My name is Kristen Bertrand. I’m a senior nursing student, a member of the Honors College, a lover of vegetarian food, an (extremely) average photographer, and most recently, a world-traveler.
That’s me. I’m saying “Auf Wiedersehen” to America and embarking on my very first ever trip abroad! My destination: Munich! Or, München, as the locals call it. This moment was what I had been anticipating since I had made the decision to study abroad almost a year before. This moment was a culmination of a year of saving all of my extra money, trying (and failing) to become fluent in German on DuoLingo, applying for the Honors College SAGA program, packing and repacking my suitcase a million times, and a week of sleepless, excited nights. Even after all of that, I had no idea in this moment that I would be embarking on the most rewarding 11 days of my life.
Since I have returned, so many people have asked me questions like “How was Germany?” or “Did you have fun in Europe?” The questions are simple, but the answers are not. I find myself wondering how I am supposed to answer. How do I sum up 11 days worth of an overwhelmingly wonderful and enriching cultural, educational, and personally life-changing experience in a concise way? How do I describe what it’s like to stand in the middle of Marienplatz with the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel towering overhead packed tightly against shops like H&M and Urban Outfitters? How do I explain the feeling of standing in the foothills of the Alps, staring up at their breathtaking peaks? How do I make people understand the nerves of being dropped off on a bus in the Czech Republic, where every sign is in a language you don’t even know how to say “hello” in and the currency system uses a type of bank note that you can’t even pronounce? On that same note, how do you make them feel the confidence and pride you felt at the end of your 31-hour trip, when you find yourself feeling blissfully at home in that very same country?
In my next blog post, I will talk all about the experiences that I had while abroad, but for now I want to close with a simple, loaded request. All of those who are reading this that are trying to decide whether or not you want to study abroad, I’m asking you to take the leap. Get out of your comfort zone. There is nothing more humbling or confidence-building than immersing yourself in another culture. During this experience, I made friends from around the world, learned about some of the darkest parts of our world’s past, celebrated the beauty and history of cultures much different than my own, laughed, cried, sang the entire Sound of Music soundtrack in Austria about a hundred times, and most importantly, I have left my footprints in three different countries that will now forever be a part of my personality. Life gets a little bit bigger when the world is your classroom.
Auf Wiedersehen for now,
Kristen Bertrand (@krismariebe)