My Study Abroad Goals: A Review

Hi, my name is Sammy and last spring I studied abroad in Lüneburg, Germany. Before I left I shared three study abroad goals for my trip on my blog, you can read more on those here. After returning from my study abroad, I decided to reflect on whether I accomplished what I set out to do (because #accountability).

Goal One: Language Acquisition

A picture of a German book
The Tell-Tale Heart in German; I wish I picked it up!

My plan was to use my classes and outside exposure to boost my language skills. My track classes were mostly review for me – but the hard things, like prepositions and adjective endings (literally the two worst concepts). Myths and Legends was also a fun course! The material was easier in the beginning, as I was more familiar with it in English (Greek mythology). It got harder as I became less familiar (Norse).

I also improved through outside exposure. My host parents spoke to me in German the majority of the time, and while I usually could understand them, replying was always difficult. Sometimes I didn’t have the vocabulary, or it would take me a few minutes to articulate my thoughts. My host parents were really encouraging when I spoke German, often complimenting me on my sentence structure. I sometimes watched TV with them in the evening, either a German show or something dubbed, such as The Last Jedi and Sherlock. I miss having German Netflix at my fingertips (its Marvel movies selection is amazing!). I also bought the first Percy Jackson book in German; I’m about halfway through.

There are two things I wish I had have taken advantage of – tutoring and tandem partners. Two of the USAC professors offered weekly tutoring and you could ask for help with anything. Over my years of learning German, I’ve had questions that haven’t been taught in a classroom. Tutoring would’ve been a great way to get answers. I also tried having a tandem partner – that is, meeting with a German student for an hour, speaking German for half the time and English for the other. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out; our schedules didn’t line up well. I could have asked for a new partner, but I never did.

I’m amazed at how quickly German became second nature to me. While in France and when I first arrived home, I wanted to say pleasantries (hello, goodbye please, thank you, excuse me, etc.) in German. This trip has shown me how much German I really do know, which has encouraged me. Fluency may not be as a lofty of study abroad goals as I once thought!

Goal Two: Make New Friends

A group of USAC students who are partaking in German Language class during a study abroad in Luneburg, Germany
My track class (missing a few + a couple extra) with our professor Cajetan

I wanted to finish this program with friends from the States and abroad. I’d say this study abroad goal was about 60% accomplished. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for better group of students (Track 3, I miss you!!). Practically everyone got along, and we looked out for one another. I became good friends with a few students and still keep in regular contact. I met many German and international students; however, I can’t really claim them as my friends personally, like I hoped. Those who did have better international friends were often roommates with them, met them while out on the town (my nights out were few and far in between), or they became good friends with their tandem partner. I did get along well with my host family – they have already invited me to stay with them again!

Goal Three: Increased Independence + Self-Confidence

A picture of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin from a student during a field trip to Berlin during study abroad in Luneburg, Germany
I loved the Brandenburg Gate even more the second time

The day before and the day of my departure, I was so scared to leave that I didn’t want to. However, once there, I kept thinking over and over again, “Wow, I’m so glad I did this;” “This has been the greatest decision ever;” “I’m so happy/grateful/excited.” There is truly nothing like studying abroad; I learned so much – more than just academically. I faced my fears: flying alone isn’t as scary as I thought (though it’s nice to have a friend) and navigating public transportation quickly becomes second nature. I didn’t leave my house the first weekend in my host city, because I was a little nervous to explore. I gained more confidence and independence each time I ventured out. Wandering around Lüneburg (or any city for that matter) quickly became one of my favorite things to do! The biggest test was my first solo trip to Berlin. I had to make decisions and navigate the city all by myself. It was a bit stressful but still fun; I’m glad I did it.

I loved every second of my semester abroad. Returning home has been an adjustment; I had more reverse culture shock stateside than culture shock abroad. It’s hard to express the entirety of my trip in a nutshell (I have stories for dayyyss), so this is definitely not my last time sharing about it. (If you missed any of those posts, you can check them out here.) However, reflecting on my study abroad goals and seeing how I accomplished all three of them reminds me of the wonderful time I had in Germany.

Sammy Kalski is an alum of the USAC Lüneburg Spring 2019 program. You can read about her adventures abroad on her blog S.R. Kalski. You can also find her on Instagram and Twitter @srkalski.
Make learning a new language one of your study abroad goals