I subscribe to the theory of yearly themes. A yearly theme is a looser and broader New Year’s Resolution that can be used as a guiding force for decisions made throughout the year.
The Year of Adventure
My theme for 2019 was The Year of Adventure. I am nearing the end of my college experience and wanted to focus on gaining new experiences. The Year of Adventure was meant to be a focus on trying things that were unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
As part of this search for adventure, I ended up applying to study abroad. Not just study abroad, but I wanted to go to a country that was unlike my previous experiences. This meant no English speaking countries and no Asian countries. I landed on going to Germany. Their culture was different from what I grew up in and the program offered a language course that would help me learn the basics of German.
Making New Friends
One of the greatest parts of studying abroad is the people you meet. For the most part, everyone was happy to meet me and were supportive of my attempts to use German. When my attempts inevitably failed, we usually could fall back on English. This fit in with my Year of Adventure in that I was expanding my social skills by interacting with lots of new people who were very different from my friends back home. They were raised in different states and countries and were interested in very different topics.
In the beginning, you first meet with other students from the USA. These people come from very different backgrounds than the people I would usually meet in classes. In my computer science courses, I would only meet computer science majors. This typically meant they have a similar background and interests as me. Through the program, I met students who were in different majors like business or political science and vastly different backgrounds than myself.
After classes started, I had the opportunity to meet and befriend other students. While it was stressful at first, most European students seemed to be interested in talking to American students. The most popular topic was American politics. While it can be hard to approach people when you don’t share a primary language, a lot of the courses were taught in English, so the students were fluent or near fluent in English. I can’t say this is the case for all study abroad programs, but I would assume if courses are offered in English, the student body would be well versed in English.
The other way I stretched myself was in the courses I took. I took Philosophy of Time and Financial Accounting Around the World. I had never taken a finance course before or a philosophy course, so I was exposing myself to two brand new fields that I was vaguely interested in. The courses were interesting and gave me some insights into how decisions were made and the thought process that many computer scientists would likely follow.
I wouldn’t let the subject matter prevent you from studying abroad. I believe that it is good to take courses outside of your major. Innovation happens when ideas from two different fields meet and create something new.
Experiences are what make us all unique from one another. My entire year of 2019 was dedicated to trying new experiences in order to really help define who I am and what I’ll be doing after college. I won’t say that studying abroad magically changed my life or who I am as a person, but the experience of studying abroad can’t help but contribute to who I am as I person in the long run. Everything we do shapes us, and studying abroad is no different. It is a unique experience that I would encourage any individual to pursue if they have the chance.
-Cooper Le, Exchange at Philipps-Universität Marburg, Spring 2019