12 Weeks of 17: My Abroad Experience so Far..

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Johannes Ong
April 2, 2024

So, at this point, I have been in Freiburg, Germany, for 12 weeks now, with only 5 weeks to go. That being said, in this blog, I want to talk about what I have learned so far and what this experience has been for me. Things such as adjustment, loneliness, and stress are all items I would use to describe studying abroad. That being said, there is so much positive to reflect on. Studying abroad is no joke and can be quite difficult, yet the person you meet on the other side is all worth the while. 


As a native Californian, I was attacked by the frigid cold and nasty weather of Freiburg and Europe in general. While something minor, the lack of sun had a heavy effect on my mood and happiness here in Freiburg. Not to mention the language barrier, living in a different culture, and lack of regular routines. That being said, what I’ve come away with is resilience and adaptability, which have made me confident in my ability to care for and provide for myself. Something I didn't know I was looking for but am so thankful to have found. 


POV: You have just been traveling for close to a full day, and with no way back, you are stranded 5 or maybe even 6,000 miles from your home and anybody you know. Calling home and friends often helps, but it is no substitute for what is in front of you. While difficult, this has been one of the factors that I feel has helped me grow the most. Learning to make new friends and push yourself out of your comfort zone will only help you grow in the end. Things get better! Now, in the future, I know what it's like to not have your people with you all the time, and that’s okay! It takes guts to even try.


Finally, I would like to mention stress. What’s stressful, you ask? Everything! One cannot overstate the stress of everyday tasks in a foreign country. Shopping for groceries becomes a scavenger hunt as familiar brands are replaced with foreign labels, and simple things like asking for directions can become daunting due to the language barrier. Traveling, too, transforms from a routine commute to a navigation challenge amidst a labyrinth of new streets and transport systems. But it is precisely these challenges that sharpen one's problem-solving skills and resourcefulness. Every task accomplished, every small victory over the everyday, adds up to profound personal growth. Stress, in this context, is not just an obstacle but a catalyst for development. It forces you out of the cocoon of comfort and propels you into a state of continuous learning and self-improvement.


In summary, my time in Freiburg has been a mosaic of emotions and experiences. I've grappled with the cold, navigated loneliness, and faced the stress of the unfamiliar with each passing day. However, these trials have not been without their rewards. I've developed resilience in the face of adversity, fostered new friendships in place of solitude, and learned to savor the thrill of conquering daily stresses. As I reflect on the past 12 weeks and look ahead to the final 5, I am filled with a sense of anticipation for the person I will be when I step back onto California soil. The transformation is palpable—I'm not the same person who left those familiar shores. I carry with me the marks of a journey that has been arduous yet illuminating, lonely yet enriching, stressful yet profoundly transformative. So, for those considering a study abroad experience or any endeavor that takes you out of your depth, embrace it. The challenges you'll face are real, but the growth you'll experience is beyond measure. In the end, you'll find that every step, every misstep, and every leap of faith is a stitch in the fabric of a richer, more vibrant tapestry of life. Studying abroad is not just an academic pursuit—it's a journey of self-discovery, and I am testament to the incredible change it can bring.

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Johannes Ong headshot

Johannes Ong

Hello! I'm Jo, an economics student at Pomona College, originally from New York and later a CA San Diegan since the age of 11. I love to run and am excited about the program!

2024 Spring
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