My first semester abroad in Germany has finally started!! The past few weeks have been incredible. I've been able to connect with so many amazing individuals from all around the world and travel to beautiful places. I've never been so happy and in love with my life. I'm so grateful to have this opportunity to study in Germany and immerse myself in another culture. Last year, when I decided to study abroad, I was super excited but also so nervous about what lay ahead. I had no idea how I would react to studying abroad or if I would make friends in a timely manner. Thankfully, everything has worked out so well and has exceeded all of my expectations! If you, or anyone you know, is considering studying abroad, moving to another country, or taking a big risk... DO ITTTT! It will be the greatest thing you've ever done. Even if it doesn't work out the way you thought, you'll probably learn something and grow along the way :)
If you are interested in following my journey abroad, make sure to also subscribe to my Youtube channel to see all of my adventures.
When I decided to study abroad for a year, I had intentions to live in Germany and France. Of course, I had aspirations to visit other areas of Europe, but I had no plans to live anywhere else during my year abroad. However, an unexpected detour occurred... About a month ago, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, for personal reasons. It was a last-minute change of plans and was very unexpected. I was sad to leave my friends and life in Berlin behind, butttt God seems to always have more things in store for your life to help you grow and become a better version of yourself. I truly believe that each experience and person you meet is a new opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve into a better human being.
I’m not going to lie though. My first week in Edinburgh was an adjustment. I’ve never lived alone and been in a situation where I didn’t have any friends or roommates to talk to or hang out with. In fact, before studying abroad, that was my worst fear. I remember being so scared thinking about being abroad and not knowing anyone- feeling isolated and lonely. Then it happened... And it turned out to be a great time for self-reflection and growth. Isn't it crazy how afraid you can be of certain situations, even if they aren’t that bad?! Also, feeling isolated and lonely is a completely normal feeling that people experience with or without being abroad. I don’t understand why I was so afraid of feeling that way just because I’d be in another location! Anyways, during this period, I had so much more time to become aware of my thoughts, beliefs, values, feelings, etc. I’m incredibly grateful for this detour, and I’m absolutely IN LOVE with Edinburgh!!! The cobblestone streets, amazing cafes, beautiful landscapes, and castles (to name a few) are jaw-dropping. I loved every second of wandering around the city. Okay, maybe not every second because sometimes the rain with extremely heavy winds will just come on randomly… And also, the hills make your calves cramp up, haha. Outside of that though, it's such an amazing place. I had a great time exploring the city, meeting people, and taking everything in.
The past few months have been incredible! I moved to Germany, met amazing people whom I now call friends, saw breathtaking sights, ate delicious foods, and made loads of memories. But like anything else, the past couple of months have also been filled with flaws, unknowns, and hardships. It's easy to see someone's social media posts and think that things are perfect, especially when someone is studying abroad. The reality is, nothing is perfect. Things and situations are ever-changing. Sometimes you think things will go one way and they end up going the complete opposite way! Especially when you're in another country trying to navigate a whole new system and way of life- curveballs are bound to come. In this, I am reminded to surrender my plans to plans much grander than mine.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11
I'm feeling grateful for the good memories, the people I've met, and for the unknowns that have stretched me outside of my comfort zone. Here's a short highlight video from January and February :)
It was 5:15 am when my alarm went off to wake me up and remind me to get myself ready for my trip to Dresden! For some reason, I felt like I was already behind schedule. I rushed through my morning routine which typically consists of meditation, devotionals, reading, and usually some form of a workout. Oh, and a nice warm cup of coffee. How could I forget that?! Anyways, rushing through this routine pretty much defeats the whole purpose of it because it's meant to relax me and give me the time and space needed to set good intentions for the day ahead. But lo and behold, I still ran through it. I'm definitely a creature of habit. After quickly finishing this routine, I checked the clock. It was 6:10. I still had around 30 minutes before I needed to head to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof station and catch my train to Dresden. I was super excited! It was my first solo trip to another city, and I couldn't wait to experience it.
