As my time here in Munich draws slowly to a close, it astounds me that a year has already gone by. After missing so much news back in the US, it is odd to think that I will be back there so soon and be right back in the middle of things in DC. But, alas, “so it is” as the Germans say. At the end of such a long, immersive program, many speak of how they learned more about themselves and how their time in another place truly changed their lives. I will try to stay away from clichés, but this year abroad was truly one of the best experiences of my undergraduate life and I will sincerely miss and think fondly of the time that I spent here in southern Germany.
From the classroom to the beer garden, Munich gave me a new perspective on how to enjoy life. In the States, we have a mentality that places so much focus on the hours between 9am and 5pm, that we often forget just how important the time outside of it is. While we enjoy ourselves on the weekends and sometimes even the two week breaks that corporate jobs offer, we truly need to reassess the worth that we put upon spending time away from the routine, away from a desk, and appreciate what is laying right in front of us. One of the most memorable things about being in such a artistic and philosophical city is just how much the people value being outside. Although we experienced one of the longest winters in the last century, the minute the sun broke through the unrelenting wall of clouds, over half on Munich seemed to be on every single patch of grass in the city trying to enjoy the relaxing nature of simply being outside, no matter how brief. I have found that it really is important to take time out of your day to not think about work or any other stresses in your life and enjoy life itself. As hippie as that sounds, it really is true. Not only has taking this time out of my day improved my mood in general, it also improved my ability to soak things in academically, because I wasn’t trying to force my brain to work 24/7, but rather allowed myself to take a break from everything now and again.
In this sense, I cannot recommend enough studying abroad for a full year rather than just a few weeks or a semester. While I realize that it isn’t possible for everyone, if one has the chance, it is a remarkable opportunity not just to learn the language, but to take things from another way of life and act as a cultural ambassador to the people that you come into contact with. While I am extremely grateful for the possibility of improving my language skills as an unbelievable rate of speed, I am even more thankful for the experiences that I have had here in regards to how I will live my life on a day-to-day basis in the future. Such lessons are impossible to get from travel videos, or even blogs (even though I try). While I hope that these short blog entries have provided a chronology of my mentality during this year abroad, nothing can replace the opportunity to see and live with another group of people that one is unfamiliar with.
On a final, positive note, I would like to express my extreme gratitude to the Junior Year in Munich program, the staff, the students that I studied with, and, of course my parents who helped to make this possible. Without a single one of those aspects, I am not sure that I would have had the amazing time that this last year was for me. I hope that those of you reading these short blog posts have found my writing helpful and informative, but more than anything, I hope that it has inspired some of you to do something out of your comfort zone or try to make new memories for yourself, because what is life than a sum of our experiences. Might as well make them memorable.
Servus aus München,