I spent six weeks studying German language and culture with MSU professors and living with a host family in Mayen, Germany. I'm entering my second year at MSU as a double-major in physics and advanced mathematics with a minor in German, so studying abroad allowed me to take upper-level German courses without overloading my schedule. Thanks to this program, my German skills improved greatly and I can look forward to completing my minor during the fall 2015 semester.
Beyond the obvious benefits of course credit and improving my German skills, this opportunity had huge effects on me personally. My mother was born and raised in Germany, and until now I never had the money to afford a program abroad and experience German culture firsthand. There were so many simple things about my experience abroad that were thrilling just because it felt like home: walking into grocery stores to see the food my mom always imported, showing my fellow classmates how to cook traditional German dishes (with the aforementioned food, naturally), and watching television in German were a few of my many simple pleasures overseas. More than that, I was able to meet my mother's aunt and uncle for the first time.
Meeting my mother's family and being surrounded by German culture allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my identity as an American by birth and German by heritage. Although I'm still the same person, my experience in Germany did make me feel like I have a better grasp on who I am and how I fit into the world. The program was worthwhile for that alone.
I was able to pay for the program in full with scholarships. As a result, I was able to afford a four-week extension to my stay abroad so I could enjoy even more of Germany and visit other European countries. During a total of ten weeks in Europe I visited Cologne, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Paris, and more with a little creative budgeting—lots of cooking my own food, couch-surfing, and rail passes for a total expenditure of about 12 Euros per day. It's a program I'll never forget.