I would do it all again.

Kiara Paninos
April 9, 2020

Getting the email that my IES Abroad program was suspended was surreal. I knew other programs were being canceled around the world, but that would never happen to me, right? I told myself that it’s probably not a for sure thing, they’ll probably give us some sort of option. It couldn’t all be over after just three weeks of what was supposed to be a four-month program. I went over to my friend’s apartment and we slowly came to the heart-wrenching realization that the email was very straightforward. There was no gray-area. We had to be out of our apartments by a certain date, and we had to say goodbye to Freiburg.

For three weeks I had felt so lucky to be in such a cool city. For three weeks Freiburg exceeded my expectations and I was feeling at home. I bonded with my flatmates and I made amazing friendships with the people in my program. And then suddenly I caught myself wishing that I didn’t love it so much, because then perhaps the goodbyes would not be so incredibly painful.

I know that having this experience cut short does not compare to the many horrible things others must endure during this pandemic. I get to be home with my family and my dog and watch tv between my online classes. My family is healthy and I will still get the credits that I need to graduate on time. But it’s still okay to be sad about it. I think that it is important for me to acknowledge my privilege here, but also ignoring the things that make me sad does not help at all. I lost a big part of a valuable opportunity to learn and grow in a really fantastic city. I had been planning and saving money for this semester for so long and I already really miss the people I connected with. I am heartbroken about how this all ended, but the more I really reflect on it all, the more I realize that if I could do it all over again (painful ending and all), I would. During my short time there I experienced so much that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

My last day in Germany ended up being pretty special - I went to the Münster Market one last time, had a traditional German meal, bought some souvenirs, and then got some ice cream with my flatmates. We joked and laughed and talked about nice things. We all made some Flammkuchen together one last time and I remember feeling so warm and happy with these friends that had been strangers to me so recently. There are so many memories from my time abroad that I will always hold very close, and this day is definitely on that list. I am grateful that I got to see the seepark and figure out the (amazing) public transportation. I am grateful that I got to eat so much delicious food with some truly stellar people and improve my German. I am grateful that Avatar the Last Airbender was on German Netflix and that there are people looking out for my wellbeing in this crazy world. Thank you Freiburg, and thank you to all the people who made my time there so wonderful. I know I will see you again one day!

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Kiara Paninos

<p>My name is Kiara Paninos and I am a Junior German Studies major at Whitman College! I originally hail from rural Wyoming. I love it out there in the wilderness, but I got a bit tired of the three other people from my home state so I am embarking out to see the rest of the world! I am a big fan of meeting new people and learning new things. I also love being creative and I excel at pushing through awkward social interactions of my own creation.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Whitman College
Banner, WY
German Language
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