Forty days since I left the U.S. for Freiburg. Germany. Forty days of adjusting, adapting and acclimating. Forty days, and I think it’s safe to say that Freiburg is starting to feel like home.
The realization hit me one weekend when I was returning from a chaotic trip to Luxembourg. The entire train ride home, I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t wait to be home. I miss my apartment, my room, my bed. I miss Freiburg.”
How did I do it? How did I make this city—in a country I’ve never been to before—feel like home? I don’t have an exact answer, but I like to think it was a combination of my experiences within the past 40 days that have helped me settle in.
From weekly dinners with my friend’s flatmates to finding a few shops that have become a staple for me, to officially taking part in my apartment’s Putzplan (cleaning schedule), it’s starting to feel like I’ve been here for much longer than 40 days.
One critical aspect that has shaped my experience here is meeting and getting to know the other students in my affiliate program and, most importantly, Germans. Along with some other Americans in my program, I live in student apartments with German and international flatmates, making it easier to meet different people, experience the culture firsthand, and of course, practice my German.
During my time here, I’ve already celebrated birthdays with my flatmates. I’ve also gotten to know them through evenings making flammkuchen and had weekly dinners with the flatmates of a friend I met through my affiliate program. These budding relationships have allowed me to have a few more familiar faces in this city and have facilitated my transition into life here in Freiburg.
Another way that I’ve managed to make Freiburg feel like home is by establishing a set schedule that has a good mix of academics, extracurriculars and social activities. Outside of class and homework time, I make sure to explore the city, whether it be through finding a new café or strolling aimlessly around.
Even small things like grocery shopping and following my apartment’s Putzplan have made my experience abroad feel more like home. Doing mundane tasks has not only given me chances to practice my German, but it has also taught me about daily life here and what it’s like to live and study as a student in Freiburg.
To get the full study abroad experience beyond academics, I’ve also added extracurriculars to round out my time here. I love to dance, so I found a dance studio in my neighborhood as a way to stay in shape. I’m also taking part in a program called Inside America, where American students go to German high schools to talk about American culture and participate in cultural exchange.
All in all, the start to my study abroad experience has been more than what I could have bargained for, and I honestly can’t wait for what the rest of the semester will bring. As I’m writing this, sitting in my kitchen and listening to the chitter-chatter outside the window, I wish I could make time slow down so I can savor these moments for just a while longer.
This post was contributed by Jackie Cheng, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2022. Jackie is an International Relations & Global Studies and Sociology double-major studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany.