Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Student reflects on Hildesheim Exchange Program

Allison Meshnick on Hildesheim

Though it may sound incredibly cliché, studying abroad in Germany was truly a life-changing experience for me. By staying the entire year, and not just studying a single semester abroad, I was able to truly immerse myself in German culture. Germany literally became home, and over time I felt less and less like a visitor or outsider and began to feel at home in my surroundings.

While there I lived with three German students. Living with natives allowed for a lot of exposure to interesting mindsets and different views of politics and cultures and opened the door for many conversations. One of my favorite memories is having long and leisurely breakfasts on the weekends while discussing the current topics in the newspaper that had been delivered that morning. Living with Germans also allowed me to learn the language much quicker than I believe I would have, had I been living alone or with other exchange students.

I was fortunate to be one of the students who went to Hildesheim during the 20th year of the program being in existence. This meant that shortly after I returned to the States, there was a reunion conference held in the end of September at UW-Stout. This was a great way to network with fellow colleagues that had previously completed the program and the perfect compliment to returning from Germany. Although virtually strangers at first, it was remarkable to witness the ease and comfort in which we could all communicate and discuss our experiences, regardless of how far apart we were in age, or when we completed the program. It was so interesting for me to hear different perspectives from those who had completed the program long before me, and to see where they were currently and how it had affected their lives.

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