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Studying and Interning in Germany for a Year

Updated: Jan 26

This month on the blog, I really want add more voices and perspectives than just my own. So, I asked some of the amazing travelers that I met during my adventures abroad to share their stories.


Throughout their stories, they will tell you a little bit about themselves, what motivated them to travel, a highlight and a lowlight from their travels, as well as offer some advice based on their own experiences.


My hope with this series is that you find something, or someone, you resonate with that motivates you to take a leap of faith, this year, towards expanding your horizons abroad!


For our first entry in the series, we have one of this years DAAD Young Ambassadors Grace!


 

Grace feeding a bird

Hello all, my name is Grace Bauernfeind, and I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Political Science and German with a certificate in European Studies.


I spent my junior (3rd) year abroad in Freiburg, Germany through the Academic Year in Freiburg program.



Freiburg is a beautiful small town at the foot of the black forest, and right on the border to France and Switzerland. While in Freiburg, I studied at the Albert-Ludwigs University, or the Uni Freiburg, and completed a part-time internship during my summer semester there.


Fasching

My decision to study abroad in Freiburg was driven by the fact that I have been speaking German since I was four years old. Despite my last name, this is not because my family speaks German at home, but because my elementary school was an immersion school.


Because of this, I grew up being exposed to the language and certain elements of German culture too, like the St. Martin’s Tag lantern processions and Fasching, but never actually visited Germany.


I kept studying it throughout middle and high school, and eventually decided to study it in college too, in an attempt to get more fluent. By the time I got to college, I knew that I really wanted to study abroad, and that I wanted to go for a whole year to really immerse myself in the language and get more fluent.



Because of the pandemic, I was only first able to go abroad my junior (3rd) year, so that is what I ended up doing. I picked the Academic Year in Freiburg (AYF) program through my university because it honestly aligned with my interests: it is a year long, and the Uni Freiburg has a really good political science program.


The program directors were also super helpful during my search process, were willing to answer my questions in a lot of detail, and helped with my funding questions too. This really influenced my decision to join this program. That is ultimately how I found myself flying to Germany on August 31st, 2022.


Girl at an airport

My trip to Freiburg was less than optimal, so to speak. After saying my goodbyes to my family and going through the whole packing process, I was dropped off at O’hare Airport in Chicago. There, I was supposed to catch a red-eye flight to Frankfurt and take an ICE train to Freiburg to meet my program directors; “supposed to” is the operative word here.


Unfortunately, my flight was delayed several times until it was eventually canceled due to a workers' strike. Instead of flying into Frankfurt like I wanted, I took the only remaining flight to Germany, on the airline I booked, to Munich instead. The airline then proceeded to lose my luggage for a week afterward, and I had to buy clothes to tide me over until they found it.


All of that aside, though, I made it to Germany safely, if not inconvenienced. I like to joke that this series of unfortunate events used up all of my bad luck because the rest of my time in Freiburg was spectacular.


Because I was abroad for the whole year, it is really difficult to pin down just one thing that was the “highlight of my year abroad,” but there are a few things that definitely stand out to me.

Freiburg scenery

Socially, I was also able to make really close friends with whom I studied and traveled. Getting to know so many wonderful people, other international students and Germans alike, was the absolute highlight of my year. I was even in a small band with some of these friends and members of my program administration called The Black Forest Badgers.


We played a bunch of cover songs, mostly from the 60s and 70s, but it was really fun to get involved in something like that. Academically, too, I was able to explore my interests in many Europe-specific classes that aren’t available at my home university.



I also completed a summer internship at a local environmental non-governmental organization, ICLEI (Regional Governments for Sustainability). I am especially happy that I got to do this internship because it let me get a closer look at regional politics, and has driven my interests for environmental politics, which I plan to pursue in the future.


My time abroad was truly a remarkable and valuable experience that not only allowed me to expand my academic and cultural horizons, but really brought me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow as a person. I would encourage anyone who is interested in studying or completing an internship in Germany to go for it.


Grace after a marathon

My advice for anyone who wants to travel abroad to Germany is this: Don’t be afraid to talk to people, even if you don’t speak German. Speaking German or talking to people can seem really, really daunting, especially with the typical German “unfriendliness.”


But I promise that the connections you can make with classmates and friends are 100% worth it, and it can drastically expand any German vocabulary you may know. I encourage you all to take the leap of faith, and remember to try to pack lightly if you do!


 

Thank you so much Grace for sharing your experiences studying abroad and what it's taught you! Your bravery is something I hope emanates out to readers.

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