Wilson, Clarisse

Wilson, Clarisse

Name: Clarisse Wilson
E-mail: Clarisse.A.Wilson.295@nd.edu
Language: German
Location of Study: Freiburg, Germany
Program of Study: Goethe Institut
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies

A brief personal bio:

I am a junior Vocal Performance major in the College of Arts and Letters and participate in the Chorale choir and the Notre Dame Opera every year. I am also a member of the Gluten Free Club and the Treasurer of the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame. Apart from music, I love linguistics, reading, and spending time outdoors either hiking, canoeing, berry-picking or bird watching. I also enjoy spending time with kids and for the last three summers have worked at various enrichment programs or summer camps.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

During my junior year, I took a music history class which covered music from the Classical and Romantic eras, and I fell in love with the music of these eras, particularly the German Romantic operas and Lieder. After that, I knew I wanted to pursue a post-graduate degree in musicology that would lead to research and teaching musicology. While researching requirements for post-undergraduate careers in musicology, I discovered that proficiency in foreign language is required. The eight weeks I will spend abroad in Germany will be huge step toward my goals by helping me further my German language skills. After graduation, I plan to apply for the English Teaching Assistantship through the Fulbright and graduate programs in musicology in Germany. The immersive summer abroad experience through the SLA Grant gives me the opportunity to acquire a great amount of language in a limited amount of time, helping me attain the German language skills necessary for achieving my post-undergraduate academic goals.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

At the conclusion of my summer study abroad program, I hope to have gained enough proficiency in German to test into the next level of German, Intermediate German II, when I return to Notre Dame. Learning German is my main focus for my summer experience because it is the most crucial element for all of my post-undergraduate goals. I also want to immerse myself in the culture in order to better equip myself to learn the language, and eventually, do research on German Classical and Romantic music. While abroad I also plan to attend many concerts and experience as much music as possible while in Germany.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to one semester beyond my current German placement at Notre Dame.
  2. By the end of the summer, I will be able to communicate with native German speakers on casual and academic musical topics and discuss current political and social issues.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will be willing to take risks by engaging in cultural and linguistic interactions that are beyond my level of mastery and comfort zone.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

This summer in Freiburg, I have the opportunity to attend many summer music events including organ concerts in the Minster Cathedral, the International Music-Tent-Festival, and the Summer Piano Festival, which are especially attractive to me as a music major. The Goethe Institute also hosts student performances in which I could perform German Lieder (art song) for my fellow students. There are also many venues at which I can engage native speakers including several museums, Café Atlantic which hosts poetry slam events, marketplaces, a multitude of eateries, parks, and wineries. I also want to participate in many weekend excursions including hiking trips around Schluchsee, the Black Forest, and near the Rhine River with friends from the Goethe Institute.

Reflective Journal Entry 1: 

Hello everyone and many apologies for neglecting my blog here for so long. I actually have this blog and another blog on which I have been cataloging my many adventures here in Germany. Everything here has been new and wonderful, and I have met so many new friends from around the world. Occasionally things are a bit stressful and at times even a little scary such as riding the train for the first time. Actually I had never ridden a bus or a train before coming to Germany. This trip has had many first, and I sure there will be several more before I leave. But now a bit about the wonderful city where I am studying.

The city in which I am staying is called Freiburg im Breisgau or Freiburg for short. When I first arrived at the main bus station, I was intrigued by the two large (very large) spaces for bicycle parking next to the station and a whole bicycle station for parking and renting on the other side of the bridge. Freiburg is a very green city so many people ride bicycles instead of driving cars. I still haven’t asked how people get around in the winter when bikes are not as practical, but my guess would be that most people take the bus or train in conjunction with some walking. In the first few days here, I was always checking myself before stepping into the road, not to check for cars, but bikes. And most of them don’t wear helmets. People just whiz by left and right and across the streets without proper protection for their heads. In retrospect, this is not all that shocking because most students on campus do not wear helmets, but we also do not ride around as fast. Most of the people riding around with children wear helmets, and many parents attach little buggies to the back for transporting their kids. These little buggies also serve a second function as they can carry groceries and other goods. I was definitely surprised the first time I hear clanking coming from one of those; the man pulling the buggy was taking all of his cans and bottles back to the store for a refund. I am not sure if this is common across Germany, but in Freiburg, bottles and cans of all kinds can be returned for a refund. The poor and homeless often look through trash cans for bottles to take for refunds. Another aspect of the green city (and I believe this is also true of most of Germany) is that they do not have air-conditioning in their homes. When I first arrived at the guest house, I went downstairs to the office to tell them my air conditioning was not working only later to realize there is none. On the 90+ degree days, this has definitely been an adventure.

