Spending two months in Germany taught me a lot about how I personally acquire language best. I have always been on the quiet side, and this experience really pushed me to talk as often as possible with as many new people as possible. Aside from speaking, being constantly flooded with German songs, writing, and people definitely influenced the rate of my improvement. It was very helpful being in class most of the day, where I received a steady and consistent amount of German grammar and practice. I believe I have reached most of my goals, such as speaking more comfortably and with less hesitation, making less grammatical errors when speaking, and improving the overall level of my German in writing, reading, listening, and speaking. But I know that I am still quite far from fluency, which I wish to continue to work towards.
Living in Germany taught me about communication with people around the world. There were plenty of people who spoke English but for the most part, everyone opted to use German instead. Being able to communicate with people from different countries provided me new insight about the world; I feel that my world view has broadened greatly. There were always different cultural expectations from country to country, but generally, being polite or friendly was never difficult. I also just learned a lot about the way other people view the United States, as well as how other people view Germany. I never really thought about what the USA looked like to other countries, and I now have a better understanding of other countries’ world views. I would definitely advise someone applying for an SLA grant to be respectful and they will pick up on social cues and norms as they become more accustomed to the country they go to. Just speaking with people and making a best effort to get along goes quite far.
I bought quite a lot of books when I was in Germany, and I am slowly tackling my way through them. There are so many words I don’t know but reading the book helps me remember my grammar as well as improve my vocabulary. This experience has made me want to return to Germany and hopefully become fluent in the language some day. I will begin TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) classes soon at Notre Dame, and I am excited to potentially work with the German language after college. Being abroad taught me to take more responsibility and also be less afraid to take steps forward even when I am unsure of myself. I believe the things I have learned from this experience will apply greatly to my continuing experience at Notre Dame and I will continue to keep the lessons from my experience in Radolfzell in mind as I move forward in my education and in the future.