Improving Day-by-Day During a Semester Away

Ali DeGuide
April 27, 2015
View from the Glass Dome at the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany

I'm currently taking a break from my Easter Break trip posts because I’m so excited about how my semester here is progressing that I really feel the need to share.

These past few weeks have been so crazy and stressful yet fun and exciting at the same time, and it’s quite difficult to believe that I’m already two months in. My German has gotten substantially better, and I can actually feel it improving day after day. At first I didn’t notice any improvement in my grammar, but I began to feel more confident about speaking to people. I progressed from using short, terse sentences designed simply to get a point across to having real conversations with people, albeit lasting only short periods of time. I also got a few speaking partners, and sitting with one of them for an hour made me realize that what terrified me at the beginning, having a conversation with someone in German, is now something I find enjoyable. I guess learning a language is kind of like watching a baby grow up: you watch as the child goes from crawling around to walking, and each small milestone is a huge celebration. You’re busy teaching the child to talk and to read, until one day you turn around and realize that the child is 18 and going off to college.

Granted, I’ve never raised a child, so I have no idea if it’s actually similar to what I’m experiencing. All I know is that one day I was learning the German alphabet and attempting to discern the difference between “a” and “ä”, and now I’m taking an Economics class in German at Humboldt Universität in Berlin. There's already been quite an improvement from my first week in the aforementioned class, where I struggled just to understand what was happening. I spent most of the the time trying to figure out what the professor had said and didn’t interpret much of it until I went home and studied it later. Today, I graduated from being a mere observer to an actual participant, since I understood enough of what was going on to ask a legitimate question.

My academic experiences are not the only place where I see my language skills improve by leaps and bounds. In fact, I just got home from my Brazilian dance class about an hour ago where I’m learning how to “Forró”. Last week I couldn’t answer any questions posed to me in English while I was dancing, let alone any in German, without stepping on my partner’s feet. This week, I had a full conversation and only got stepped on once.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have to be in Berlin, and I can’t believe how much it’s affected me already. I can’t wait to come back at the end of the semester and see how I’ve grown in other facets of my life as well. Maybe I’ll be a more independent and confident person as well as proficient in German.

And, if nothing else, I’ll look back and smile at the fact that the other day, while on the phone with my roommates, I forgot the English word for “stroller”. All I could think of was “Kinderwagen, Kinderwagen, Kinderwagen!”

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Ali DeGuide

<p>My name is Ali, and I&#39;m a Political Economy major at the University of Southern California (Trojans!). &nbsp;Ever since I was a little kid and found out that there was such a thing as &quot;study abroad&quot;, I dreamed about doing it. &nbsp;I&#39;d stare at the famous Midwestern cornfields and wonder what it would take to go see the world. &nbsp;I loved the idea of picking up and leaving everything, even if it was only for a short while. &nbsp;Now, I&#39;m living the dream and studying abroad in Berlin, Germany.</p>

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