Freiburg is a green city by nature and literally by the nature surrounding it. It is located in the southwest corner of Germany on the border with France between the Rhine River and the Black Forest. The city is compact, but the residents can own a garden on the edge of the Black Forest if they wish, travel to one of three lakes that are fairly close: the Spark, Titisee, and Schluchsee, or hike in the Black Forest. The neighborhoods on the edges of town are also beautiful and great for an evening stroll.

And the last bit of important information I will give in this post is also one that makes Freiburg famous. Freiburg has these small streams that flow throughout the city center in channels. In German the word for stream is Bach and the the diminutive ending added to it is -le. And when you make the word plural you get “Bächle.” The Bächle were constructed when the city was built back in the 12th century. They were originally built to bring water to the city to put out fires and also to take out excess rain water. Originally the Bächle were in the center of the roads, but when cars were invented, they posed a problem, so the city had the Bächle moved to the edges of the sidewalks. To this day they still remove rain water, but mostly the Bächle are decorative. Many shop owners put decorative items next to or in the them such as little boats. You can usually see some small child splashing around in the Bächle (I once saw a small boy jump in wearing his tennis shoes about which his mother less that pleased), and in the evenings, many folks will sit with their feet in the water enjoying a drink and good company.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

Out of everything that is different here in Germany, the one thing that has taken the most time and energy adjusting to is food. At my house in the US, we have an inside refrigerator and an outside refrigerator. There are five people in my family and we almost never eat out, so we go through a lot of groceries in a week. Here in Freiburg, I have a tiny little refrigerator in my room. In one aspect, this is good because there is not enough time of food sitting around for it to rot and go to waste. On the other hand, I have to get groceries every couple days or even every day. Fortunately, there are two small grocery stores within walking distance from my residence, and shopping is not a significant inconvenience. I also have many friends who like to cook, so we will all pool our food together and make great feasts. My friend Maggie is Indian so she always cooks us super delicious and sometimes spicy dishes. About two weeks ago she made this amazing bean and rice pancakes called Dosai that we dipped in a very flavorful warm spinach dip. We have also made burritos, chicken alfredo, chicken with vegetables and curry, chocolate covered strawberries, tuna pasta salad, a variety of sandwiches, stuffed meatballs and spaghetti, and recently I made shepherd’s pie. Technically as the British would say, it was only cottage pie because it was made with beef not lamb, but it still tasted amazing whatever it was called.

With so many friends from all parts of the world, I have had the opportunity to try lots of new foods here. Unfortunately, I have not been able to try many Germany dishes because I have Celiac Sprue Disease. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes my body to have a reaction any time I eat wheat, barely, or rye which contain gluten. Because the Germans are quite fond of bread and Celiac disease is not particularly common among Germans, eating out at restaurants is quite difficult. This as it turns out, is somewhat of a boon because eating out is much more expensive. But when my friends do want to go out for food, I eat dinner first and then accompany them to dinner. This way I can still experience dining in Germany and enjoy the company of my friends without starving.

Even though I do take precautions to avoid gluten, I have a few times still accidentally eaten it. Part of the difficulty with Celiac disease is that there are lots of hidden sources of gluten like in vinegar, modified food starch, and “spices.” Sometimes it is impossible to tell if a food item is totally gluten free, so you have to guess or go without it. There are also requirements for food that a food processing facility that has processed anything with wheat on its machinery must put on food labels “can come in contact with gluten.” This is also difficult to judge because sometimes things are totally safe and sometimes they are contaminated. So in short, I have made a few mistakes. It’s all about getting to know the food industry of the country you are in and how careful you need to be.

One famous food of this region which I have not had the opportunity to try is the Black Forest Cake or in German the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte which translates as “black forest cherry tort.” The cake is made up of several layers of chocolate cake separated by layers of whipped cream and cherry filling. The cake is covered all the way around and on top with whipped cream, and traditional cakes are topped with chocolate shavings and black cherries. Sometimes maraschino cherries are used instead of black cherries. The cherry filling includes a alcoholic substance called kirschwasser, a colorless fruit brandy made from distilling whole sour cherries including the pits. In fact, in Germany a black forest cake may not be marketed as such unless it includes kirschwasser. Maybe when I return to the US, I can try making a gluten free version of this to share with my family or my friends at Notre Dame.

