent to the subway) during my morning commute to class carefully listening to the hushed conversations around me. I would get so excited when I was able to successfully translate small phrases. I even heard German in areas I was not expecting. You can imagine my surprise when I went to do my laundry for the first time, and the washing machine started yelling at me German (which, looking back makes sense, but in the moment caught me very off guard). Regardless of the circumstances, the more I spoke and heard German, the more confident I became in my skills. In fact, by the end of the month I even caught myself using German phrases or expressions while on the phone with my family and friends. When I traveled to Paris for a few days after Munich, I even ordered in German a few times! The waitresses and waiters would look very surprised when I ended my order with Bitte (please) or answered their questions with Ja (yes). After arriving in Munich, I focused on embracing the unexpected aspects of the trip (which, as I would find, would become the most meaningful experiences). For example, I had always heard of the accessible public transportation, but I didn’t truly understand how easy it was to use. I would take any chance I had to go an explore different areas of the city. By the end of the month, I knew the names of all the stops on the U-Bahn and had favorite spots in the city. By embracing the unexpected, I feel my takeaways are far greater than I ever could have imagined. I feel that the biggest surprise about studying abroad was how much I learned, not just in the classroom, but also about myself.
I had always been interested in learning a second language, which was my initial motivation to study abroad, but during and after my time in Munich, I gained a new appreciation and interest in learning languages. While in Germany, though most people spoke English, we did encounter some people who only spoke German. It was rewarding (and fun) to be able to speak with someone in their native language. It was also interesting speaking with the international students in German. It was a unique experience having German, rather than English, connect us. Additionally, while in Paris, I initially felt incredibly overwhelmed… after all, I didn’t even know how to say excuse me or sorry, I don’t speak French! Moments like these made me appreciate my time in Germany (and my grasp of the German language) so much more. Certainly, a combination of my experiences in Germany and France sparked a love for traveling and exploring. However, I feel future travel will be more meaningful if I am able to understand (even a little) of the language. I know Pitt offers various language classes, so maybe I will take a few Spanish or French classes. If not, I will start learning these languages myself!
Another unexpected takeaway of this trip was how much I loved Germany. I remember sitting on the U-Bahn on our last day with my professor asking her, “How can I come back?” We spent a majority of our ride talking about different opportunities that would allow me to incorporate the German language and/or Germany into my future. I hope to continue to explore these opportunities with the German department while at Pitt. Perhaps my first step will be moving my German minor up to a certificate!
As you can see, studying abroad encouraged me to think in new ways, which led to not only academic growth, but also personal growth. My experiences abroad made me more confident in my skills, encouraged me to value the small experiences, and allowed me to gain an appreciation for those around me. If you are considering studying abroad, the best advice that I can offer is this: Do it! Try things you wouldn’t normally pursue and be willing to take risks. My best experiences while in Munich were the ones I approached with an open mind and positive attitude.
Thank you for following along with my Pitt in Munich Journey. I truly cannot recommend studying abroad enough. If you have any questions about my experiences in Germany (or about study abroad in general), please do not hesitate to reach out to MMB182@pitt.edu.