As a graduate student, I struggled before I came to this program. I kept asking myself “Am I too old for study abroad?” “ Will it be too hard for me to get adapted to a new culture?” However, after eight weeks of MSC program at LMU University Munich, I found my answer: it is never too late to go to a new country, to experience a different culture, to meet new people from diverse backgrounds, and to discover yourself. Here are only four of my one thousand reasons, and they are already convincing enough.
1. Learning a New Language
I studied German during my freshman year in college in China and my exchange year in Canada. However, all the things I have learned from German class are far from enough. It’s still hard for me to talk in German. When I just got here, I tried to speak German to our tutor Max, but I couldn’t understand what he said back to me. I also tried to ask for help in German, but I failed too.
Thank god, we had a week of “Survival German” class; from that class, our biggest take-away was learning Germans’ daily conversations. Also, as I live in this country, I learn German everyday when I am at the supermarket, in a shop, and even on the U-Bahn. At school, it took me hours to remember all the new words, but here, I learned a lot of words by using them in my daily life.
Indeed, the best way to learn a language is to immerse myself in a place surrounded by native speakers. Now when my colleagues are talking to each other, I try to understand what they say. When I see commercials on the U-Bahn station, I try to get the main ideas without knowing the meaning of each word. I can now even distinguish dialects of people from different parts of Germany.
2. Experiencing a New Culture
“Oh, this is so German.” I have said this a lot during my stay here. Before I came to Germany, I thought German culture could be very similar to American and Canadian ones since they are all Western cultures to a Chinese girl. I grew up in China, moved to Canada when I was 19, and started graduate school last year in Boston. I thought German culture could be very similar to the Western cultures I experienced in North America. However, Germany is unique, and I can say that there is no culture like German culture in this world.
The stereotype of Germans is serious and rigorous. It is true that Germans are very careful with their work and very efficient, but on top of that, Germans are more fun and more easy-going than what I expected. I like seeing people getting ready to chill at the Englischergarten at noon. I appreciate how people work non-stop during the day and rush to a Biergarten right after work or go hiking during the weekend. I enjoyed FC Bayern Munich’s fight song that my colleagues played for me before I went to the game; we even danced in the office. Germans really know how to balance their work and lives.
The most European thing I have done here was going to the Opera. Even though I didn’t understand what the artists sang, from their performances, I could feel their power and sorrow. When I stepped out of the Opera house, it was already 9 o’clock in the evening. The evening lights were lit at Max Josephs Platz, but it was still a little bit bright outside. Looking at the buildings with all lights on, feeling a little bit dizzy due to the wine I had, and thinking about the Opera, everything was just perfectly European.
3. Meeting New People
This study abroad experience would not have been so special if I hadn’t met those great people from the same program and from work. That was another reason why I chose to live and study in Germany for two months instead of just traveling. When I was in America, I lived with my Chinese friends who I already knew before school started. At the very beginning of the program, I still stayed in my little Asian girl group. However, after a week, I started to step out of my comfort zone, and tried to attend activities organized by our American classmates. I was afraid that I could not get involved in their conversations due to cultural differences, but even though cultural barriers exist, they didn’t stop me from having fun. I discovered many beautiful places with my friends from all over the world: beer gardens, the Isar river, the Alps, and even foreign cities like Vienna and Rome. Most importantly, I knew how people from other cultures perceive our culture, and learned to see myself from different perspectives.
Also, I work at a German PR agency, so I have a chance to interact with local people here. I am only here for a month, but everyone working at Lucy Turpin Communications made me feel like I’m part of the LTC family. Sabine likes to travel a lot. If I don’t know what to do during the weekend, I always ask Sabine, and she recommended Nürnberg and Regensburg to me. Eva is like a mom to me. She knew that I have a stomach problem, so she recommended a German tea to me and brought me Turkish yogurt that is also good for my stomach.
I want to thank everyone who made Munich a home to me in the last two months.
4. Discovering a New Me
I tried a lot of new things during this trip, and all the things I tried here helped me discover my potential. I attended a roller skating event on a Monday evening, and all the main streets were blocked for skaters. People in the car cheered for us, and pedestrians waved to us. While skating, I kept saying “Munich is so sick!” Before the event, I was very very scared about skating on the street because I didn’t know how to brake and I hadn’t skated for more than ten years. Even though I did fall on the ground every time there was a downhill slope, I felt so good after I finished 10 kilometers. I overcame the fear in my mind and I got up every time I fell. That was a success.
The other interesting thing I tried was hiking. In China, only very few people consider hiking as a sport, and we only hike in touristy places with a lot of resting areas on the way to the top. Hiking in Garmisch was a complete new experience to me because it was my first real hiking experience, and I discovered a lot of great things that I didn’t expect to see. After hiking for two hours, we came into a very open place with the greenest grass I have ever seen, surrounded by enormous mountains. Then we hiked for another two hours; we suddenly saw a huge cave in front of us. I even drank water directly from the Alps. When we were at the bottom, we saw the place that held the 1936 Winter Olympics Games. After the 6-hour hiking and a 2-hour train ride, I was exhausted, but that was the most fulfilling moment during this trip. I accomplished something that I would have never done back home, and the unexpected beautiful scenery made this experience even more precious.
It is a short summer because I never thought it could end this soon. It is also a long summer since I have gained so much, even more than what I have learned during the past few years overseas in North America. I think it is all because of the foreign friends I made here. It is definitely an extraordinary summer that I will remember, appreciate, and talk about for the rest of my life.