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

One of the big reasons I picked Freiburg over other exciting and attractive cities is because I have a deep love for nature by which Freiburg is surrounded. I already mentioned the Bächle which flow through the old inner city, but there are also canals in other parts of the city and a river. I have walked alongside the river several times enjoying the calm sound of the flowing water and watching ducks and herons. Once I saw a large heron with the largest looking feathered “beard” I have ever seen on a creature with wings. It did make it look wise and majestic, but probably just to me and not the poor creatures it was snagging out of the water for dinner. Another time I saw this adorable little mallard duckling swimming with its mom, but the current was so strong it had to swim with great intensity and fervor. I thought it was curious that this mother duck only had one duckling, but I guess this world really is about survival of the fittest.

One of the first weekend in Freiburg, I went hiking with some friends on the mountain just behind the old city called the Schlossberg. The hike was actually easier than we expected, but one of my friend keep charging ahead at a break-neck pace and the other girl and I were huffing and puffing panting to keep up with her. About half way up, we stopped to take pictures in front of this huge cross that overlooked the city. Once we got to the top of the mountain, we discovered that the lookout tower was actually closed because the wooden support beams had been damaged. We ate a picnic while we recuperated from the hike up, then on the way down, we stopped at another look out spot which had a great view. We were hopping to catch a sunset over the city, but there were too many clouds on the horizon. Overall, it was a very fun hike and conveniently close to the city.

At the end of my first session, my teacher took the whole class on a walk to a cafe with turned into a couple hour adventure including visiting a sculpture garden and climbing a small mountain. I think it was on this occasion when I truly fell in love with the city. We walked for a while through the beautiful neighborhoods on the east side of the city, and every so often, our teacher would stop and tell us about the neighborhood, or the person who lived in a particular house, or some other snippet of the city’s history. Eventually we reached the edge of the neighborhoods and came to a garden. Many people from the city do not have any space to plant gardens, so they own a plot of land here instead. There are companies who want to use the land to build houses on, but most residents are opposed to the idea and advocate for keeping the gardens. The trail along side the gardens is also next to a river which makes it a popular spot for runners, walkers, and bikers. Once you reach the end of this garden, you come to an open field in between two mountains. Our teacher stopped here to let us take some pictures, then we kept walking to a sculpture garden. The sculptures are all made a sculptor named Thomas Rees using trees that fell during a ferocious wind storm. If you hike further into the woods from this location, you can actually see the tallest tree in Germany. But on that particular hike with our teacher, we instead climbed up Loretto Berg. In the heat and my somewhat less than perfect fitness, it was a bit tiring, but we finally made it to the top and it was quite a view! You could see all of Freiburg, the surrounding valley and even mountains in France. After another 10 minutes or so we finally reached our destination: a restaurant which looked out on the other side of Freiburg. I ordered some drink that I thought was lemonade and turned out to be some weird kind of ginger ale. Except it was not really ginger ale. I actually have no idea what it really was. But I certainly didn’t like it. I did learn a useful bit of information from my teacher there which was how to give a tip in German. When you hand the server your money, you say “Stimmt so” which in meaning translates to “keep the change.” The hike down was significantly less work though the day was getting hotter. On our way back to the Goethe Institute, our professor pointed out metal squares in the sidewalks that show were Jews had lived before the Holocaust. We also stopped at an ice cream shop near the river which apparently has the best ice cream according to our teacher. I did not get any, but I heard it was indeed delicious. Our very lat stop was taking a class picture at the Institute. It was quite an adventure for the last day of class.

Several days later I wanted to take a friend on the same hike. Unfortunately, I did not know the name of any of the roads and had to go on gut instinct. Well, it was less of gut instinct and more paying attention to the surroundings I had noticed on the first trip. This unique bit of architecture here, that strange bush there, and a fence line of roses all indicated that the way was right. The same neighborhoods and paths were particularly pleasant in the evening light, but the sculpture garden was unfortunately filled with mosquitos. We handled it fairly well, but right at the end we jolt bolted down the hill out of the woods to escape from being eaten alive. After that we climbed to the top of the mountain to see the view and catch the sunset; however, there were too many clouds for a proper sunset, so we just kept walking. My intention was to take us to the restaurant, but we actually got lost. We did the only thing we could and hiked down which turned out to be a happy accident because we saw many beautiful houses. Once we got to the bottom, I couldn’t stop from laughing because we were exactly where we should have ended up. We just took a different route to get there.

