Awaiting my departure, I find myself both excited and nervous—less than a week away!

I have been gradually learning German for nearly half of my life. When initially starting German, my family and I lived in Stuttgart, Germany as a military family, and I embraced the linguistic and cultural immersion I experienced. Soon I developed the dream of one day mastering German and speaking like a “Muttersprachlerin.” For the next eight or so years, I did not have consistent formal German language training, so I often sought out summer language classes or short exchanges. After high school, I took a gap year to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange; however, the in-person exchange was completely canceled due to COVID-19. I was devastated, but after the initial shock and grief, my resolve to study in Germany only increased. A year and a half after the exchange’s cancellation, I am finally about to study in Germany with this SLA Grant! I am elated.

I anticipate this study abroad to feel both familiar and different—familiar in ways that I have prior experience with German language and culture, but different as I have been away from Germany for nearly 9 years. Within everyday language, I expect some colloquialisms to take me by surprise, and I am eager to learn more of the “Umgangsprache,” or everyday language that is not as common in classroom instruction or classwork. In this regard, my interactions with my host family will greatly help me speak more natively, using common phrases or expressions. I am especially excited by my accommodation with a host family, for it ensures that I will be surrounded by German and be speaking German throughout my entire day, each day.

Although extremely excited about this study abroad, I still anticipate moments in which I might feel fatigued or frustrated by linguistic and cultural barriers. However, I embrace these potential moments as a crucial part of studying abroad, strengthening my resilience and patience, and the commitment of learning a language. I realize that there are “hills” and “valleys” throughout the days of studying abroad when facing and overcoming unfamiliarity or misunderstandings.

Therefore, my excitement about this study abroad applies not only to easy or fun moments, but also the challenging ones, for I am confident in my ability to meet such obstacles and grow as a student, language learner, global citizen, and person.

Here we go!

– Ella Maria

One thought on “Finally!”

  1. Gabriel, I am so proud of you! Life comes with many challenges. Identifying these is often the most important part to make the necessary changes. You are a strong and admirable young man. I am so excited to see your journey and be a part in any way I can. Love you. Auntie Tona.

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