I Have Arrived!

My view landing in Frankfurt!

Hallo everyone!! I have arrived in beautiful Freiburg and am loving it already! The trip here was about 24 hours of travel and 4 modes of transportation. I was able to meet up with a few other people from my program at the train station at the Frankfurt airport where I flew into which definitely helped with what was to come. Our first train was delayed which meant we missed our second one. We ended up having to ask around and figured out we had to change platforms and the next train would come an hour later. We finally got on the next train and had to find seats in the already crowded car while lugging our giant suitcases around. We arrived in Freiburg just as it was starting to rain so I opted for the tram ride rather than walking to our apartment. We had to walk about half a block to our place and the stone streets did not make it easy to roll a suitcase. At this point I had been traveling for about 24 hours, so I was exhausted. Still though, I had a moment of “wow, I’m really here.” 

The street right outside my apartment.

Each person in my program has their own studio apartment that includes a small kitchen, a bathroom, a bed, and a desk. This means I will have lived on my own in Germany before living on my own in the US. Because we have a small kitchen, we do not have a meal plan so it will also be the first-time grocery shopping and cooking all for myself. I am still getting used to grocery shopping here and figuring out what is what and where it is. The first time I went to the store it took me about 10 minutes to try to find a kind of yogurt I like and another 5 to find pasta sauce. Thankfully Freiburg is an extremely walkable city and there are 3 grocery stores less than a 10-minute walk away from my apartment. Freiburg also has a market every day except Sundays at the city center surrounding the Munster. Here we have been able to find any kind of produce, flower, and sausage imaginable. There are stands with wood carvings, hats, and pottery. In addition to these stands, there are also food trucks that offer a wide variety of German food, fries, cheesecake, and many others foods.

The Munster.

A flower stand at the market at the Munster.

The day after we arrived, we had an information session about some cultural differences to be aware of and to me, as a southerner, the one that has stuck out to me most thus far is not smiling at people on the streets. Germans do not do small talk and do not smile at strangers. It is not to be rude, it’s just how it is. I have caught myself a couple of times smiling at people walking down the street and have only gotten confused stares in return. Speaking of stares, Germans do in fact stare and do not care that they are doing it. We went to a restaurant and there was a group of three girls and all of them watched us the whole time, one even got up and sat on the other side of the table so she could have a better view of us. I must say though, I would probably stare at the loud group of Americans too though.

The Munster at sunset.

See You Soon Deutschland!

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!