Today is my 47th day being back home in Pennsylvania after I was instructed to leave Germany due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm still taking classes every day with IES Abroad, and I even have a virtual tour of the Swiss Alps tomorrow morning. While this isn't how I imagined my semester going, I'm still grateful for the memories and friends I made abroad.
German semesters start much later than other countries, as their spring semester doesn't start until April. Given this, I did not arrive in Freiburg until the end of February, at the same time that COVID-19 was infiltrating Europe. Upon arrival in Freiburg, we were instructed not to leave the region, as no one was really sure what was going to happen regarding the virus. While this was disheartening in the sense that I couldn't travel to all the places on my bucket list, it forced me to really get to know Freiburg and the people I was studying with. In the end, it may have been a blessing in disguise.
As all of the IES Abroad students were instructed to remain within city limits, we found ourselves growing very close very quickly. We were all determined to make the best of a bad situation. We would get up early for class, and go hiking after until it was time for dinner. Apartments often ate together, and on the weekends most of us would go to the local Munstermarkt and then find a new place to explore until it was time to eat again. We spent every available hour exploring the city and the forest around it. We spent every day in Freiburg like it was our last day in Freiburg, and in the end, some really close and lifelong friendships formed in a matter of weeks.
While I don’t have an entire semester to be grateful for, I definitely have an abundance of happy memories to keep me occupied during this quarantine. Here are some of my highlights:
- On our first group hike, some kids saw snow for the first time;
- On the aforementioned hike, we had a day-long snowball fight and I can't remember the last time I had that much fun in the snow;
- Every morning my friends and I would gather for coffee before class in one of our rooms;
- City-wide composting
- My friends and I tried every cake we could get our hands on in Freiburg;
- Finding children's boats and rainboots in the Bächle;
- Extremely inexpensive food in restaurants and grocery stores;
- I began, and am continuing, to learn a new language;
- My Housing Tutor was one of the funniest people I've ever met;
- Late-night card games as we digested our potatoes;
- People were so friendly and patient with me as I struggled with a new language;
- Learning about sustainability from a country that values renewable energy;
- Every night felt better than the last;
- I met, and still communicate with daily, some of my best friends;
- Every day abroad my new home gave me a reason to smile.
Although leaving Germany only three weeks into my semester abroad was the wurst, it's still an adventure I'll never forget. To all those considering studying abroad: Do it. No matter how long you're there for, you'll truly have the time of your life. Even as someone who had their trip cut extremely short, I don't regret it at all.
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<p>Originally from rural Pennsylvania, I'm currently a third-year at Emory University studying Environmental Sciences and minoring in Sustainability. I'm really excited to spend a semester in Germany's sunniest and most sustainable city! Hiking and camping have always been passions of mine, so I'm ready to go explore Europe!</p>