Name: Henry Ashley
Location of Study: Freidburg, Germany
Program of Study: Goethe Institute
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising junior an International Economics major with a German focus in the College of Arts and Letters. I am a Student Union Board (or SUB) programmer who is in charge of the Movies Committee for campus and have been active in Interhall sports. In addition, I have many interests when it comes to sports, but my favorite is soccer, so I cannot wait to be in Germany during the World Cup! This will be my first time to Germany but not my first time to Europe, and I know that it will be an enriching experience.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
This grant has provided me with an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in another country and culture as I strive to improve my language and expose myself to varying opportunities that required me to step outside of my comfort zone.
As an International Economics major with a German focus. This grant coincides perfectly with my major and academic interests. I have applied to ND International’s Heidelberg program for Spring 2015. So, this shorter experience will prepare me for living and studying at a German institute and university. The added language skills will further enhance my ability to successfully take courses at the university. Also, this grant for summer language study will expose me to the prospect of working abroad.
While my future plans are not clear, I know that going to Freiburg is the right step in finding my future career path. I can imagine pursuing a career in international economic development and growth or foreign policy, for example. Also, I am certain that the economic and cultural environment will be a nurturing atmosphere in terms of my academic and cultural growth.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
This grant has many things to offer those who are willing to take advantage of every opportunity that it provides you with. I personally hope to become more proficient in everyday German conversation and be able to navigate myself confidently in another country. In addition, I am fascinated in different cultures, so I hope to gain first-hand experience during my time in Freiburg. This grant not only allows people to significantly improve their language skills, but it also allows them to leave their comfort zone entirely and gain a more worldly understanding and comprehension. Many people never leave their own bubbles and miss out on the opportunity to understand another culture besides their own. They miss out on the chance to grow and push themselves to their academic and personal limits, and I know that this is what this grant will do for me.
1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to confidently hold an everyday conversation in German with native Germans.
2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to navigate, ask, and give directions in German.
3. At the end of the summer, I will be willing to take risks that are different from my own culture and out of my comfort zone in order to expand my language skills.
4. At the end of the summer, I will be able listen and understand at the rate of a native German speaker.
5. At the end of the summer, I will be able to read and write without having to think it through as much and continuously looking up words.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
The Goethe-Institut in Freiburg allows students many opportunities to immerse themselves in the community and practice their German inside and outside the Institut through its cultural program. I am particularly interested in hiking in the Black Forest. Additionally, on Sunday nights, the Institut has a group viewing of the popular cult TV series “Tatort” followed by a discussion with German students. While also diving into culture of Germany, as a Catholic, I plan to also attend Freiburger Münster which is only a few minutes away from the Institut for mass which will provide me with an opportunity to witness and interact with other German Catholics.
Additionally, I have an interest in Germany’s history, especially war time and post-war German society and history. At the Goethe-Institut in Freiburg, they regularly hold seminars on certain periods of history in Germany, such as the post-war period. These discussions often cover such topics as the social and economic growth of Germany throughout the years. Having the opportunity to attend discussions such as these would not only be beneficial for my major but would also be an opportunity to further my language skills and understanding of German society and history.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Tonight is my last night in the United States before I start heading to Freiburg tomorrow morning! I fly into Washington D.C. tomorrow, land in Zurich on Friday, and arrive in Freiburg that same day. Saying that I have a mix of emotions is an understatement as I prepare for this 4 week adventure. As I prepare to leave my family and home, I feel the sadness that comes with leaving those things that make you most comfortable and safe. At the same time, however, I am so excited at the challenge to grow my language and meet and interact with new people in Freiburg and all over the globe. I can’t say that I am not intimidated by the idea of going to a foreign country by myself for the first time whose first language isn’t English, but I know that an opportunity like this will push my language and my comfort zone further than I could ever imagine and make me not only more confident in German but also in my ability to adapt and thrive in any environment. Now, it’s time for me to get some sleep as I prepare for my German adventure! Bis später USA!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
It is really difficult to even begin to explain or say everything that I have experienced, done, and felt since I arrived in Freiburg, Germany, but I do have to say that when people say the first few days are going to be difficult, they mean it! I made it to Freiburg on May 30th . Getting to Freiburg ended up not being as difficult as I expected to be, however, once I got here and had to navigate my way to my hostel with public transportation and a bit of wandering, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. I know I came here to learn German and immerse myself in the language, but once I actually did it, the shock of and somewhat abrupt transition from being in a recognizable and mostly English speaking environment was a lot to take in on the first few days by myself in another country.
After arriving in Freiburg a few days early, I was very anxious to get my studies started, and after a week at the Goethe Institut, I have recognized a significant improvement in my confidence in my speaking and listening. I feel much more relaxed than I ever have before. Additionally, while my listening isn’t perfect, I feel that my comprehension has increased and my response time is not as slow as I felt it was before. For instance, I specifically targeted this skill when I went on my Baden-Baden trip. Our guide, Lula, is a native German and a very very fast speaker. Although my listening had improved, it hadn’t improved so significantly in a week that I could understand German at that speed. However, there was another girl in our group who seemed almost fluent in German and would often have conversations at that high-paced speed with Lula. While waiting for our bus, the two were talking, and I completely focused in on trying to understand what they were talking about at that speed. I am proud to say that I was able to understand some portions of it. They talked about how English speakers should really speak German when in Germany as it is one of the best ways to learn the language and how Sandra Bullock could also speak really good German. I know it’s not a lot to get from a fairly long conversation, but I was just happy to get anything at all from how fast they were talking.
In addition, during the week, I had to go pick up money that my dad had wired to a bank in the city. I was able to eventually find the bank and being there gave me a good opportunity to practice my German in a setting outside of the classroom, supermarkets, and restaurants and to learn some new words such as Geldempfang (money transfer). After a few hiccups, I was eventually able to get my money, to have gained a new German experience, and the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone.
Over this past week, I have tried so many new things, met so many new people, and am even more focused in trying to learn and continue improving and practicing my German.
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Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
The month long language and cultural immersion has truly helped my German to improve on all fronts, but it has also allowed me to grow more confident in my language skills. It has definitely been a strange transition back into an English speaking country. I have found myself quite frequently having to consciously think about not speaking Germany in response to my family and to other people because no one will understand what I am saying. If that’s not proof of how effective this month long language program is than I don’t know what is.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
So, it has been just a week and a day since I have gotten back home from Freiburg, and I have to say that I am already ready to go back. When I first got home, it was very strange not to be surrounded by German or to hear it wherever I go. I already desperately miss the pastries and fresh bread and pretty much all the amazing fresh food that I got to try while I was over there. In one month I managed to fall in love with Freiburg and Germany as a whole, and I cannot wait to go back and be there for even longer for spring semester next year! As my final note to finish this blog of an educational, fantastic, and unbelievable month, I would just like to say…..Schlanddd!
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
In order to continue working on and trying to keep up my German skills as much as possible, I have been trying to practice with a family friend who speaks fluent conversational German. I don’t want to lose everything that I have learned before I even get a chance to utilize it in school for next semester.