My initial two-week span in Germany to study the German language and culture has been an incredible and rewarding experience. This being my first time out of country (let alone on a flight), I had many thoughts of excitement and anxiety before my arrival: How would I get by living for a month in a different culture? Would the locals be welcoming or cold? Will I have fun in the short time I’ll be staying? All of my doubts and concerns completely disappeared from the first day I set foot in Germany.

My first day in Germany, Sunday the 18th, was spent navigating Munich, where I learned how to make sense of Germany’s train system and reach my hotel. Something that instantly struck me as different to America is the importance of public transportation in Germany. In the US, it seems that not much of a focus is placed on utilizing bus and rail systems. However, in Germany, these methods of transport are crucial for people to get around, and (in my American lens) are very efficient. Leaving my hotel, I embarked on a brief adventure of the city. I visited the Bavarian Statue, overlooking the now empty plaza where in September and October, Oktoberfest is held. Then, I enjoyed some lunch at a restaurant thankfully open despite it being Sunday (most establishments are closed on Sundays in Germany). Later that evening, I attended Catholic mass at the Frauenkirche, experiencing a service in another language for the first time. Altogether, it was an excellent first day and a great opening for the trip as a whole. The next day, the rest of my classmates arrived and we all enjoyed a group dinner at the famous Hofbräuhaus. It was great to finally meet the people with whom I’ll be studying and living with. After dinner, we retired to our hotel rooms to sleep and prepare for our morning bus ride to Weingarten, where we’d be staying for the duration of our trip.

Tuesday, we were up bright and early to go to Weingarten, a town situated in the southwest region of Baden-Württemberg. Here, we’d be joined by Dr. Kim Enderle, a Bama alumnus who works at the Pädagogisches Hochschule Weingarten, where we’d be studying. Wednesday, Dr. Enderle welcomed us to town with a tour of the campus and majestic St. Martin’s Basilica in which it lays. The Basilica is massive and gorgeous, the Baroque art and architecture invoking awe in all of us. Friday, Dr. Enderle took us through the neighboring city of Ravensburg, topped off with another group dinner at the Leibinger brewery. Ravensburg was full of history, architecture, and business, making it a lovely place to explore. I returned the next day to wander the huge market that was set up across town, and hiked up the hill to Veitsburg Castle to get a beautiful view of the city and surrounding landscapes, from which the Alps in the southwest were slightly visible! Taking the weekend to relax, I was able to reflect on this first week abroad with much enthusiasm and happiness. From here on, I knew I had fallen in love with Germany.

Monday the 27th, we began our classes in Weingarten, and also took the time to familiarize ourselves with our new home. We wandered the streets, absorbing new sights and sounds and getting settled in. One of my favorite things about Germany so far is the ease of shopping—one of my prior concerns, given that we are expected to provide for ourselves most of the time. Buying groceries is not only painless, but much cheaper than in America, and therefore a relief when the bill reads a significantly lower charge than you were expecting. Many of my afternoons following class have been spent in the neighborhood Kaufland, where I can purchase all of what I need for cheap prices, as well as further my German as I interact with employees. When it comes to speaking the language, I can safely say that my knowledge has been truly put to the test. Many situations force us to use what we know to get by, whether it be asking for directions, ordering in a restaurant, or hopping on the bus. Germans, however, have been incredibly patient and helpful so far in regards to some of us being rather limited in our grasp of the language. Most of them speak English, and have no problem assisting us when we can’t articulate properly what we mean in German. The locals here have proven to be extremely welcoming and kind, many of them being intrigued with America and asking all sorts of questions about where we come from. Their interest and excitement really lifted the fear of judgement off my shoulders, making me feel so much more comfortable here.

This week has been mostly free time for us students, giving us ample time to explore and see what we want for ourselves, as well as opportunities to get to know each other better. It has been good to meet others with a shared interest in German, and I feel lucky to spend this trip with such a diverse and interesting group of people. We range from all different backgrounds, majors, and levels of proficiency, but here we’re able to experience Germany and build memories together. We got together one evening this week to watch the sun set from atop the hill on which the Basilica rests, which provided an excellent view of the land below. Saturday, some of us took a group trip to Zürich, Switzerland, where we spent the day at the Kunsthaus admiring art and dining in a family-style Italian restaurant, as well as generally exploring the city and stopping to look around several shops and stores. It was an amazing city and I only wish to return again one day for an extended stay, as there was so much more I want to see.

Overall, I have had an amazing time in Germany so far. The peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of Weingarten is a welcome change from the bustle and loudness of which I am familiar with in the US. While I do miss my family and friends back home, I am happy to have gone on this trip and very fortunate for the opportunity to do so. This trip will certainly be counted among the best parts of my college experience. I have had nothing but a lovely time, and am so excited for all that is yet to come! Until then, tschüss!