Ben Williams ’11 – I have now been in Europe for a little over two months now, and my experience has been nothing less than the experience of a lifetime. From the second I stepped off the plane in Stuttgart, Germany, to where I am now in Vienna, Austria, every day has presented me with unique experiences and challenges that have truly made me a different person. And I can only imagine the adventures that lie ahead.
The program I chose to participate in is unique in that I have had the opportunity to study in two different locations. For the first month of my program I was located in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. Schwäbisch Hall is a small town an hour north of Stuttgart. While in Schwäbisch Hall I was enrolled in an intensive German course which helped me adapt to the language before I came to Vienna. I am now fully immersed in the language. Schwäbisch Hall was a unique experience because I was exposed to many different cultures from around the world. There were many international students also learning German along with me. Because of the unique exposure I was given the opportunity to get to know people from other nations such as Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, France, Argentina, Italy, and many other nations.
The second part of my program placed me in Vienna, Austria, where I am now, and will remain until the end of June. I have now been in Vienna for a little over a month and the experiences I have had thus far would take another four or so blogs to get through. But I will try to explain some of my more interesting ones thus far. I will first talk about what I feel is the most interesting thing I am doing over here.
I am currently an intern at a winery located in the northern part of Vienna. Working at the winery is an experience I will never forget. So far I have done everything from pruning the bushes in the vineyards to bottling over 12,000 liters of wine. And in a few weeks I will be attending a wine tasting in which I will have to help explain different wines to native English speakers who do not speak German. Having this internship once again put me in the situation where I am exposed to many different cultures. All of my co-workers are immigrant workers from Poland, Croatia, and Serbia. Learning their stories has been an experience in which I can truly say I would not have the opportunity of receiving at Wabash.
I have also been able to get to know many Austrians. The Austrian students in my dorm have been very generous and have certainly gone out of their way to make me feel welcome in their country.
Even the classes I am taking here are unique for me. There are girls in my classes for one, which is obviously a bit different for anyone that attends Wabash. But my classes are also all taught in German. This is a very sobering experience because having all my classes taught in German has certainly tested not only my ability to speak the language, but it has also tested my fortitude and willingness to persevere.
There have been many times where I have felt like the “dumb” kid in class, which for us self-confident Wabash men is a hard pill to swallow. But I do believe that in the end it has very much helped my ability to adapt to the situation and succeed, which is certainly something Wabash teaches us all to do well. Although I am thankful for this experience that I would not be able to receive at Wabash, I feel I would not be able to take full advantage of this great opportunity without the skill set I have received from Wabash that has helped me so dearly since I have been here.