My name is Abby Borden and I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. While the sun is shining and the Clark Fork is flowing, I am currently in my summer semester, five thousand miles away from the garden city in a small city in Germany called Braunschweig.
Things I learned from living in Germany for five months:
• It doesn’t matter what people think about you, as long as they remember you as being kind.
Anywhere you go there will be excitement or drama or personal sacrifice. Changing your environment truly tests how well you can adapt to adversity. Even in the toughest times, if you can manage to be kind to others, you will never regret your actions (or at least make it more difficult to regret).
• You can make friends with anyone.
And you should because sometimes you’ll meet people who will challenge to be so much better than you thought you could be in just five months of your life.
• Statistically- if you are from the United States, you are the most likely to the worst cook in the room.
Yeah, so it turns my range of cooking abilities is pretty limited. Pretty much the only thing that impressed my friends was my homemade banana-walnut pancakes, which seemed pretty granola next to the traditional Italian, Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, Spanish, and German cuisine of my friends.
• If you want to feel simultaneously more confident and more skeptical of where your from and your values- move to a different country.
Especially being from the United States, where our politics are so highly publicized, everyone has an opinion. Whether they are for or against he things that are very comfortable to you about the US, discussions about world affairs really invoke a fierce jolt of self reflection.
• If you want to feel confident in yourself- take classes in a foreign language because anything you learn will be personally progress, as well as a great story later.
Nothing is a better boost to your ego than leaning a second language as an adult. It’s difficult and rare- so learning a fundamental form of communication while learning something like chemistry or architecture and succeeding will let you know that anything is possible. You just have to try.
• If you give up hope that your bus is coming, it will 100% come around the corner the moment you turn back to walk home instead.
Public transportation is amazing, but is also the number one source of my heartbreak that I experienced in Europe.
• There will always be someone to help you, you just have to ask.
I remember being in Italy on my summer class break and I missed so many trains and even a flight and on top of it I had lost my credit card- my brain was just not in the right place. I was so fortunate, however, to have made som amazing friends who lent me some money and took me out for gelato to cheer me up. A week later they even checked up on me to make sure I had gotten back to school safely. Traveling somewhere new can be both the most amazing. Experience and the most frightening, but there are always going to be people who believe in you and will be there to give you an extra push when you need it. About 95% of the time while traveling, I experienced so much kindness from people I had never met: women on train platforms, people with spare chains when you’re short a few euros, fellow travelers who also know what is like to be alone. But you’ll never be alone for long.