Meet Elizabeth Thompson. When she was 18, she lived in Paris, France while working as an “au-pair” (a live-in nanny) to a French family. Since then, she has longed for an opportunity to return to Europe. So when she was presented with a chance to study abroad in Europe, she knew she had to take it. Elizabeth was eager to return to Europe as she wanted to make up for her lack of adventure during the time she was in France at the age of 18. Although acquiring visas and registering for school proved to be challenging, time consuming, and requiring lots of research, according to Elizabeth it was all worth it. In her multi-year masters program she was able to travel to three different countries. Due to her minor in French Literature and a year of German language classes Elizabeth decided she would put her linguistic skills to the test. She spent her first year in Dresden, Germany and the second year in Montpellier, France. Afterwards, she travelled to Chefchaouen, Morocco for her field study.
Starting an Adventure
Starting her adventure in Germany, Elizabeth lived in a small bachelor apartment in a student building (a Studentenwohnheim). Here she first experienced culture shock as she quickly realized her German wasn’t up to par, and the housing superintendent (Hausmeister) didn’t really speak English. Although Elizabeth had taken a year of German language classes, her understanding of the language was very basic. Surprisingly, a large number of people in important positions didn’t speak any English, so getting over this hurdle took some adjustment. Being in a new country with people that speak a totally different language from you can be very intimidating. Luckily there was another student in Elizabeth’s program who lived in the apartment above hers. They bonded over lunch and this helped Elizabeth feel less isolated. Even still, the German culture was quite different from what she was used to. She was taken aback by the Germans’ culture of efficiency and bluntness.
A year later in France Elizabeth lived in a bachelor apartment overlooking palm trees and a pool. To top it off, her apartment was right beside a bakery, in her words, “Needless to say, there were many chocolate croissants eaten that year.”
Elizabeth learned a lot during her time abroad. She learned a lot about herself and was able to overcome many obstacles and hurdles. However, rather than tell you how she did this, it will probably resonate more strongly coming from Elizabeth herself.