When Opportunity Strikes: Adapting to Uncertainty Abroad

Headshot of Sydney Braun.
Sydney Braun
April 23, 2023
The river Spree and blue skies with Berlin's TV Tower in the distance

Before going abroad, I didn’t do well with uncertainty. I wasn’t exactly inflexible, but I liked having a plan, a timeline, and a reliable sense of what is coming. Many times when I was faced with an unexpected change, whether it be a delayed flight or a college rejection letter, it was accompanied by a large amount of anxiety. However, in coming to Berlin, I realized that my mentality toward uncertainty had to change. I was going to be in a new environment and new culture surrounded by new people, and without learning to manage my anxiety in uncertain and unexpected situations, I knew my study abroad experience would not reach its full potential.

This weekend, my acceptance that there are things out of my control and my ability to cope with uncertainty were put to the test. I was to go on an IES Abroad-sponsored trip to Munich, and I had been excited for this trip and had the dates marked on my calendar since before I arrived in Germany to begin with. Unfortunately, not all went according to plan: our train was canceled due to a rail strike! Luckily, IES Abroad was able to book another train that was going to leave a few hours later. Phew. But when I woke up the morning of the trip, I learned that the new train had also been canceled and was told to stand by and check my email later in the day to see if we would actually end up making it to Munich.

Though I was very disappointed, it was sunny and warm outside, and I was not going to let the unfortunate news that I woke up to ruin this beautiful day for me. I texted a friend and we decided to meet for lunch and try a new Mexican restaurant—Mexican food is something that my friend and I have been missing since coming to Berlin! We had a delicious and filling lunch that was followed by an impromptu walk during one of our first warm, sunny days in the city. Midway through our exploring, we received an email: the Munich trip was on, and we would be leaving Berlin at 8:30 pm! This was obviously exciting for both of us, but we continued our walk for as long as possible before going to get our packed bags and meet the rest of the IES Abroad group at the train station.

Had I let my anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the trip hold me back, I would have wasted a beautiful day sitting in my apartment and worrying. Instead, I was able to spend quality time with a friend, check out some parts of the city I hadn’t been to before, enjoy the outdoors, and, though later than originally scheduled, end up going to Munich like I had anticipated! Naturally, I still prefer an agenda that goes as planned. However, studying abroad, traveling more, and having daily experiences that increase my open mindedness have helped me learn to be able to manage my anxiety in these uncertain situations. I may not like having to deal with things out of my control, but I have a renewed confidence that by having the right attitude and being open to flexibility, everything will work out in the end. 

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Headshot of Sydney Braun.

Sydney Braun

I am a junior at the University of Michigan and am double-majoring in Environment and Communication and Media (Class of 2024). I’m from Brookeville, Maryland, and apart from writing and blogging, I love music, playing the guitar, drawing, learning, and exploring new places. My passion for advocating for the environment as well as my interest in the culture and history of Berlin led me to this study abroad experience, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with you!

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Environmental Studies
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