Horns meet World. World meet Arianna. Arianna Fritz. Arianna is an international relations and global studies major here at UT, and she spent the summer of 2015 abroad at Europa-Universitaet Viadrina Frankfurt in Germany.
It’s been a year since I felt the rush of talking to people at the study abroad fair and grabbing every brochure that I could get my hands on. I thought that was the exciting part… little did I know!
My desired destination was Germany, and low and behold, I found the perfect little place for me! After reading about all the opportunities, I decided on the Viadrina program in Frankfurt an der Oder.
On May 27 I arrived in Berlin to a stranger holding a sign saying “Viadrina University.” I was so anxious and nervous to finally meet the lady I had been emailing over the past months about classes and living situations. Let me just say, I could not have asked for a better person to help me navigate the trains (which happened to be on strike upon my arrival) and to have a smile looking back at me when sitting on the train. Smiling. That was the first cultural difference I noticed. When walking down the street, especially in the South, people will smile at you when crossing paths, this is not so much the case. However, that did not represent the Europeans at all. They were so helpful when lost (which happens when you can’t use the Maps app) and super interesting to interact with once the ice was broken. Secondly, the stereotype about Germans being punctual was very quickly seen.
Upon arriving to the dorm, I quickly met people from other universities and countries. Within the first week, I had met people from Colombia, Mexico, Hong Kong, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Jordan, Ireland, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We had a crash course in intercultural living, which was very helpful for what to expect, and I finally got to meet the remainder of my program on a more personal level along with the dates of all the group activities, such as going to the Helenesee party, Poznan, the university party, and Berlin. Oh, and a lot of recommendations on where to eat.
Classes began quickly following my arrival. I had a professor from Poland and another from Germany. Both classes were more discussion based off of the readings that were assigned. This was the coolest. I got to discuss topics with native Germans who, in most cases, had completely different perspectives, and that was before the professors added their contributions. MAN! I gained such a different perspective even on the simplest of things, such as a bicycle.
Oh, the sight of the Oder River and the fresh, fresh air. Not to mention that it got dark a lot later in Germany, which was so nice. Which created a perfect post-class run setting before going across the street to Aldi to acquire things for dinner. Our dorms were equipped with a personal kitchen for each of us, so my friends and I took turns hosting dinner, which were all delicious. However, if we were hungry late at night, there wasn’t a Whataburger, so late night food was scarce. Thank goodness for the pizza place across the bridge in Poland that was open later than most.
With two of my new friends, that happened to also be from Texas, traveling plans were ferociously being jotted down on a calendar. Rome this weekend, Munich for another, Hamburg, and then Barcelona, with weekly Berlin trips scattered between. Unfortunately, time was not on side of the traveling agenda because we missed a few cities we wanted to see, but a year later, we are already planning to go back!
What did I gain from it? Four new best friends, less memory space on my phone, more stamps in my passport, memories that will last a lifetime, understanding of different cultures on a more personal basis, different views on the invention of Europe.
Whether it was looking at the Vatican at night with the moon sitting above it to create the perfect picture, drinking sangria in Barcelona, or sitting in my dorm with friends while doing some homework, studying abroad was the best decision I have made during my college years.
If you enjoyed reading about Arianna’s adventure in Germany, check out the program that got her there and our many opportunities in Germany! Don’t forget to read about our scholarship options for international relations and global studies majors, liberal arts students, undergraduate exchange students in Germany, and speakers of European languages (including Polish and Dutch). And, as always, check in with us next week to see where in the world our Horns pop up next!