6:40 finally rolled around and I headed out. Then it hit me. I was going to Dresden. On a train. By myself. Oh, shoot! Do I even know how to find my train and make sure that I arrive at this place safely? Not really, haha. I have never traveled by myself anywhere on a train. Let alone travel anywhere in another country by train. When I arrived at the station, I saw my train and the location for its departure. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out where I needed to go, but then I found it. Or at least I thought I did. I wasn't 100% certain and no locations were showing on the destination screen to clarify this. It wasn't until 5-10 mins after the train had started that an announcement came on stating the train would be stopping at Dresden. At least I think that's what they said, but it was in German so I'm also not 100% certain about this either :) But I did hear Dresden. My nerves completely settled down. Hooftahhh, I am on the right train.
When I made it to Dresden and started walking around, I was in awe. Everything was so beautiful. The buildings, the streets, the cafés, and restaurants. Everything. I spent lots of time wandering the streets of Alt Stadt (Old Town) and admiring Theaterplatz, Neumarkt, Brühlsche Terrasse, and the Parade of Nobles. I tried to take in all the sights and learn about the history from my German travel book that I brought with me. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that everything I was seeing was destroyed in 1945 (from controversial Allied bombings) and rebuilt.
After Old Town, I made my way to Neu Stadt (New Town) to get some food, walk around, and visit the Military History Museum of Germany.
Long story short, my first solo trip was a success. I loved exploring Dresden and learning more about its history. I highly recommend going to Dresden, and also taking a solo trip somewhere!
In October, I began my search for an apartment in Berlin. Anyone who's tried to find a place in Berlin knows how complicated of a task it is. I continuously searched for places to live and emailed student dorms, Erasmus networks (EU international student networks), and hostels, with no luck. After days of looking at several websites, I finally found a place to live! A few days before finding my apartment, I had my interview for an internship. I still hadn’t found out if I had gotten the internship position, but I knew that if I didn’t immediately book the apartment, it would be taken within the next few hours. So, I took a leap of faith, booked the apartment, and signed all the documents.
There were a few worries that I had while booking the apartment. My roommates (of all genders) could be up to 35 years old. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was nervous I’d end up living with several 35-year-old dudes... Not the most ideal situation for a female my age, haha! In the end, I still booked the apartment and was hopeful that it would all work out.
When I moved to Berlin, and walked into my apartment, I was immediately greeted by my roommate, Tommaso, who looked about my age. Thank God, I thought!! At least one person is a student! After introducing ourselves, he asked me if I would like an Italian coffee. I set my suitcases in my room and sat at the kitchen table to have a coffee with him. He expressed that he was from Rome and is currently pursuing a degree at a university here in Berlin. It was my first time having an Italian coffee and exchanging a conversation with someone from Rome. I was overjoyed! Are you kidding me, I thought. I get to live with someone from Rome, Italy?! Ahh, this is amazing! Then, throughout the week, I met my other roommates- who were just as nice and welcoming. Plus, they were all young adults! They are also from amazing places including Spain, Belgium, Peru, and Mexico.
Last week, I taught them how to play Spoons, and they taught me how to play a fun European card game that we've been playing quite a bit :) It’s been such an incredible experience living with individuals who are from all over the world!! And I’m soooo happy that I followed my heart, signed the apartment contract, and am living in Berlin!
About a week ago, I arrived in Berlin, Germany, to kick off my time abroad! So far, it’s been a great learning experience. Before moving abroad, I was a bit naïve about how I would respond to all the changes. I’ve always been open-minded and eager to try new things, so I assumed the changes wouldn’t really affect me. After a day in Germany, I quickly realized that the changes would drastically affect me, and they would affect anyone who is not from Germany or does not speak German well. You truly never know how you'll manage all the changes with living abroad until you’ve done it before!
Right when I arrived at the Berlin airport, I went to the restroom, washed my hands, and went to grab a towel. The towel machine was a bit different than what I was used to. I kept trying to tear the towel off, but the darn thing wouldn't tear!! After struggling for quite some time, a lady informed me that you weren't supposed to tear the towel, you were just supposed to wipe your hands on it, and the machine recycles it... Whoops! That was my first encounter seeing something different and feeling a bit silly for not knowing what to do. Since then, there's been many (many!) more embarrassing moments and lots of learning/ adjusting :)
My time in Berlin has been filled with amazing sights, great food, and fun adventures. But it has also been filled with setbacks, points of frustration, and lots of google translate. Within the last few days, I’ve crossed some big items off my list. I’ve gotten my U-bahn/S-Bahn (transportation) pass, EU COVID QR code, SIM card, phone plan, and my Anmeldung (registration in Germany). For many of these items, it took me several tries and many failed attempts to get. And of course, there is still so much more that I have to do to get everything situated.