After the first week of classes which was quite hot and humid, the weather cooled down significantly for a couple weeks, then the heat flared up again. On the 4th of July, the temperature was supposed to reach and possibly surpass 100 degrees, so the only sensible solution was to spend the day at the Seepark. In the city of Freiburg is a lake with a gravely bottom great for sunbathing, walking around, and of course swimming. A friend and I packed a lunch and took the train over to the park around noon. I had never bought a ticket to take the train within Freiburg, so I had to figure out how to work the ticket machines. The park turned out to be quite beautiful; here was a bridge that spanned a small part of the lake with lily pads and turtles surrounding one end. There were also lots of youth jumping off of the bridge in the middle since the lake is quite deep. My friend Andrés decided to be daring and do it, but I don’t like to jump from high places into water I’m not familiar with, so I did not. I thought the water was quite a lovely temperature especially for a hot day, but apparently Andrés, coming from Mexico, thought it was cold. I told him that after spending so much time in the ever changing waters of Lake Michigan, this was definitely not cold. Late in the afternoon, we headed back because we were tired and Andrés was cold, though after walking for about five minutes in the heat he definitely wasn’t cold anymore. On such a hot day, it was great to have an oasis of refuge so close in the city. It might have been the only thing that saved this northern girl from melting. And it still baffles me how the Germans survive without air-conditioning. I guess that the weather is only hot for three months of the year, but it is still hot for those three months. If I ever live in German, I will bite the bullet for whatever the extra electricity costs me and get air conditioning in my house.

Over the past six weeks, I have done a fair bit of traveling within the city, but I also took a trip to Stuttgart for a day. And I rode the train for the first time ever! The process was somewhat stressful because I couldn’t understand the announcements being made over the intercom. I was worried that I would miss my train or it would be late. I asked an attendant which train to get on, and he said I could take the one that was sitting at the platform right then. The odd thing was that it was not my train, but it was going to the same place, so I took it. The trip on the train went fine and I talked to a lovely old lady (which I will talk about in my next journal). I spent the day with a friend walking around the city. We went in and out of shops with air conditioning, sat in a fountain, and sat in a park all in an attempt to make the heat more bearable. All in all it was a great trip.

My most recent trip was also one of the most exciting because I went to a castle: Burg Hohenzollern. This castle is built on the top of a mountain and is actually the third castle to sit on that spot. This third castle has never been the permanent residence of any of the royalty who owned it; it serves as a vacation spot and museum of the Hohenzollern family. The Hohenzollern family originally built the castle here, even though they ruled Prussia in the north, to show their power. The tour of the castle was nothing particularly impressive because the rooms were small and the tour short, though I could not tell if that was because the tour is normally short or because they were shutting down the castle in two days for filming. The tour group we were in was also quite large and barely fit into the rooms, so it was difficult to look at things. And there was a wedding going on in the Catholic chapel, so we could only visit the Protestant chapel. While on the tour, we were required to wear these giant slipper shoes so as not to scratch the floors. I actually asked if the Prince wears shoes when he visits. The tour guide seemed to think the answer was rather obvious, but if the floors are that valuable, maybe the Prince would wear slippers. Apparently he does not wear the slippers, but I was genuinely curious. The tour was nice, but the best part about the trip was getting to have a picnic at a castle. I packed tuna pasta salad and a bottle of wine, and my friend Andrés packed tangerines, apples, grapes, and chocolate. If you ask me, it was a feast fit for kings. We sat on a bench overlooking a huge swatch of land with little tiny houses, cars, and even livestock far below. The view was like one from a small low airplane. It was absolutely breathtaking. We also got in our workout for the day because the trek up and down from the castle had many many many stairs, and the next day my legs were incredibly sore. But it was definitely worth it.

After visiting the castle, we took the train back to the city of Tübingen which we walked around for a while looking for somewhere to eat dinner. There was a dance show going on near the city hall so the old city was quite busy and loud, but it was also beautiful. The buildings are so old that they almost looked crooked and sagging in some places which gives them character in my opinion. Eventually we found a place called the Trout at which I ordered… trout. When we walked passed I asked a server if they do gluten free food and when she said yes right away and seemed to be familiar with the concept, I was all set. That’s where we were eating. Dining out can be quite difficult because gluten free food is not as common in Germany, and I also have a bit of trouble explaining exactly what I need in German. Fortunately here I didn’t have any problem. I asked the waitress with dishes could be cooked gluten free, and I said yes to the first thing she pointed at which was the trout. It came in four small fillets covered with a few crispy pieces of parsely. I have no idea how they got the parsely crispy but the texture was exquisite. The dish also had round potatoes and salad greens for decoration. There was also a side salad. After a long day, a quite delicious meal was perfect. After dinner we sat by the river eating tangerines and grapes while watching the gondolas go by. The city was so beautiful, and even though I did not get to see much of it, I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit in this region. The bus ride there was also particularly pleasant. I was able to see a huge section of the mountains and the German countryside.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

