Arriving back in America was a great feeling. Knowing that I could communicate effortlessly with everyone was very comforting. I did iss some of the German food and culture, and of course the friends that I made abroad.
My study abroad experience has taught me to simply be more calm. If I can go to another country and survive pretty much on my own, then I can get throug h whatever it is that I have on my plate. That kind of diversity and adversity training that I received abroad is very applicable to most things back home.
My closest friends have noticed changes in my work style, and I have too. I don’t ever want to work 9-5 in a cubicle at a computer for the rest of my life. My perspective on the 8 hour work day has also changed because of my time abroad. Most people who work 9-5 aren’t in fact working the whole time. There’s Facebook and shopping and anything else you can do on the internet to distract you from your work. I would much rather work hard for 5-6 hours and then go home and go outside, or enjoy my hobbies.
Traveling across America after I returned back from Germany really made me realize how lucky Germany is to have large public transportation. Trains in America aren’t very practical, but the subway systems and transportation in most American cities leave something to be desired (Dc Metro). Germany is fantastic for transportation, but probably for the wrong reasons. The second world war caused Germany to expand their transportation systems for the movement of troops throughout the country as efficiently as possible. This caused high speed and high capacity rail systems to be created as well as the Autobahn. Since America has thankfully never had a war at home, the need for those types of transportation possibilities doesn’t exist. We do however have the Eisenhower Interstate System across the U.S., but the most efficient way to travel in America is either by car or by plane.
I was fortunate to not have very serious reverse culture shock, but some glaring differences were the cost of living and the health of the people.
Germany is a country with pretty socialist ideals (universal healthcare, etc.), but the cost of living there is just dirt cheap. I rented a student apartment IN the city for only about $400 a month. Compare that with housing in Tuscaloosa that is easily $500 a month around campus, and Tuscaloosa isn’t even that large of a city. Basic groceries are also not expensive.
The people in Germany are required to walk more often because most people take public transportation and don’t drive as much. In America, a car is required to survive, so in daily life, Americans could walk maybe a mile, while Germans could walk between 2 and 3 in a day. Germans however would probably smoke all of those 2-3 miles, so maybe they aren’t that much healthier.
My advice for future students is to make sure you know the language before you go, go with a large group of students, and make sure to explore more! You can learn much more exploring countries than you can in a classroom. Oh and don’t forget to have fun!
(The title is because I left my computer at security in Germany. I got it back a month later.)