Hi everyone! My name is Abbey Smith, and I am beginning my junior year here at Wofford. I am an Environmental Studies and International Affairs double major with a concentration in Asian Studies on the language track (Chinese). This fall I will be participating in the IES Environmental Studies and Sustainability program in Freiburg, Germany. “Wait, why Germany?” has been my most asked question when I tell people my plans for the fall after also explaining my concentration. The truth is that I Googled “environmental studies abroad programs” and the Freiburg program caught my eye after reading about the city and the classes that are offered. I loved my Chinese classes and the other courses I have taken to fulfil that concentration, but I knew I wanted to focus on my environmental major and this opportunity in Germany will allow me to do just that. As of now I do not know any German but after my 3-week intensive class as well as living in the country for almost 4 months, I will be excited to update you all on my new language skills. I look forward to being immersed in a culture I do not know much about and stepping outside of my comfort zone to experience all that Germany has to offer! Along with not knowing any German, I also do not know anyone that will be in my program. While this makes me slightly nervous, I know that all the other students are in the same boat and we will soon all be friends.
As I am now just a couple days away from departure the nerves are starting to set in a little more. I have known since probably middle school that I wanted to study abroad simply because I love to travel, so this has been long anticipated. After the Covid-19 pandemic hit I was extremely worried that I would not be able to fulfil this dream of mine. After months of watching and waiting to see how things would go, the development of the vaccine was a glimmer of hope. At this point I had chosen my program in Freiburg and anxiously checked Germany’s Covid numbers and vaccination rates almost daily. Their infection rates were on the rise for a number of months but fortunately as more of the country has become vaccinated, infection rates have fallen. Along with checking Germany’s Covid news daily, I also checked the travel advisory that the U.S. Department of State puts out. This was important to me because I am a Gilman Scholarship recipient, and I needed my host country to be at a level 2 or below to receive the funds. Fortunately, just a few days before the deadline at the end of July, Germany moved to level 2. Before this point I had not let myself get too excited because I still was not certain about what would happen. I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to study abroad in Freiburg and look forward to updating you all throughout the semester!