I just noticed that in my past journals I have not mentioned my class here in Freiburg! I am studying at the Goethe Institute and for the first month I was placed in level B1.1 and currently I am in level B1.2. In my first class, I definitely had the lowest level of German. This month I feel that the class is a bit better to navigate though the other students are definitely better at German than I am. I enjoy being in a class that is a bit difficult with more experienced German students because that probably means I am hearing more proper usage of grammar and pushed to learn at a faster level. My class is from 8:30-13:00 which suits me best because I like to study in the afternoon rather than the evening or morning. That leaves the evenings free to explore Freiburg. Sometimes the classes seem a bit long, but we have two breaks in the morning which is just enough. I liked my teacher from the first course the best because she was very animated and fun. My current teacher is also good and a very sweet person, but sometimes class can be a bit dull. Overall I have been pleased with the way classes are conducted.

In my last journal I mentioned a chat I had with a pleasant older woman on a train. When I first got on the train in Karlsruhe I was extremely nervous since I had never ridden on a train before (This was actually my first connection.) I sat down in some seats and then this woman, who’s name I cannot remember on account that I was so nervous, asked me a question about the seats in German. I thought she was trying to tell me that the seats were reserved for her, but she was only asking if I had the seats reserved. After I finally understood her, she sats down and started chatting. We talked about gardening and her children and grandchildren. She lives in Baden, which she told me much about, but on this trip she was traveling to Lichtenstein to visit her mother. Throughout our conversation she was very patient because I often did not think very quickly or understand everything she said. I often had to ask her to repeat herself or define a new word for me. She also told me that I spoke very well without an accent. I am proud that I can imitate the German language so well, but it does occasionally cause me some grief. When I ask Germans questions, they respond as though talking to a native speaker which is usually fast. This in turn requires me to ask if they can speak more slowly because I am only learning German. But I manage fairly well.

There is also a nice lady who works at the market near the Goethe guest house. One day she asked me if I wanted a “Beleg” but I thought she was saying “billing” which means cheap. I thought she was trying to tell me that I couldn’t use my debit card because the bill was too cheap, so I start taking out my cash. She stopped me and told me I could use my card. After I paid, she explained that the receipt was called a “Beleg”. On another occasion, I was checking out and she asked if I wanted a Beleg to which I said yes. But then she asked me if I wanted a “Kassenbon.” I had absolutely no idea what it was but I said “Ja, Beleg.” She then told me the difference between the two. “Kassenbon” is a receipt that includes all the items in the purchase whereas the “Beleg” is just the payment on a receipt.

Having only completed one year of German before coming to Germany, talking with native German speakers has been difficult. Besides class, most of my German learning has been done by talking to my fellow classmates in German in my free time. Other intermediate speakers do not talk very quickly and use words that I recognize for the most part. I can also recognize all the grammar as they use it. The only difficulty I have encountered is speaking with students who have strong accents from their native languages. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what they are attempting to say and having a conversation is like solving a very complex auditory puzzle. Listening is still the most difficult element for me, but both my listening and speaking have improved leaps and bounds.

After being immersed in German everyday, sometimes when I speak to my friends in English, I can’t remember words. I don’t necessarily know the proper word in German, but my English vocabulary doesn’t seem to function. My new phrase of the summer: I can’t even English! I also have noticed that the more German I learn, the less Spanish I am able to remember. Whenever I try to speak in Spanish, it always comes out as a weird mix of German and Spanish which my friends have dubbed as “Speutsch”. Hopefully at some point in the near future, I will be able to review my Spanish and then keep my German and Spanish separate.

When I come back to Notre Dame, I am definitely going to have to keep in touch with my friends from the Institute and spend extra time hanging out with my fellow ND German students. Daily contact that actually employs the language is the best way to keep it fresh and really learn it. I’m also a bit nervous for the coming semester because I am skipping a semester on the account that I have spent 8 weeks in Germany. I do not think my German has improved a whole semesters worth, but I am definitely willing to work and catch up on whatever material I do not know. The feeling is both nervousness and excitement. I am also a bit sad as my time in Germany is quickly coming to an end.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

One of the main for choosing Freiburg as my location of study was because of the music culture in this city. I have had many musical experiences here including attending a symphony concert, attending a concert at the Münster cathedral, and listening to street musicians as well as practicing my own music for my upcoming senior recital. Unfortunately, last weekend I was sick, so I cold not attend the famous Zelt-Musik-Festival.

