Hello, I am Derek Bender, and I am currently a Senior at The College of New Jersey. I am majoring in International Studies, with a minor in Russian Studies. I spent my Spring 2017 semester abroad studying at the European Study Center in Heidelberg, Germany. While over there I fell in love with the culture, people, and lifestyle in Germany. My favorite aspect of studying abroad was becoming a normal citizen in a German city. I enjoyed walking around the city square, and becoming a local in several different shops. It allowed me to become immersed in my study abroad experience, and it is something that I believe everyone should be able to experience.
What was your favorite place in Heidelberg?
My favorite place in Heidelberg was along the philosopher’s trail hiking path. Once the road ends, there is a little section where you can sit down and enjoy the view of the city. I frequently went up there for an impromptu picnic, and would sometimes walk all the way up there to do some reading when I was bored.
What was the most challenging part of living in Germany, and what did you do to overcome that challenge?
Adapting to a foreign language was obviously challenging. However, I felt that budgeting was something that I was not initially prepared for. I was told about this before arriving in Heidelberg, yet I did not pay as much attention as I probably should have. So after a couple of expensive weeks, I decided to sit down, and figure out how I would budget myself, and make sure that the money available to me would last the entirety of my semester abroad.
What was the most interesting thing about German culture that you learned in one of your classes?
While studying, I took a class in European politics, and I found the culture around politics in Germany to be quite interesting. There were so many parties and opinions, and everyone always had something new to say or add to the discussions. During the warmer, second half of the semester. I would often see some tents put up around Bismarckplatz, each advocating for different stances and beliefs. Coming from the US, everything seemed so divisive, and the climate present in Germany was different from what I had seen at home.
Name one thing that you wish you had known before you came abroad?
I do wish that I knew more German before arriving, as it would have made some of the earlier weeks much easier. As the semester progressed, I picked up more words, and was able to communicate somewhat effectively in German. However, I do wish that I knew that the ESC was more of a private institution before arriving. This might be because of the fact that I did not attend classes at the SRH.
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