Year abroad opens horizons

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Christine Brand
Contributor

It is a long way from my hometown, Elkhorn, Wisconsin, to Germany.
Yet, after my first semester studying abroad there, I learned that many aspects of Germany are similar to life in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin residents really like their beer and sausage, as do stereotypical Germans. But Germans are so much more than the stereotype.
Germans come across as very serious people, very intelligent and focused on the job at hand. Once you get to know them, though, many are easygoing and relaxed.
They enjoy a night out celebrating life and spending quality time with friends.
Many Germans do not like small talk, so if you talk with them, it will be a quality conversation about something important to them.
The German culture to me seems like one that tries to get the most out of life. It encourages you to spend time doing what you like and to be yourself.
My college experience in Germany was greatly different from one in America.
During the school year, there were no tests or homework assignments, which came as a surprise to me. At the end of the year, there was one large exam that counted for 100 percent of my grade.
This was overwhelming for me, but the German students were not fazed. They spend the first few months of classes completely chill. Some didn’t even come to class, but just read the slides at home.
Then the last month or so is study time. Everyone gets really focused and concentrates only on studies. This type of dedication and hard work is, for me, nonexistent in America.
This represents an aspect of the German culture that I love. They work hard when they need to, get the job done well and then relax. They don’t stress about minor things but instead focus on what is important.
My time in Germany hasn’t just taught me about Germany, though. As an exchange student, I often spend time with other exchange students from all over the world.
I have met people from France, Turkey, Taiwan, China, Australia, Iran and many other places.
I have learned so many different things about so many different cultures.
For example, I learned that you should never give an umbrella to a Chinese person as a gift. You would essentially be telling the person that he will die soon.
It has been amazing to get to know people from all over the world. One time I heard five different languages spoken over lunch.
The diversity and the fact that we all came together in Germany is incredible.
It is amazing how similar two people from opposite ends of the world can be.
One of my best friends here in Germany is a French woman. We have so much in common, more than I have in common with most Americans. We think the same, have the same hobbies and interests, and are even studying the same thing in the university.
My year in Germany has truly been one of the best in my life. Though it has not come without struggles and challenges, I have learned a lot and have grown as a person.
I have seen more of Europe than most people ever will. I learned to live on my own and to do things for myself. I have made many great friendships that I hope will last for years to come. I have broadened my horizons.
Christine Brand is a sophomore business major from Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

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