The Münster is an impressive Gothic style cathedral that was completed during the Middle Ages. Though the north and west part of Freiburg were destroyed during the bombing raids of November 1944, the cathedral most fortunately was not destroyed. Every Saturday, there are organ concerts here free and open to the public. I attend only one concert and was definitely impressed by the grandeur of both the cathedral and excellence of performance by the organist. There are actually four organs in the Münster and the main console is behind the alter. At the concert I attended, the organist played works by Cécile Chaminade, Andreas Willscher, Clara Schumann, and one of the organ masters himself, Johann Sebastian Bach.

I also attended a symphony concert at the Konzerthaus in Freiburg. The performance included Night’s Black Bird by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Symphony for Cello and Orchestra by Benjamin Britten, and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. All of the pieces were excellently played though I found the Birtwistle to be rather curious and at moments a little jarring. The Britten was also a bit unusual but the cello soloist, Gautier Capuçon, did an absolutely marvelous job with the piece. My favorite of the three works was definitely the Tchaikovsky; the melodic lines in here are so catchy and the orchestra has so much life that the listener cannot help but get sucked into the fantastic emotional vortex of the music.

Throughout my time in Freiburg, I have also heard many and varied kinds of street musicians. In the old main part of the city, there is almost always one person playing guitar and or singing easy listening folk tunes or popular music. I have also seen a duo playing duets on hammer dulcimers, a man playing the accordion, a man playing the didgeridoo (amazingly and for an extended period of time), jazz groups, a man singing opera, and another accordion player with a puppet band. I’m sure if I went to the inner city more often, I would see even more intriguing and wonderful impromptu performances.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:

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Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

After spending eight weeks in Germany, my language skills have improved significantly. Unfortunately, I think my language goal of being able to speak, read, write, and listen at a level of German equivalent to one semester above where I was before my trip was not achieved. I think this was mostly due to overestimating the amount of German I could learn in eight weeks. My speaking and listening skills definitely improved dramatically, but I think my writing still needs improvement. I was able to meet my second learning goal, although altered slightly in retrospect. I originally intended to speak to casually about politics and social issues, but instead I talked with Freiburgers about nature, the weather, cooking and gardening. I also had a several conversations about music with my teachers, other students, and locals. I would say the biggest success I had over my time in spent in Germany was branching out and doing things that made me step out of my comfort zone. I rode a train for the first time. I asked for directions, bought tickets, and casually talked to strangers despite my occasional difficulties with the language. Overall, I am pleased with my accomplishments even though I did not absolutely complete all of my goals.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

The opportunity to immerse myself in the German language and culture was one of the most amazing experiences I had ever had. Before this trip, I had never spent any significant time in a foreign country. Over the two months living in Frieburg, I felt like I really started to understand the flow of life and how it was different from the US such as lack of air conditioning, shopping every day for groceries, and walking, biking or using public transport instead of driving. This experience abroad is definitely one I would recommend to other students trying to learn any language. There is no equal to an immersion program when trying to learn a language. I would also strongly recommend spending as much time abroad in the summer as possible. The longer the stay, the more it links you to the course you just finished and the upcoming one. My other advice would be to speak in German as much as possible even if they speak English. Toward the end of my summer I spoke far too much English because my friends and I wanted to discuss complex topics and did not know the German vocabulary to discuss them. But although we often spoke English together, I made strong friendships and often practice German with my friends from the program now that we are no longer in Germany.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

I hope to further use the language and cultural experiences I gained this summer in the future as a cultural ambassador through the Fulbright. I am applying to do an English Teaching Assistantship through the Fulbright which would allow me to use and enhance my skills for a year in Germany. In this program, I would be an ETA and also engage in the community. I hope to be involved with a extracurricular choir or orchestra as well as be involved with the Williams Beuren Syndrome Association. For the past four years, I have been a counselor at a camp for teens with Williams Syndrome, and I am very interested in learning how individuals with Williams Syndrome live in Germany. I also want to share my experiences of working with teens with Williams in the US. Even if I do not travel to Germany through the Fulbright, I hope I have the opportunity travel there again sometime in the future and become engaged with the Williams Syndrome Association.