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Living the Dream

by Katy Nearhoff

Hello all! I am so excited about this new adventure and I can hardly wait for this summer. My name is Katy and I am currently a Global Studies major at the University of California, Riverside.  I will be going to Berlin, Germany and studying at Humbolt University, or should I say Humblot Universität.

I chose program because going to Germany has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Growing up my parents were in Rotary and so we hosted several adults in an exchange program. Every person from Germany or Austria was the nicest person you could ever meet. They remind me a lot of what we consider Canadian kindness. I had a friend of mine study for a year in Germany and between my friend, hosting people from the area, and learning about the culture, my desire was sparked to visit the country. In a perfect world, I would be able to go to Germany and Austria.

So came the next step. Instead of taking Spanish in high school, I took the German language (to the dismay of my parents). I spent three years having the time of my life learning the language and culture in class so I could be prepared for a trip overseas. My plan at the time was to take a year off before college and take that time to be an exchange student with the Rotary program for that year.

Here is where one of the biggest conflicts in my journey began; I was offered a position on the Division One Women’s soccer team at UCR. This was another dream of mine and I told myself that I had my whole life to travel, but only four years to play collegiate soccer. So, I took the opportunity and accepted the position on the soccer team. A year later, I had a back injury and my dream of visiting Germany and Austria was still nipping at my heels. I decided to stop playing soccer and pursue a study abroad program.

I went to the study abroad fair that my school was holding and as I wandered from table to table, I found this program called AIFS. At this point, I was so set on a summer program, because I am a homebody and would miss my friends and family too much to be gone for a whole year. As I flipped through the pamphlet they had given out for their summer programs, I saw that Berlin, Germany was on the list of places I could study. I then saw that it was a month long program. PERFECT! To add the cherry on top, for a small fee, I could fly out of any big European city and stay a bit longer. Remember how we hosted so many people from Austria and Germany? Well a dear friend, who we kept in contact with, had been begging for us to visit her in Vienna, Austria.

Wait, so let me get this straight…..I could study in Germany for four weeks, travel to Vienna and stay with my friend for just a bit extra. I would be gone long enough to experience the amazing culture there and short enough that I won’t be terribly homesick. All for an affordable price!! Let’s just say that I quickly picked up the phone and called my mom and told her I had found the most amazing program.

My journey has all been a blur from there. I applied and was accepted. I got my passport- and almost died from excitement when I got it in the mail. I worked with my school to get approved for the trip and of course I have been doing lots of fundraisers to get myself to live the dream. I signed up for my courses at Humbolt and what is great (as if it couldn’t already get any better) is that they offered a course on the Berlin Wall and it would apply to my major back at UCR.

I know that this experience will be one for the books! I hope that while I am over there, I will be able to advance my language skills. I am taking German at UCR too, so I am really hoping that I will be able to get by and help the students in my program who do not know the language. I also hope to participate in an authentic German experience. Of course I will want to sightsee and be a tourist, but I want to go to the hole-in-the wall restaurants in the city and go to the parks that the locals know about. While I am there, I want to make life-long friends so that they can learn from me and I can learn from them. I do not have huge expectations of things I want to learn, because I am a firm believer that one can learn something from EVERY situation that you are in. Learn to be accepting. Learn to be adventurous. Learn to appreciate what you have and to learn that every one is different, but if we work together to understand one another, then we will create a happier world.

I am excited that you will come along on this journey with me and I hope you enjoy all the adventures I will share.

Bis später! (‘Till later)

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