Samantha Martens ’19 Expands Her Horizons While Studying In Germany
Samantha, an English major with minors in communication and music, has spent part of her junior year studying in Germany through the Witt in Wittenberg program. The experience illustrates the value of living and studying in another country.
“So, you have spent more than three months in Germany now. How is your life so far?”
“It’s been better than I could have ever imagined! Studying abroad in Germany has been one of the absolute best decisions I have ever made. I've taken German, communication, and international studies in school, as well as learning about the monuments, memorials, and museums in Germany. Now, I know a lot more about the German government system.”
“What was your best moment?”
“Hmm, it’s hard to pick a best moment, but I really enjoyed visiting Leipzig! I’ve also had some really fun moments in my classes – we occasionally play games like Taboo or Pictionary in my German class, and that helps to associate words to the memory of playing the game. Even just walking around Lutherstadt Wittenberg is fun because you get to people-watch and admire the colorful buildings and history within the city.”
“What about your struggle with living in a foreign country?”
“I think one of the biggest struggles would definitely be the language barrier. I’ve taken German for a few years now, and there are still moments where my vocabulary falls short, but that’s unavoidable. The trains can also be a bit difficult, but only when they’re delayed or cancelled. The train system here is perfect, in theory!”
“What did you learn through this experience?”
“So far, I’ve learned that pretty much everything is a learning experience. It takes practice to get better at a language, or to understand the way the trains work! I’ve also come to realize that it’s okay when things go wrong! If you mess up a German word, people will correct you so that you know better in the future, or if a train gets cancelled, there will be another train coming somewhere along the line. These setbacks aren’t ideal, but it’s a part of becoming comfortable with a new culture and way of life. Nothing is the end of the world, and staying calm can only help your situation. It’s also okay to ask for help! I don’t think I could count the number of times that I’ve turned to others for advice or assistance since I’ve been here. Whether it’s my professors, friends, parents, or a stranger in the train station, someone will be there to point you in the right direction!
“How do you think your experience will help you in the future?"
“Studying abroad will definitely help me in the future, because it has taught me to be more self-reliant about planning and organizing, and it has pushed the limits of my comfort zone. Before I came to Germany, I was terrified to even try to speak German, but now, I know that I have to in order to communicate with others - it might not be perfect, but people will get the gist of what I’m trying to say or ask. Studying abroad has made me more aware of other cultures and world events, too. I think we can be a little self-involved as Americans, and being able to see other parts of the world has helped me to break myself out of the bubble of the U.S.”
“How did you make yourself prepared for this opportunity?"
“I was in constant contact with people, such as my advisor and campus services staff. However, communication really is key. If I had questions about the application or the trip in general, I could turn to any of these people for a helpful response. I worked with the Office of International Education to make sure that all parts of my application were filled out correctly, and I worked with Career Services to make sure that my resume showcased my strengths and experiences for the internship here in Germany. It’s hard to prepare yourself for living in another country, but things eventually fall into place as long as you have good resources leading up to the trip! Also, it’s thanks to all of these different people and offices that I’m here in Germany at all.”
“Do you have any advice for students who might want to study abroad in the future?”
“Yes, I would definitely say, PLEASE study abroad! You won’t regret any part of it, and it’s such a once in a lifetime opportunity. After college, the timing for months-long trips to Europe can be difficult, so why not spend a semester abroad while you’re still in school? It can feel pretty intimidating, but now that I’m here in Germany, I’m not worried at all – the “scariest” part of the whole trip was simply leaving America! Personally, I think it’s too hard to pass up the chance to improve your language abilities, the chance to see bits and pieces of multiple European countries, or the chance to stretch your personal limits. Everything will still be there in the U.S. after these 3.5 months, and there’s no reason to be afraid to study abroad. Take advantage of the opportunity!”
Compiled By: Mizuho Harada '18