Name: Kaitlyn Montgomery
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Clarkston, MI
Program: German Language and Culture in Mayen (Germany); Summer 2011
My study abroad experience was simply life-changing; to say that it was different than studying on campus is an understatement. Living and learning in a whole new environment immersed in the German language was a new challenge. Although I had traveled to Germany before, living there, & especially learning there, was a totally different experience. My academic pursuits were enhanced because I was entirely focused on learning more about German language and culture daily. On a personal level, I became more aware of my needs in order to better my skills in the German language, and on a non-academic note, I discovered more about myself. I learned more about my own accent and German slang, which I felt really improved my ability to communicate with German native speakers and my fellow students. My host mother and the other Germans I met improved my knowledge and appreciation of German culture simply by showing instead of telling. We were always well included into daily German life and were always appreciated because of our interest in their culture.
My story relates to other students because I am just another person interested in the great big world out there. There are always new cultures and languages to discover, and study abroad will take you there if you are only willing to reach out and learn. Don’t just imagine yourself in my shoes—do it! Study abroad will be a vital player in making the person you truly are come alive. Not only can you study and learn more, but the life experience truly is irreplaceable. Others will be interested in what you have done—I have been home a week, & still I receive all kinds of questions about my journey (both educational and personal) as a study abroad student in Germany. People are always interested in travel, and will be especially interested in hearing how someone they knew dealt with living and learning in a new environment. It also makes for one amazing story when someone asks how your summer went! As for the academic aspect of your experience, the knowledge you receive studying abroad simply cannot be learned in an on-campus classroom. Studying abroad provides you with new language and cultural knowledge that you would have never learned back in East Lansing simply because it comes from the host culture itself!
Although it is very fun to travel around when studying abroad, take time to stay in the area. Really get to know your host family, they provide you with the most insight into the host culture and can be a real help on days where you may be feeling down. Also remember that you are there for your studies; it’s always important to keep an eye on your school work and make sure that it comes first when everything around you seems far more exciting. I felt that living and learning in Mayen, Germany was the perfect fit for a first time study abroad experience. The city was not too big, but it was also not so small that it was boring. Mayen fully immersed me in German language and culture because it was not a big city with many people that spoke English, and because I had the fortune of living with my eighty year old host mother who encouraged and helped me grow in my knowledge of her language and culture.
The past two and a half years were very difficult for my family as my father had been out of work. Thanks to scholarships such as the ones I received from Thomas and Brigitte Huff and the Office of Study Abroad, this experience was made possible for me. I am very grateful to those who have made this experience possible to a girl they don’t even know. All I can say is that you have truly changed my life by making this experience a part of my life. Not only have I learned more about German language and culture, I discovered so much more about who I am as a person during this summer study abroad experience, and I was able to reflect more on what I want to achieve as a student of Michigan State University. Thank you for this opportunity, you have no idea how much it has meant to me.