Peterson (second from left) gathers with classmates.
Peterson (second from left) gathers with classmates.

Aren Peterson – Grüß Gott!

I would like to start by sincerely thanking the Rudolf family for funding an absolutely fantastic summer for me! My language skill grew tremendously through the constant interaction and immersion in the German language!

I’ll start by briefly summarizing the itinerary of my time abroad.  The day after finals finished, I boarded a plane with my German 202 classmates for a two-week immersion course in Tübingen. After our wonderfully conducted course had wrapped up, I took a train to Stuttgart to stay a few days with a friend before flying to meet my parents for their 25th anniversary in Edinburgh. When I returned, I took a train from Stuttgart to Luxembourg City to stay a week with a friend I met through my internship with the university there. From Luxembourg I took a bus to Heidelberg to stay a week with yet another friend before finally making my way to Freiburg for a month of my Goethe Institute language courses. From there I traveled to stay with my Great Uncle in München for a week. My final stop before flying home was a stop in Ulm to visit my Großonkel’s twin brother for a few days.

If that seems like a lot, I assure you it was. Pairing the physical exhaustion of so much travel with the mental strain of thinking and interacting in another language left me always craving more sleep. Fortunately Wabash had prepared me well for that, so I did just fine!

You may ask if my “dedication” to learning became spread thin by so much travel;  quite the opposite! Excluding the short excursion to visit my parents, I had to hold my own continually with native speakers; all of my German friends and family I spent time with were well aware of my interest in learning German, and certainly didn’t go easy on me! I had heard testament to the value of “immersion,” but for some reason figured its effect was exaggerated. Now I fully appreciate how difficult but rewarding something as simple as keeping up with a conversation can be!  Outside the classroom is certainly as much, if not more of a learning experience in a foreign country!

Peterson2The classes were fantastic as well! I was placed with a dedicated and engaged group, who kept me accountable when I was tempted to slip back into English. The benefit of such an international group of students attempting to learn German is that it tends to be practically the only language connection! Our teacher introduced us to plenty of learning materials and opportunities, and the institute certainly provided an excellent environment to interact exclusively in German.

Definitely worth mentioning is how absolutely beautiful Freiburg is! Located on the South-Western corner of the Black Forrest (or Schwarzwald), it is backed up to some gorgeous coniferous covered mountains. The glittering Dreisam flows nearly through the heart of the city, and feeds the dozens of mini-canals and gutters that help supply the Altstadt (or city center) with fresh, cool water; wonderful for chilling your feet during the many over 100 degree days in Germany’s hottest city! The Munster is also one of the oldest in Germany, made from red Limestone that is always corroding, and requires constant restoration; the tower hardly is ever without its hat-like scaffolding!

Overall, the whole summer and abroad experience was utterly invaluable, certainly providing me with experiences and interactions I simply couldn’t get in a classroom.  It also provided me with a more international understanding of issues of which we only ever get to hear one side! I look forward to sharing my experiences with anyone interested, and know I will be going back to Germany some day in the near future!