My year in Germany
Arts student spends one year studying abroad, encourages others to explore the possibilities
Have you ever considered studying abroad? Timm Giessbrecht turned his dream into a reality spending a full year in Germany. We asked Timm, a student in the Faculty of Arts, to share his story of travel and learning (about his area of study AND himself) to inspire others to consider a term (or more) in one of over 40 available countries. If you have ever considered studying abroad, we encourage you to meet with an exchange advisor to get started on your exciting journey.
I am currently working toward a double major in Spanish and German Studies with a focus on second language acquisition as well as literature and culture. My enthusiasm for foreign languages has always existed somewhere inside of me. Ever since my final year of elementary school, I have dabbled in this or that language, learning a few phrases here and a new alphabet there. However,
my interest in seriously studying to be able to really communicate in more than one language is really thanks to my high school foreign language teachers who managed to develop my fascination into a true passion. The Faculty of Arts is a perfect place to pursue this as they offer a seemingly endless number of language and culture courses.
I had also always been highly interested in studying abroad for a semester or maybe even two (NOTE: you do not need to be a language major or even speak another language to study abroad as many universities offer various courses in English). The only thing holding me back was the financial side of going abroad as I felt that did not have nearly enough money saved up for such an extensive undertaking.
Fortunately, I found out about several scholarships that I could apply for to cover the costs of my international exchange to Germany and as it so happened, I managed to receive an undergraduate scholarship from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service). This allowed me to study at the University of Greifswald, a partner university of the U of M in Greifswald, Germany, for two semesters. Both the process of applying to the exchange program and the scholarship application started almost a year before the actual exchange took place. It all seemed like quite a bit of paperwork at the time. However, Dr. Alexandra Heberger was there every step of the way to help with the application for the scholarship as well as answering all the questions I had about the exchange in general.
Studying in Germany has truly been one of my favourite university experiences so far and is something that I will always look back on as the exciting adventure that it was. During my year abroad, I got to know many awesome people and experience different cultures, traditions and different ways of living and thinking (also, let us not forget about the amazing food). In addition, it was a great opportunity for me to discover and learn things about myself I had not known before. For example, living away from home has helped me to grow more independent and has made me realize how much potential I really have when I step out of my comfort zone.
Whenever I had a break from classes, I took the opportunity to travel around Germany and to other parts of Europe, like Italy. One of the most exciting adventures I had was hiking up Mount
Vesuvius, an active volcano, with a friend I had met at the University of Greifswald. Looking over the beautiful Italian coast once we had arrived at the top of the volcano was amazing. It was a simply awe-inspiring view that had me appreciating the beauty of our planet… and, the nice breeze up there (especially after hiking up a few kilometers to the crater in crazy heat).
Aside from discovering new places in my free time, studying in Greifswald has been very beneficial to my degree. It gave me the chance to take several German Studies courses that different than those available at the U of M. I had a course load of four classes per semester. Some of the courses focused on the acquisition of German as a second language and its didactic consequences, while others were about the history of the German language and how it evolved into the language spoken by over 90 million native speakers today.
I am now in the final year of my B.A. and I might take a year off after I graduate. I do plan to continue studying and pursue a degree in education. That way I get a chance to, in the future, inspire students to learn another language because it truly does open doors to whole a new world. Furthermore, learning a new language, though it may take time, is something you will never regret because it is simply extremely useful in your personal as well as professional life.
If you are a student considering a travel exchange, my advice is: Go for it! It might seem daunting at first to leave behind everyone and everything you know, but it is a time you will always look back on and think of as one of the most rewarding adventures in your life. If you have any questions about a travel exchange, just get in contact with the International Centre at the U of M or visit the Exchange Advisor at the Faculty of Arts Student Services Office. They are ready to answer your questions or concerns and they do a great job of preparing you for the exchange before you go abroad.