A year of living bravely
December 20, 2012 Leave a comment
A month or so ago, we featured a story about JMU senior Morgan Robinson. Here’s another installment of her Study Abroad experience; this one in her own words……
Lessons Learned from a Year Abroad
by Morgan Robinson (’13)
„Zwei Dinge sollen Kinder von ihren Eltern bekommen: Wurzeln und Flügel.“ ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
“There are two things Children should get from their parents: Roots and Wings” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
After spending a year abroad I can truly attest to the above statement – and my parents have done a great job applying it. A year abroad will no doubt change a person. Spread your wings to embrace the endless opportunities presented and as you learn to live in a foreign city and recognize your roots at home.
I spent just shy of a full year living in Munich, Germany. I say living rather than studying because a study abroad experience is so much more than actual studying; it’s living like you’ve never lived before. Living abroad will absolutely leave you asking yourself ‘is this real life?’ on so many occasions. Hopping on planes to some exotic location for weekend trips, taking advantage of the incredibly rich culture — $10 world-class operas, yes please! — and connecting with people from all over the world never gets old. But it’s not all glam. As Americans we are used to a pretty cushy lifestyle; foreign bureaucracy can be quite stressful and the culture shock and at least a bit of homesickness is bound to happen. You are pretty much independent — you pay your own bills, make your own plans, deal with consequences all on your own; you learn a whole lot about yourself and learn some serious real-world-relevant lessons.
I went to Germany through the Junior Year in Munich Program and the DAAD scholarship. I lived in student apartments in the city and studied German, French and Norwegian at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. I quickly fell in love with Munich and all of Bavaria. I experienced the organized chaos that is Oktoberfest, loved every minutes of the Christmas Markets (I don’t know what I’ll do without Glühwein!), and the majestic castles and landscape of the region never ceased to amaze me. I love the language and found the Bavarian dialect oddly charming. My schedule allowed for a great deal of traveling; I made it to 11 countries over the year and became quite a savvy traveler! I learned from experience the right and wrong ways to pack a suitcase, how to book tickets and that it is a good idea to always bring a Lonely Planet book to get the most out of a trip. I had an incredible year. It far exceeded any expectations.
In my experience, it was the year in Munich that really taught me the incredible value of home. I went to Europe with the mindset that I could possibly live there full-time. The inner-Euro girl in me came out big time and I found myself wondering if I’d like to live in the cities I visited, more often than not that answer was yes. After that initial excitement of the first months in Europe faded I began to realize that expat status would be really difficult. I am not necessarily a home-body but no way I could ever get used to the idea of starting a family 3000 miles away from my home in Virginia, and of course I’d miss living in the good ole U.S. of A! Being away for so long made me realize all I had to appreciate at home and how important family is to me. I think this was probably the most valuable lesson I learned.
I absolutely advise spending time abroad. I think, ideally, everyone that can should spend at least a year abroad. It arms you with experience that gives you a real can-do attitude, challenging you to follow your dreams and get the most out of life. I was a little worried about what I might miss at home over the year, but the things I got to do and the priceless life-lessons I learned made it so worth it.
I am a senior this year and will be graduating in May with a degree in Modern Foreign Languages (German and French). I had originally planned on graduate school for literature and eventually pursuing a career in academia, but I changed plans and will be going back to Europe. This time I plan to go to Paris, to attend Le Cordon Bleu to study both culinary and pastry arts for about a year. This is a very exciting move; I am definitely looking forward to spending more time in Europe and following my dreams at culinary school.