Being Brave Abroad

Madelaine Griesel
August 25, 2019
Maximilian Park Bridge in Freiburg

I had the opportunity to visit some friends in northern Germany before I start my semester-long program in Freiburg, in southern Germany. For the last week, I’ve visited many beautiful places, eaten lots of bread, and listened to many people speak German.

I realized I would be surrounded by people speaking German for the next four months as I waited in the airport for my transatlantic flight. I know, it’s a little bit late to have that realization in the airport. I first heard a family speaking German to each other as I was waiting at the ticketing counter and when I got to my gate, almost everyone was speaking German. I was excited to be able to understand words and phrases from their conversations, but I also realized how unprepared I was. My heart was racing with nervousness as I worked up the courage to order a coffee on the plane.

It’s easy to tell myself that I haven’t practiced my German enough or studied for a long enough time. I tend to stumble over my words or feel uncomfortable speaking even in English. I strive to push through my discomfort and adopt a willingness to try speaking German, even while making mistakes. I know I will fluctuate between nervousness and a brave attitude, since speaking German or any foreign language can be scary but worthwhile and even fun! I’ve made a set of flash-cards with words I’ve learned here so far and one of my favorites is Fangfrisher Fische, which means “fresh-caught fish” but feels like a tongue-twister.

Often when I try to be brave, even with simply ordering a coffee, I recall one of my favorite quotes from the movie We Bought a Zoo—“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage […] And I promise you, something great will come of it.” This quote inspires me to put aside thoughts of what could go wrong, and instead focus on the idea that my actions during a few moments could lead to an outcome even better than I can imagine.

It is life-changing to decide to live in an unfamiliar country for an extended period of time. Each person who makes this decision returns with a different worldview and view of themselves. These changes don’t happen immediately but occur through every experience of learning a new culture and produce small shifts in perspective by speaking a new language, trying new food, and getting to know new people. I’ll try to keep that in mind as I experience culture shock, a language barrier, and anxiety while figuring out public transportation! 

I'll continue to be brave even in the small, seemingly insignificant moments, because those decisions will lead to a more rewarding experience. And I'll continue to be nervous about speaking German, but I'll try anyway!

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Madelaine Griesel

<p>I am a physics major at Trinity University with a strong interest in environmental studies. Some specific passions of mine are listening to classical music when it’s raining, the colors of the New Mexico desert, and having a cup of Earl Grey tea in the morning.</p>

Home University:
Trinity University
Albuquerque, NM
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