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Four Months and Four Things That I’m Grateful For

May 18, 2019

I am grateful for the trips that I went on. I visited numerous countries for the first time—these countries were, in the order that I travelled to them: Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Each and every country that I visited offered a new insight into the continent and was unique in its own way, regardless of whether I travelled to it as part of my program or on my own time. Even visits to countries that I had already been to in the past—namely Germany, Poland, France, and Greece—allowed me to gain a fresh perspective on the political, economic, social, and environmental issues that each country faced. The diversity and differences in the ten countries that I travelled to during the past four months have really broadened my understanding of Europe and European affairs—one of the main reasons I chose this study abroad program in the first place. Because of all the travelling that I did this past semester, I have officially travelled to thirty different countries over the course of my entire life. 

I am grateful for the classes that I had and the professors who taught them. Many of these classes were on topics that I knew little about at the start of the semester. I knew little about the EU’s policies back in January; now, I have substantial knowledge regarding the breath and depth of the EU’s various policies and policy areas. I knew little about the Black Sea region at the start of the program; now, I have written four short papers about various aspects of the Black Sea region. I knew little about human rights and was uncertain about taking a class on the topic at the start semester; now, I have written a sixteen-page paper on human rights violations in the Philippines and have gained significant insight into the past, present, and future of the global human rights regime. I am also grateful to my major advisor at Bowdoin who encouraged me to take this human rights class in the first place, on the basis that a class on human rights was unlikely to be offered at Bowdoin. Beyond my electives, I am also grateful for my integrative seminar and German class, which provided just the right amount of academic freedom. As biased as I may be, I highly recommend taking the classes that I did to any future participants of the IES Abroad European Union program

I am grateful for the friends that I made and the time that I spent with them. There are experiences from this program that I will never forget, and it is thanks to the people that I spent them with that I will remember them. These experiences include bonding over environmental policy and lamenting the unavailability of the environmental policy class with other environmental studies majors at the start of the program; enjoying a good meal with people in the Fizz; visiting comic book museums in Basel and Brussels and admiring the beautiful original art; enduring a seven hour bus-ride from Brussels back to Freiburg rife with off-pitch karaoke; staying up all night to go to Basel to see the Carnival of Basel; going to the world-famous Széchenyi thermal bath in Budapest; being stuffed from the platters at the farewell dinner in Sofia; socialising with students from the Environmental Studies and Language Studies programs; annoying my classmates in model EU by vetoing policy proposals; and much, much more. 

I am grateful for this program. This was the only study abroad program that I was ever seriously considering as it fulfilled most of what I was looking for in a study abroad program. Given that this will probably be the only semester in which I study away from Bowdoin, I couldn’t have asked for a better one. 

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