When I’m tired after a long work week and I need to break out a glass (or two) of wine, I start wondering about having to work for 45 more years. I think about my bills and my responsibilities and what direction I want to go in for my career. It sounds overwhelming – sometimes I wonder where the map is now that I’ve completed my education. In the US it’s really common for kids to go through high school with the mindset that they need to get into college. Then from college you need to pick a major and work towards your degree. Once you graduate and get that degree you need to get a job. Presto that’s where I am – almost 4 years after graduation in the same job I started with after school.
So now what? The answer is really – anything I want! I truly feel that the confidence I have and the self-assurance I feel comes from my time studying abroad. Not only did it change my personality, my beliefs, and my approach to the world… it gave me some of the best memories of my life so far. What they say is true – when you get older there are way fewer opportunities to spend quality time traveling to a new part of the world. A week here and there can’t compare to 6 months abroad.
Researching Study Abroad Programs
When I first started to research abroad programs my intent was to find a program to help make me fluent in German – which meant at least a semester program. My university only offered an 8 week summer program which just didn’t seem like enough for me. I had been studying German since high school but never felt competent in the language. When I found the BCA Marburg program with the combination of the city stay in Vienna plus the small town stay in Marburg during the semester, it sounded like music to my ears.
I was coming to this program from a 3 month study abroad in Belgium – where we went to a different city every weekend with roughly 25 students from my university studying business. It was probably what most people think of when they think of a study abroad. But this leaves a lot to be desired for really understanding the foreign country you’re visiting. What the BCA program offers is the opportunity to feel like a local – learn more about yourself and the country you’re visiting at a deeper level. That’s not to say there wasn’t travel involved! I adored visiting Slovenia and Strasburg during my BCA trip as well – they tied so nicely into our curriculum and into my interests – there are vineyards in both!
Daydreaming about my Time Abroad
The memories from Vienna and Marburg are some of my most valuable assets as an adult. The people I met, the things I did, the perspective I was given – have not only given me something to reflect on but have really shaped who I want to be as a person. I daydream about walking down the street to the U-Bhan in Vienna – stopping to get a warm Wiener Kipferl on my way up to class. The leisurely afternoons spent having Kaffee und Küchen in various lovely cafes throughout the city.
I often think of picking up and moving to Vienna. Two months there and that city held my heart. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 26 countries so far in my life and still Vienna holds a special place. And not only that – after being away from home for 6 months completely thrown into a new culture and way of life – that gave me the confidence to do it again in my career – but this time it was in India for 6 months!
Germany Study Abroad Reflections
I truly feel that my time studying abroad with BCA built up an already glimmering fire for travel, adventure, and exploration of new places and myself! It certainly wasn’t easy and sometimes it wasn’t fun – but what in life that’s totally worth it isn’t a little uncomfortable at some point. Those situations – like when I took a taxi up to the castle where I lived in Marburg and the driver wanted to overcharge me because he got lost – were tricky and scary! I had to negotiate in German to get him to give me a more reasonable price. If you asked me before I got in that cab if I could do that I would have laughed in your face and said no way.
My personal opinion is a study abroad program should be required for all students – who you are changes from place to place and can you truly get to know yourself if you never travel outside your comfort zone?
About the Author – Brittany Jennings, Spring 2011 BCA Marburg, Germany Alumna
I am a 27 year old, Account Manager at a software company in Tysons Corner, Virginia. In 2014, I spent 6 months in the India office of my company selling to the DACH region. I graduated from James Madison University in 2012 after completing three study abroad programs with a degree in International Business and German. I also adore traveling, meeting new people, and cooking!