If I am going to be honest, most things have not worked out the way that I thought they would and have required much more time and patience. I never realized how challenging simple tasks would take me in another country. The last time I went to the store, I spent 20 minutes trying to find the proper shampoo and conditioner for my hair and some hand soap... Yep, 20 minutes for just that! Then when I arrived back home, I realized I accidentally got hand soap for sensitive skin. Haha. I've also been trying to keep some things consistent in my life. The other day I went to the gym to go for a run. When I turned on the treadmill and hit my typical jogging pace (6- mph). I immediately felt that something was off. Why was this machine so slow? Then it hit me. The EU does not use miles per hour! So I looked up my conversions and finished my workout (side note: I'm hoping to become a conversion queen by the end of my stay in the EU). All this to say, I’ve learned to embrace the challenges, give myself more grace, and laugh at silly mistakes!
Below are some pictures from my time so far!!
Typically, after each semester I create a semester recap video. One that I (and hopefully many of my friends) can look back on and cherish forever. These past few years have been quite an adventure filled with many ups and downs, but I've been extremely fortunate to have some of the most amazing friends and some awesome memories to look back on, despite COVID-19. Unfortunately, this semester was a bit hectic and I didn't get a chance to capture many moments on video. It was by far the most academically challenging semester that I've had in college. Let's just say accounting is not my strong suit. That said, this semester was still one to remember!
Some of my favorite moments from this semester:
For the past few years, I've been eager to study abroad, immerse myself in another culture, connect with people from various backgrounds, and learn a new language. After several failed attempts to study abroad due to COVID-19, I'm so excited to announce that I will be heading to Germany next semester to study abroad at the Universität of Augsburg!! I cannot wait to experience life in a different country and to visit exciting places, eat delicious foods, and meet new people. If you are interested in following my journey abroad, I will be posting blogs and creating Youtube videos :)
Where has the semester gone? Time seems to be fleeting by so fast. It's crazy that it's already November, and we are over halfway through this semester's classes! It seems to me that being back in person and having busier schedules make the days go by so much faster.
This semester has been filled with so many amazing memories. Having in-person classes again and being able to attend sporting events has been great. I missed seeing people and cheering on our Hoosiers! That said, being back in person again and having a busier schedule has also been an adjustment. During the lockdown, it was easy for me to focus on what truly mattered, but when the craziness of life picked back up, my priorities seemed to be overtaken by to-do lists. It took a few weeks for me to get back on track and slow down. Aside from all of the negatives of COVID-19, I'm truly grateful for the slower change of pace that it allowed so many of us to experience. This semester I've deliberately tried to slow down a bit and take everything in, and it has allowed me to enjoy everything so much more!
In just a couple of days, I'll be starting my junior year of college... It's so crazy how fast time flies! I still feel like a freshman. Well, kind of. I know where everything is on campus (thank God no more getting lost), but the whole in-person college thing feels brand new to me again. It's crazy that some of us haven't had in-person classes for a year and a half. Soon, the professors, students, faculty, and staff will all be together, not just floating heads on a computer screen. It will be great!
Anyways, this summer was filled with lots of growth, joy, learning, and passion. For the majority of the summer, I interned for Special Olympics International (SOI), where I spent much of my time working on projects that lit my heart on fire and interacting with people who inspire me immensely. My internship with SOI started in January and kicked off with researching and learning more about accessibility and easy read language. Within the first few months, my insight on accessibility grew rapidly, and my passion for disability advocacy grew even stronger. Accessibility is so important for spearheading a movement and engaging a larger audience. The latter part of my internship entailed creating resources for SO Programs around the world and collaborating with others on a newsletter and website. I'm incredibly grateful for this internship and will forever be a part of the Special Olympics family!
The last few weeks of summer, I was a teaching assistant (TA) for Intensive Freshman Seminar at IU. It's a three-week program freshmen can take to earn three credits and get acclimated to campus quickly. The course I was a TA for was titled "Financing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals" and was taught by one of my favorite professors! The class was great, and it was so much fun introducing the freshman to IU and Bloomington. It was also insightful to learn more about the SDGs, international development, and blended finance. I can't wait to start this semester's courses and delve deeper into topics that interest me!